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2600 Vs Vic 20

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The 2600 had a life cycle of over 14 years. The VIC-20 had a life cycle of just 5 years. That alone should tell you which was better.

 

The VIC-20 was succeeded by the arguably most successful 8-bit computer ever. I'm not intending to step on the toes of 5200 and 7800 fans out there but the 2600 didn't have the same in-family competition.

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Call me back when the 2600 could do something like Realms of Quest 3 btw ;)

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The 2600 had a life cycle of over 14 years. The VIC-20 had a life cycle of just 5 years. That alone should tell you which was better.

 

Hardly fair. The tech for computers was changing a HELL of a lot faster in the early to mid 80's then video game consoles was. For those of us old enough to remember, that's when computers dropped a huge ammount in price to become affordable, power increased ten fold, and numerous makes entered the market only to fold several years later. The Vic-20 was a fine computer that just got made obsolete quickly due to the Commodore 64. With the 2600, that was really obsolete after about five years also -- just that due to it's popularity it was supported for a long time (and perhaps, one can argue, longer then it should have been!)

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As far as programming there is always going to be preference in hardware since some systems are just easier to code for overall, just look at the Xbox PS2 era with Sony's vague Emotion Engine versus the mostly standard PC compliant Microsoft platform. It really depends on what you want to do game wise since certain platforms do certain genres better which is even more true the further back you go in hardware designs. If you want to use text heavily in your game the VIC-20 would definitely be an easy choice despite the extensive "work around" coding demands Nukey Shay mentioned that I do sympathize with.

 

A bit before my time but I definitely would have been underwhelmed by less games on the VIC-20 compared to the 2600 as being left out of from a bunch of games or not having many definitely sucks when you decide upon one platform over others. I bought a Sega CD when the second model came out after trying out some of the best games for it in rentals like Snatcher only to find I couldn't find any of the really good titles to purchase so even good hardware can just sit there unused without good software to go with it. (Should have bought more Genesis games or a SNES in retrospect.)

 

There certainly is a split in perception to American/Canadian versus British/European during that era as far the media to which games were commonly stored on IE. Cartridge VS Cassette. I grew up with carts and disks so tape loading was definitely slower by comparison but still better than manual game inputting from a book which I have done. On the other hand the cheaper and more widely available cassette did encourage a lot of homebrew and programming collaboration as well as piracy too lol. Quality software is always important but if you can't afford it who cares.

On the other hand I think the 2600 was supported so long because of inherent consumer thriftness as in this is my TV, Stereo, and Video Game which I will only replace if it stops working. I don't think the average household could not afford to be cutting edge all the time until the level of upgrade and lowering price point were significant enough for them to change(Pong VS 2600). I love the 2600 but I think one of the reasons it collapsed was because of rising consumer expectations which it couldn't meet being so long in the tooth.

 

I'm just a doodler but the VIC-20 definitely is more friendly from a pixel art standpoint right out of the box as it can produce the most common game to screen layouts with its character display easily unlike the 2600 which required a completely different education all together to understand how it goes about doing the same or similar graphical rendering tasks. The 2600 wins as far as color palette but it is also challenging to actually take advantage of that fact.

 

In many ways I think I would have been happiest with a Atari 400 if I grew up around then even though the keyboard sucks but given that programming is not my forte I think the 2600 would have been the most satisfying based on the number of games a kid could get over the lifespan of a game system while expanding any computer beyond its stock unit really adds up over time. I look at all the great VIC-20 hardware I got recently for $50 and think about how much that would have costed when new and I doubt I could have afforded it compared to the occasional 2600 cart purchase. :)

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The 2600 had a life cycle of over 14 years. The VIC-20 had a life cycle of just 5 years. That alone should tell you which was better.

The VIC-20 was succeeded by the arguably most successful 8-bit computer ever.

 

That would be more relevant if this were a 2600 v. C64 comparison, eh? :)

 

I suspect that the C64's success was largely based on its own merits (bang/buck) rather than the Vic-20 having done a whole lot for it.

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I suspect that the C64's success was largely based on its own merits (bang/buck) rather than the Vic-20 having done a whole lot for it.

 

the Vic-20 is why the 1541 was so slow. When designing the Vic and 1540 (predecessor to the 1541), they uncovered a bug in the IO chip's serial shift register. Per Jim Butterfield,

starting with the VIC-20 the serial bus was born. It was intended to be just as fast as the IEEE-488 it replaced. Technically, the idea was sound: the 6522 VIA chip has a "shift register" circuit that, if tickled with the right signals (data and clock) will cheerfully collect 8 bits of data without any help from the CPU. At that time, it would signal that it had a byte to be collected, and the processor would do so, using an automatic handshake built into the 6522 to trigger the next incoming byte. Things worked in a similar way outgoing from the computer, too. We early PET/CBM freaks knew, from playing music, that there was something wrong with the 6522's shift register: it interfered with other functions. The rule was: turn off the music before you start the tape! (The shift register was a popular sound generator). But the Commodore engineers, who only made the chip, didn't know this. Until they got into final checkout of the VIC-20. By this time, the VIC-20 board was in manufacture. A new chip could be designed in a few months (yes, the silicon guys had application notes about the problem, long since), but it was TOO LATE! A major software rewrite had to take place that changed the VIC-20 into a "bit-catcher" rather than a "character-catcher". It called for eight times as much work on the part of the CPU; and unlike the shift register plan, there was no timing/handshake slack time. The whole thing slowed down by a factor of approximately 5 to 6.

 

When the 64 came out, the problem VIA 6522 chip had been replaced by the CIA 6526. This did not have the shift register problem which had caused trouble on the VIC-20, and at that time it would have been possible to restore plan 1, a fast serial bus. Note that this would have called for a redesign of the 1540 disk drive, which also used a VIA. As best I can estimate - and an article in the IEEE Spectrum magazine supports this - the matter was discussed within Commodore, and it was decided that VIC-20 compatibility was more important than disk speed. Perhaps the prospect of a 1541 redesign was an important part of the decision, since current inventories needed to be taken into account. But to keep the Commodore 64 as a "bit-banger", a new problem arose. The higher-resolution screen of the 64 (as compared to the VIC-20) could not be supported without stopping the CPU every once in a while. To be exact: Every 8 screen raster lines (each line of text), the CPU had to be put into a WAIT condition for 42 microseconds, so as to allow the next line of screen text and color nybbles to be swept into the chip. (More time would be needed if sprites were being used). But the bits were coming in on the serial bus faster than that: a bit would come in about every 20 microseconds! So the poor CPU, frozen for longer than that, would miss some serial bits completely! Commodore's solution was to slow down the serial bus even more. That's why the VIC-20 has a faster serial bus than the 64, even though the 64 was capable, technically, of running many times faster. Fast disk finally came into its own with the Commodore 128.

Edited by SpiceWare
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I don't think the C64 would have been so successful if it weren't for the consumer floodgates opened by the Vic - A domestic home computer that sells over a million units surely must make an impact on the conciousness of the buying public. The Vic wasn't a threatening business behemoth with a price tag to match so that must've meant the C64 was a less intimidating upgrade in the domestic computing market.

 

Also, Commodore killed off the Vic by dint of the (eventual) success of the C64 whereas the VCS gained longevity due to the failure of the 5200 and delay of the 7800. To my mind computer/console lifespan has little to do with technical merits or software quality... :)

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The 2600 had a life cycle of over 14 years. The VIC-20 had a life cycle of just 5 years. That alone should tell you which was better.

The VIC-20 was succeeded by the arguably most successful 8-bit computer ever.

 

That would be more relevant if this were a 2600 v. C64 comparison, eh? :)

 

I suspect that the C64's success was largely based on its own merits (bang/buck) rather than the Vic-20 having done a whole lot for it.

 

I'm not comparing the 2600 to the C64 nor am I saying the VIC-20 was the sole reason behind the C64's success.

 

The success and aggressive pricing of the C64 made the VIC-20 obsolete. The 5200 and 7800 never got successful enough to replace the 2600.

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The 2600 had a life cycle of over 14 years. The VIC-20 had a life cycle of just 5 years. That alone should tell you which was better.

I don't think the length of life is a very good measurement of how 'good' any system was. I can think of a couple of consoles that had a lifespan of more than 5 years that were not as decent for gaming as a VIC-20.

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Back to topic, the 2600 wins hands down no contest - hey c'mon, when it comes to colour and flexible graphic transitions it can top the 64; go ahead and put Enduro on the 2600 up against any c64 racer and the visuals aren't even close. The C64 wins on sound of course because nothing can beat the SID chip even today icon_wink.gif

 

Sorry, but -= NOTHING =- in the Universe beats Enduro Atari 2600 sound! SID cannot produce that kind of juicy, metallic bass-sound.

 

Please get me right - Sound Interface Device can do very amazing things, and is very flexible for all kinds of interesting sounds and in my opinion, it's the best and most interesting and atmospheric synthesizer that I have ever known about. I love the SID, and composing with it, creating sound effects and instruments with it, and just generally toying around with it (and especially four of them simultaneously with my HardSID PCI Quattro).

 

But ENDURO .. has just such marvellous sound that I often play it just to feel those euphoric, soul-massaging sounds that nothing I have ever heard elsewhere can come close to duplicating. Emulation is nice, but not quite it. Only a real Atari can produce _THAT_ sound. SID cannot.

 

Had you chosen some other game, I'd have possibly agreed with you (though Atari 2600 sounds are just generally so incredibly awesome that I regret not having found Atari in the eighties - Atari 800 XL sounds are also something exciting and blasting in a way that SID can't quite reach. The Asteroids-style very low and crisp noise wave just doesn't exist in SID. SID's noise wave is somewhat 'softer' and 'rounder' (hard to explain), only Atari can bring that kind of juicy sharpness to it).

 

SID pretty much beats everything - except certain, juicy and amazing Atari sounds. SID can do many things, but it cannot duplicate certain, soul-caressing Atari's aural magnificence expressions. Atari's sound chip can't do the things SID can do, but SID also can't do the things Atari's sound chip can do.

 

They're both great, and I love it all - but if you are saying SID is somehow without any question the all-encompassing master of the 8-bit aural world, I have to disagree with you on certain specifics, even though generally I would agree with that.

 

Enduro's sound .. aaahh.. it's just something that can't be explained - you have to hear it yourself.

 

And this is coming from someone who loves the SID chip more than any soundmaking device ever, except Atari's sound chips..(and I am not saying I love Atari's sound chips more, I am just saying those certain sounds they can produce are just something out-of-this-world!)

 

Yes, I love SID chip even more than Amiga's sound chips..as lovely as they were for me during certain time period, they couldn't really emulate SID all that well, and samples begin to be boring after awhile, especially when compared to "live sound". The problem with samples is that they're 'static' in a way, and if you loop a sample, it will loop faster at higher pitch, and slower at lower pitch, so having a 'live sound' like in SID means this doesn't happen, so any 'loop' will have the same speed at every pitch (a luxury I could only dream of with samples back in the day).

 

When some Atarians say that Atari's sound chip is better for sound effects, and SID is better for music, some SID-fanatics have been quick to point out the logic that what is better for music, has to also be better for sound effects. But now I see what they meant - SID just can't make sound effects like the Atari 2600, as great things as the SID can do. So in a way, it's true - Atari's sound effects can sometimes sound better in a way that SID just cannot reach.

 

And SID certainly fits musicmaking very well.

 

SID is great, and "the best" in most occasions, but there are certain specific ways that the Atari's sound chip is better than SID. And ENDURO is certainly one of them.

 

By the way, I don't think Enduro would suffer visually all that much by being converted to C64 - it doesn't have that many slow, soft or smooth color transitions, and the C64 does have quite nice color selection to use for all kinds of visual effects. Enduro's graphics are relatively simple, so what the hypothetical C64-version would lose in color slides, transitions and such, it would gain in resolution, multicolored sprites, actual hires sprites and graphics, (even 320x200 with hires charset, etc.) and so on.

 

But where it would really and truly lose, is the SOUND. It would be just a loss.

 

Besides, they'd botch it up by trying to make it too fancy.. Enduro's charm is partially that it's so simple, and it oozes this incredible atmosphere (together with the incredible sound) that makes everything feel so good that it's impossible to duplicate - that would be lost in transition. Also, when you 'clarify' a bit 'hazy' and simplistic graphics, you destroy the imagination, and thus worsen the graphics. When the graphics are simple, your imagination 'finishes' the graphics, and also keeps it 'alive' - one day it might look different than some other day, because your imagination 'finishes' it in a different way. With completely 'finished' graphics, there's no room for imagination, and thus the graphics become more 'dead' and stale.

 

Simple graphics provoke the imagination, and although this doesn't mean you start seeing shades and shapes that aren't there, it means a certain experience, where you become the co-creator of the game's graphics instead of just being a passive receiver of someone else's soulless brilliance of their painstakingly learned pixel-techniques.

 

Too Long; Didn't Read? Ok.. SID is the best music and sound chip out there, except for a few specific instances, where Atari completely overrules SID's sovereignty, and shows that it, too, can be the MASTER. And Enduro is one of these instances.

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Back to topic, the 2600 wins hands down no contest - hey c'mon, when it comes to colour and flexible graphic transitions it can top the 64; go ahead and put Enduro on the 2600 up against any c64 racer and the visuals aren't even close. The C64 wins on sound of course because nothing can beat the SID chip even today

 

That is one of the reasons why I love the 2600 until today!

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Yes, the simpler graphics leave room for your imagination to join the game. And you are right besides the programmer finishing the game while playing it.

 

I had the same experience with doom on the PC. But it was not the graphics my imagination got involved in. It was instead the atmosphere and ambiance. The graphics and sounds were mere guideposts along the roads in hell.

 

This even extended to level design, encouraging me to make my own mazes!

 

A great thread thanks for bringing it to the top again, I gotta fire up a virtual Vic-20 tonight!

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I'm a little late to this board but better way late than never.

 

There is no real comparison between the legendary Atari 2600 versus the Commodore Vic-20. Being a phenomenal commercial success gave the Atari 2600 a life I don't think will ever be matched again.

 

The only thing I would say the Vic-20 did well that the Atari never did was: Zork and CompuServe. A modem ran on the 5k Vic-20 and I remember Zork requiring the upgraded memory to run.

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A couple of my buddies had the 20. And somewhere along the line I acquired one for a short time. I never got into it like I did the Apple II, but it certainly projected the aura of a fun computer. I sometimes consider it the unsung hero when it comes to introductory computers.

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I saved up for something like 6 months to be able to get a VCS in the fall of 1980 in the UK, no crisps/sweets/chocolates/toys and also money for birthday that year. It was my first proper system as before that I only had a Pong console from Radiofin.

 

So for me the 2600 is one of the most iconic systems and I will always love those awesome games like Space Invaders, Enduro, Phoenix or Vanguard etc that I played to death. About 2 years later, mostly due to the £30 cartridge prices and because my Dad was a big fan of Sci-Fi he decided I should get a computer 2 years later. At the time thanks to mostly purchasing shitty UK programmed cassette games I thought the VIC was a bit crap to be honest but also at the same time just like the VCS a true arcade gamers machine that was loud and the games were hard but fair like Gridrunner. As my VIC failed in only 3 months the shop let us part exchange it for full purchase price against a shiny new C64 so I never really got to see the full potential of the machine.

 

Today with games like Punchy (Mr Micro) Skramble (Anirog) and Star Battle (Commodore Japan's left over code from converting Galaxian before seeking a licence from Namco) in my software library to play I can see that ultimately it is the better machine I think. But we are talking about such basic technology the games library is more important than the chipset inside the case really.

 

So in summary I would not trade my gaming memories with the VCS but I do wish I had purchased games like the 3 above for my VIC before getting a C64 too. Of course the Commodore joystick is PANTS!

 

Speaking of the VIC I have been toying with the idea of doing Manic Miner for it as even the ZX81 (original monochrome silent TIMEX computer to USA folks) has a version but then again even the ZX81 has 256x192 resolution which is about 25% more than the VICs 176x184 weird resolution so it would be the hardest version to do. I don't know if there has ever been a homebrew of Manic Miner for the 2600 which would be interesting.

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Speaking of the VIC I have been toying with the idea of doing Manic Miner for it as even the ZX81 (original monochrome silent TIMEX computer to USA folks) has a version but then again even the ZX81 has 256x192 resolution which is about 25% more than the VICs 176x184 weird resolution so it would be the hardest version to do. I don't know if there has ever been a homebrew of Manic Miner for the 2600 which would be interesting.

As I mentioned in a prior reply, the screen layout on the VIC is not set it stone:

 

One thing I noticed right off on Jelly Monsters was that they added additional columns and rows (compare the top/left/bottom borders of the 2 games) to make the maze fit better. Besides the default 22x23, the Vic could be configured for a variety of screen sizes - up to 26x29 for NTSC and 29x35 for PAL.

Using 8x8 characters that ends up as:

  • 208x232 for NTSC
  • 232x280 for PAL

Check out the VIC-20 Programmers Reference Guide. Info on VIC (video interface chip) starts on page 212.

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Keep in mind, the VIC chip was designed for arcade games in 1977 and was not marketed well. I think maybe one Japanese Space Invaders clone uses it (it's in MAME). It existed around the time of the release of the 2600.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOS_Technology_VIC

 

Commodore used the chip in the VIC years after this to get rid of the old stock...

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2600 I guess, Vic 20 sold tons and most became doorstops as there was hardly anywhere to get software in comparison to 2600 (we are talking up to 1982 and USA)

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As I mentioned in a prior reply, the screen layout on the VIC is not set it stone:

 

 

Using 8x8 characters that ends up as:

  • 208x232 for NTSC
  • 232x280 for PAL

Check out the VIC-20 Programmers Reference Guide. Info on VIC (video interface chip) starts on page 212.

 

Hi, I did try to find a conversation I had with someone expert on this exact machine on Lemon64 subforum a long long time ago who explained to me the exact method of doing it, couple of Pokes to some formula IIRC, after reading it mentioned in the VIC programmers reference guide. There was also a downside I can't remember.

 

Don't suppose you know the mechanics of it, from memory the guide doesn't detail the memory locations.

 

The speccy version, and all pixel perfect ports including the C64 etc, use just 256x192 pixels.and 16 pixels wide is wasted for a left and right column of brick wall characters which are unnecessary, so that makes it just 1 character wide short.

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It's been a long time since I programmed on the VIC, though I do recall that the screen RAM and character memory location (when using custom characters like you'd use in a game) can only be stored in the built 5K of RAM.

 

Page 215 has the formula for Screen Memory Location and Character Memory Location.

 

Screen Memory Location is split over 2 registers, $9002 and $9005 - the H bits in the table on page 214.

 

Character Memory Location is in register $9005 - the I bits in the table on page 214. The table on page 216 shows where in memory the character set will be loaded from. Each value in table 216 covers 128 characters. You actually get 256 characters, so if you use X value of 0 you get the characters defined under both X=0 (for characters 0-127) and X=1 (for characters 128-255). If you use X value of 15 it wraps to 0, so you get RAM based characters(for 0-127) and built in characters(128-255).

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I had a VIC and never thought any of the games were very good, except for Omega Race. Granted, I didn't have very many games.

 

I will never forget this one time I borrowed a "programming" book from the school library that contained all kinds of programs to type in. The book was structured so that it had a "base code" section and then, depending on what computer you had, you would substitute in certain chunks of code at different spots. The programs were really simple stuff that, frankly, was always a bit underwhelming after spending all the time typing in the program. You'd spend an hour typing in a program, type run, and you'd get a primitive animation of a guy diving into a pool. WOW!

 

There was this one program that I really wanted to try (it was probably a "game" or something) and I started looking for the VIC code version, and noticed that the book said something to the effect of: "this program cannot be run on VIC-20 due to memory constraints".

 

In my little kid mind I remember being amazed that the VIC was evidently crying uncle over a crappy type-in program.

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