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Is the C64 too different to A8 to ever have meaningful comparison?

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Just out of interest... any reason for necroposting to the year-old thread....?

Because we finally have the technology to compare these two machines!!

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It's probably better to say "generally available" really, there were machines around but not in great numbers and at least some of them were imported NTSC machines - i believe Jeff Minter has said previously that his machine was NTSC (although it was shipped over by HES) and he didn't get anything to market until 1983).

 

Just out of interest... any reason for necroposting to the year-old thread....?

 

Was a full shipment to all dealers who signed up for launch hardware, I own 3 1982 PAL breadbins.

 

I was actually searching for something else and this thread popped up on google and I read it and decided to post what I did. Having now replicated the setup I had as a kid and also the A800 setup my friend had as a kid it doesn't seem to matter, only the games matter and there are 100s of good games for both you could play over and over. Isn't that in the end what is important, not how those games are made possible?

 

(OK maybe for a coder like you that is not so true haha)

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Well, my two cents to this topic...

 

I really don't think they can be compared fairly. Yes, they are both 6502-based, yes they had titles in common, yes they can do similar things, from a black-box point of view, yes they both have "intelligent" diskdrives, but then again...

  • The Atari actually has 2 processors and the CPU isn't even the one that "dictates". Commodore only has the one 6510.
  • Clockspeeds are to far apart to be compared significantly. Any comparison here should be about how many clockcycles it takes to produce a certain effect.
  • Display technology is incomparable. While the C64 employs a similar tactic as MSX/Colecovision, there's just nothing like the Atari's Display list and GTIA colormapping.
  • This is also very visible in the "sprite" department. Where the Atari uses a "vertical bar" approach, the Commodore uses "cells" that can be moved anywhere.
  • Sound reproduction is also incomparable. While the Atari has to "constantly" adjust pokey's registers to make an interesting waveform, the SID has this built in.
  • Serial IO is done by Pokey and PIA on the Atari, while the C64 has this built into the 6510 and uses its CIA for interrupts and command lines.

So if you look at the designs, the Atari is "primarily" built to create stunning graphics, yet putting sound generation in a lower priority category, where the Commodore 64 has (comparatively) toned the graphics down a little, yet giving a better soundscape.

 

Just by the fact that they are from the same "era" and they share many titles, doesn't mean you can really compare the two.

 

Well, that's my opinion anyway.

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...Well, I noticed that Atari made it (rightfully so) in the Top-25 BEST PCs EVER:

 

#14, Atari-800, the real "McCoy":

 

http://www.techhive....ime.html?page=5

 

Not surprisingly (at least to me) was the absence of the Commodore-64... Having worked-and-sold them (back in the time, during my youth part-time summer job), I never really found anything special on that machine, though...

 

On the contrary, the 800 was a "tour-de-force" already, with design, quality and implementation already ahead of its time... WAY ahead of Commodore's 64 years-later intro., indeed.

 

Enjoy!

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Well, my two cents to this topic...

 

I really don't think they can be compared fairly. Yes, they are both 6502-based, yes they had titles in common, yes they can do similar things, from a black-box point of view, yes they both have "intelligent" diskdrives, but then again...

  • The Atari actually has 2 processors and the CPU isn't even the one that "dictates". Commodore only has the one 6510.
  • Clockspeeds are to far apart to be compared significantly. Any comparison here should be about how many clockcycles it takes to produce a certain effect.
  • Display technology is incomparable. While the C64 employs a similar tactic as MSX/Colecovision, there's just nothing like the Atari's Display list and GTIA colormapping.
  • This is also very visible in the "sprite" department. Where the Atari uses a "vertical bar" approach, the Commodore uses "cells" that can be moved anywhere.
  • Sound reproduction is also incomparable. While the Atari has to "constantly" adjust pokey's registers to make an interesting waveform, the SID has this built in.
  • Serial IO is done by Pokey and PIA on the Atari, while the C64 has this built into the 6510 and uses its CIA for interrupts and command lines.

So if you look at the designs, the Atari is "primarily" built to create stunning graphics, yet putting sound generation in a lower priority category, where the Commodore 64 has (comparatively) toned the graphics down a little, yet giving a better soundscape.

 

Just by the fact that they are from the same "era" and they share many titles, doesn't mean you can really compare the two.

 

Well, that's my opinion anyway.

Your bullet points are exactly how you compare the two. What gets tricky is using meaningful specifications to describe the capabilities. The Tramiel-era Atari was famous for cherry-picking a few impressive specs to make their products seem better than they were.

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Your bullet points are exactly how you compare the two. What gets tricky is using meaningful specifications to describe the capabilities. The Tramiel-era Atari was famous for cherry-picking a few impressive specs to make their products seem better than they were.

 

I guess you missed the point I was trying to make... Ofcourse you can "try" to compare the two, but it's like comparing an apple to an orange, since they are both fruits...

 

In the end, it is still just "a matter of taste" which one you find most compelling. So subjective...

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Oh boy!

 

This thread is going to repeat the infamous locked thread from a few years ago I fear.....

 

Just type Atari vs commodore in the search engine to see where this going.

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The Atari actually has 2 processors and the CPU isn't even the one that "dictates". Commodore only has the one 6510.

Sort of - Antic runs it's own instructions but doesn't do anything that directly modifies memory or program execution. Vic on the C64 does all manner of similar stuff such as controlling who accesses the bus.

 

Clockspeeds are to far apart to be compared significantly. Any comparison here should be about how many clockcycles it takes to produce a certain effect.

Clock speeds are different but Atari usually has more DMA overhead and that can vary considerably dependant on screen architecture. Effects can be a deceptive measure, each machine can do certain things almost entirely in hardware that the other requires lots of CPU expenditure to achieve.

 

Display technology is incomparable. While the C64 employs a similar tactic as MSX/Colecovision, there's just nothing like the Atari's Display list and GTIA colormapping.

Display tech can be compared, it's just different approach in many cases and each has strengths & weaknesses.

 

Sound reproduction is also incomparable. While the Atari has to "constantly" adjust pokey's registers to make an interesting waveform, the SID has this built in.

Not every special waveform or effect on Pokey requires constant adjustment. The saw & triangle are set & forget.

 

Serial IO is done by Pokey and PIA on the Atari, while the C64 has this built into the 6510 and uses its CIA for interrupts and command lines.

Serial I/O on the C64 is more a bit-banging affair by default with the OS than on Atari. The 6510 is only "special" in that it has the 6 I/O lines that otherwise reside on a PIA type chip. PIA involvement in SIO on Atari is merely for Command/control type functions.

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This thread is going to repeat the infamous locked thread from a few years ago I fear.....

 

I don't think so, because this conversation also includes a comparison of memory addressing between the Ricoh 2A03 used in the NES and the Sally, and graphics similarities between the NES and C64.

 

well, NOW it does :)

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Not surprisingly (at least to me) was the absence of the Commodore-64... Having worked-and-sold them (back in the time, during my youth part-time summer job), I never really found anything special on that machine, though...

 

 

It's like the saying, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" really and how "special" is defined makes a difference too; for me, things like the hardware sprites, finer horizontal scroll control and colour RAM were all special and valid reasons to move from an 800XL to a C64. Some of that is, as oky2000 has just said of me, because i look at things from a programmer's perspective but those features are what made some of my favourite C64 games possible as well.

 

And enough people were impressed with the C64 that it outsold pretty much every other 8-bit computer on the top 25 you linked to; from my own experience selling computers in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the C64 was the last 8-bit out of the market and going pretty strong quite a way into the 16-bit era up until production stopped because Commodore fell apart.

 

But hey, s'all just opinion in the long run. =-)

Edited by TMR

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The C64 also came in the top 10 of a list from ars technica(?) so lists are not what concern me as such.

 

You can't say the C64 is a bad machine simply because it is the ONLY 8 bit computer that the staff writers at Computer & Video Games recommended you go out and seek in the early 90s when reviewing 16 bit Sega/Nintendo consoles in one of their last 'CVG Guide to...' books. OK so they said this when reviewing the train wreck that was the C64GS console and gave it a terrible score but hey you can't have everything right? ;)

 

I do think the machines are different, as is a TI99/Apple2/Amstrad CPC/MSX etc but for me it just comes down to is are there loads of great games for a machine to pass the time with and is it physically hassle free to use (ie no multi-standard joystick interfaces requiring support like on the ZX Spectrum/Timex computers that had no joystick ports or those crappy PONG console type joysticks on the Dragon 32/BBC Micro etc).

 

So for me all reasonably sophisticated 8 bit machines are quite different and how the game is executed on the hardware really doesn't bother me. There are things most of these better 8 bit machines do that others would find it hard to replicate. Everyone will have a different take on it, and many many computers didn't even get as much time lavished on them as even the A8 let alone the C64 by coders. Just think how totally awesome Rescue on Fractalus would have been on the 4mhz MSX exceeding Memotech MTX series of computers (which has the same TI video processor as the MSX machines with lower CPU speeds).

 

I was hoping by bringing this thread back up we could talk about the differences between those two, and other, 8 bit custom rich micros rather than it descending into a a nerr nerr xxxxx is rubbish type thread. We've done those to death already last decade IMO ;)

 

Here's an interesting question, what do you think the bare minimum for a good early 80s 8 bit home computer specification would have been?

 

Real Keyboard (type in listings were big in the early 80s!!)

Colour (yes don't laugh there were many monochrome machines in the UK, although the BBC Micro's 8 primary colour only palette is limiting and garish)

D9 Atari joystick ports (yes amazingly I didn't want to take a step backwards after owning a VCS to use crappy analogue pong style 'joysticks')

Reasonably sophisticated sound (nothing snooty here, I just feel that the TED/VIC1/2600 sound chips are the bare minimum, so speaker/buzzer PC XT/Spectrum is a no no)

 

At this point people will start thinking about hardware moveable objects and pixel scroll hardware but honestly there are many many great games to play that don't require these features (like Donkey Kong by Ocean Software for the Amstrad CPC464 machines which is very good or even Buck Rogers on the VIC-20) but they do increase the range of game types which you can implement well like shoot 'em ups.

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For me I just wish after the 400/800 series Atari made the XLs in a way that they do support more than the traditional 4colours.

In my past investigation I found that there is some 'near' 704->712 empty registers.

 

I would think something like exactly A8 would be possible but I'm not into those hardware design things.

 

For example on C64 you always have in the different gfxs modes all the registers (adresses) available.

Why on A8 you have in Hi-Resolution charmode GR.0 PF1 and PF2 control the 0 and 1 bits (where BAK is the borders) but no use of PF0 (PF3 only for 5th Player Missiles but this is in all modes).

If GR.12 has the same 128chars charset PF2 and inverse for the other same 128 chars by PF3 then why on GR.0 we couldn't had a sort of inverse with the other 128chars be other luminance by PF3.

 

 

 

Don't know how technically would be or not possible but, for example, for hi-resol. GR.0 I would do:

-> BAK same as now for borders.

-> PF0_(bit1) and PF3_(bit0) one colour and one luminance (chars 128->255)

-> PF1_(bit1) and PF2_(bit0) other colour and one luminance (chars 000->127)

 

And the PMGs if the 4Missiles were 8Players and still the same PMGs Multicolour option and the PRIOR0 Oring we don't need the 8 hardware sprites Multicolour of the C64 ;) !

 

 

 

 

Don't know if this is or not 'Into the Topic' but I always thought that something like this would had been possible and even at the very begining on the 400/800 series.

Edited by José Pereira

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Not enough 64k software (since most of the software for the A8 was 48k or less) during the shelf life of the A8

 

if there was more software/hardware development support i think a good comparison could be made

 

I think the A8 started losing software support during the so called video game crash (83/4) thats when most Atari software supporters in the US started ditching the system in favour of the c64 if they were still supporting the A8 after the crash it were mainly for porting games to the A8 as an afterthought, though things did improve slightly in UK/Europe once tramiel took over (though most of the games where budget releases)

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Yeah true but Apple 2 was still going strong too

 

Here's what Computer Gaming World had to say:

CGW100.jpg

 

And here's my favourite page from Electronic Games (Computer Entertainment) May 1985:

 

SWScan00023-1.jpg

 

 

Apple 2 had a good run until Prince of Persia and the Infocom later years

..

Edited by high voltage

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Agreed. In fact when my wife started teaching in the mid 90's their school still had a full Apple II lab. The edutainment software that was still being produced had fallen off the cliff, but there was still a glimmer of life left from some publishers.

 

I liked and own a IIgs, but I was not a huge fan of the earlier Apple II's. Odd artifacts in the colors, lousy sound, and crappy analog joysticks never caught my fancy. But as an Atari guy, I was always jealous at the sheer volume of software available on the Apple II.

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah true but Apple 2 was still going strong too

 

 

Apple 2 had a good run until Prince of Persia and the Infocom later years

..

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Not enough 64k software (since most of the software for the A8 was 48k or less) during the shelf life of the A8

 

That's how things go if you've got more than one memory configuration though; Commodore didn't fare any better, there are far fewer expanded games for the VIC 20, the C16 took the lion's share for the 264 series and the C128... just ouch, really.

 

I think the A8 started losing software support during the so called video game crash (83/4) thats when most Atari software supporters in the US started ditching the system in favour of the c64 if they were still supporting the A8 after the crash it were mainly for porting games to the A8 as an afterthought, though things did improve slightly in UK/Europe once tramiel took over (though most of the games where budget releases)

 

i've said it before and will repeat it just because it still bemuses me a bit; i don't get why things just died out around 1984/5; when the same happened to the Plus/4 or C64 there were people just teaching themselves and each other how to code to knock out fun little games to sell to each other, did this not happen with the A8...?

 

Is that scan i'm not going to quote for brevity of the Computer Gaming World article right (the circular boxout in particular) because i thought the A8 series had already got a good head of steam well before 1983? And there's still no sign of the 16,000 titles mentioned in that 1985 article...

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I've never liked the Apple II although I appreciate its important place in history. Everything about it was minimalist and overpriced. The expansion abilities and the aggressive marketing are what kept it going. At least Apple cared about the success of its babies.

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The C128 is an interesting machine (for all the wrong reasons).

 

It has a very complex design = very expensive for an 8 bit micro (think 520STM + SF314 prices in 1986!) and sadly due to the complete lack of focus it has TWO graphics chips which are totally incompatible and both have major flaws (no sprites etc on VDC and VIC-II can not be double clocked to the C128's 2mhz CPU speed so in 40 column mode it is crippled). So you have to say to yourself how much better could C128 native games have been that you could play on a regular composite video/RF display device? The answer is not much better at all. Still it managed a very impressive 4.5 million or so total sales.

 

If you take the 130XE which was about 60% cheaper, the improvements to what was possible compared to 65XE/800XL games is about the same BUT the cost of the machine could have made it worth it.

 

As Jose says both machines should have had improvements to the original VIC=II/GTIA etc and the space in the system is there to accommodate. Sadly neither Commodore nor Atari ever did such a thing. I doubt more than 33% of games would have run on the C65 prototype either although the DTV joystick thingy is a little more compatible than that (doesn't feel much worse than a C128 in C64 mode to me) and this does have extended palette and screen colour capabilities included (but no SID filters so is not exactly ideal as most decent C64 games use filtered waveforms for atmosphere).

 

The other thing that bugs me is if so many games were still 48k in the time of the XE/XL range why didn't they make more games with a 4 player option for the 400/800 users? This is a real shame because Gauntlet (which is over 48k IIRC but still) with 4 players using joysticks would have been great. The 4 joystick ports of the 400/800 is a great asset that wasn't really taken advantage of often enough IMO.

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I've never liked the Apple II although I appreciate its important place in history. Everything about it was minimalist and overpriced. The expansion abilities and the aggressive marketing are what kept it going. At lease Apple cared about the success of its babies.

 

Kind of agree, I view the Apple II the same way I view my 4000 series PET. Lovely machines, really well designed but a bit lacking out of the box in stock config compared to other machines at the time (and in the UK really expensive for both). They are important early machines as is the TI99/4A however. Actually the TI99/4A is a nice machine too except for the crappy joysticks. Shame.

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As has been stated in various places throughout this thread and others, each has their strengths and weaknesses. Certainly, taking "best case" scenarios aside (i.e., in the hands of a truly skilled programmer and equal memory), to me, C-64 games generally featured brighter colors and the obvious advantage of always having a base 64K system to code to. That's something that can't be dismissed. The Atari 8-bits had the disadvantage of a higher price and base memory specs that were all over the place (with 16K and 48K probably receiving the most support), though its audio-visual technology was clearly well ahead of its time. Overall, though, I'd say the two are more or less equivalent versus other systems of the era in terms of graphics/sound prowess and general capabilities. The fact remains though that the C-64 was simply more popular and better supported, so generally speaking it received more and overall better software. So for practical purposes, the C-64 was clearly "better," but what's "better" is up to individual interpretation and preference. The good news is that both systems are long since commercially dead and all that matters now is that we support all of these great classic systems going forward. It's easy enough for most of us to own and enjoy almost any classic system now, i.e., it's not an either/or proposition like it used to be.

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So you have to say to yourself how much better could C128 native games have been that you could play on a regular composite video/RF display device? The answer is not much better at all. Still it managed a very impressive 4.5 million or so total sales.

 

The C128 has extra RAM as well (which is great for unrolling level data or large chunks of speed code to get scrolling working faster) and can at least spin up to 2MHz in the borders so (for PAL use at least) that's a fairly significant kick up the CPU. Most of the games that used 2MHzt were quite subtle about it though, Andrew Braybrook's stuff from Alleykat onwards sniff out a C128 in C64 mode and quietly throw more objects around or up the scroll speed so, unless you've both machines next to each other, most people wouldn't have even noticed there was a difference. (Freeze Uridium Plus on a C128, transfer that freeze to a C64 and the scrolling will glitch as it tries to do too much during the borders.)

 

As Jose says both machines should have had improvements to the original VIC=II/GTIA etc and the space in the system is there to accommodate.

 

i'm not sure that would've made a difference. Publishers tended to lean towards the lowest common denominator so the 130XE and C128 didn't see much support and a machine with upgraded graphics probably wouldn't have seen more than a handful of programs if it retained backward compatibility.

 

...the DTV joystick thingy is a little more compatible than that (doesn't feel much worse than a C128 in C64 mode to me) and this does have extended palette and screen colour capabilities included (but no SID filters so is not exactly ideal as most decent C64 games use filtered waveforms for atmosphere).

 

It's noticeably different in some respects, less so with games but it certainly doesn't emulate the ghostbyte so one of my games breaks visually and i believe VSP and line crunching aren't there so Mayhem In Monsterland, Creatures, Phobia and others go squiffy.

 

The other thing that bugs me is if so many games were still 48k in the time of the XE/XL range why didn't they make more games with a 4 player option for the 400/800 users?

 

Because the 48K thing was aiming for the lowest common denominator, it meant they could sell the same game to more people and companies like that. Spending time (and development money) on adding and tuning up extra four player options that would only work on some machines probably isn't something they'd have been happy with.

 

To a degree at least, you have to plan well in advance for four player support; something like Zybex can't be modified for example because it's using all the players already, is probably close to the edge for software sprites and would become seriously cluttered if the amount of players were doubled.

Edited by TMR

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The Spectrum being the dominant machine in UK, many software houses in UK could've convert softs to 48k A8 if they wanted to, but as Mathew Smith said (and Oliver twins), 'no monies in other platforms'

Edited by high voltage

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Is that scan i'm not going to quote for brevity of the Computer Gaming World article right (the circular boxout in particular) because i thought the A8 series had already got a good head of steam well before 1983? And there's still no sign of the 16,000 titles mentioned in that 1985 article...

 

EG and CGW were two of the most important gaming magazines from the beginning (both started in 81), they knew their stuff, but you're right, Atari was popular before 83, the A8 was the only computer with a game killer-app (Star Raiders).

Killer-app is a software which sells hardware (not a pack-in as in NES SMB or GB Tetris)

Edited by high voltage

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MSX games should really look like Colecovision games but due to the Z80 in both most UK MSX games looked exactly like the ZX Spectrum version which sucks. I thought the MSX was pretty crap until I actually went through the worldwide catalogue of games :)

 

@TMR

I still feel that the cost of a 128 and any disk drive (even a 1541-II basic model) would never justify any game that even used the full potential of the machine, it's like a C64, a CPM machine and something with a bit of both thanks to the 1mhz VIC-II limit and totally unsuitable nature for the VDC to be used to do games like say Salamander. The 128k is never really fully accessible as one massive chunk like say on the unreleased 130ST so yes the 128k helps but it's not going to do much than produce slightly better teeny bit more complex C64 games for non RGB-I monitor users so technically there's a limit to how much better it is than the cheaper Atari 128k machine vs 64k/48k specific A8 games in possible improvements (the 2mhz in the border does help, about 25-20% speed increase as seen in Elite 128 in C64 mode right?). It's certainly a well built machine with excellent build quality and a superb keyboard for coding (it's what I use) but the price was just too much (because the spec was typical post Tramiel Commodore "we've lost the plot so let's just throw everything onto the motherboard")

 

From that angle the 130XE was a much more focussed and therefore cost effective machine IMO. Hell you couldn't even use the 80 column mode via a SCART socket even though the official Commodore 1901 with RGB-I input had a worse CRT tube than the millions of SONY KV-M14U 14 inch portable TVs sold for £199 or less with RGB-A input via SCART. It's utter utter madness the design choices made on the C128 the mind boggles :)

 

Actually owning all the C128 specific/enhanced games would make for a pretty cheap project for collectors on the plus side :)

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EG and CGW were two of the most important gaming magazines from the beginning (both started in 81), they knew their stuff, but you're right, Atari was popular before 83, the A8 was the only computer with a game killer-app (Star Raiders).

Killer-app is a software which sells hardware (not a pack-in as in NES SMB or GB Tetris)

 

One could argue that the C64's killer app was its low price. The games followed in ever increasing quantities once the numbers were there. It also didn't hurt that it had strong retail availability at places like K-Mart. Obviously there were low priced computers before that, from the Timex Sinclair 1000 to the VIC-20, but the C-64 had an amazing feature-set for the price that previous low-priced systems simply couldn't match. That was the killer combo.

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