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Could the Lynx have been a console?

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I've been enjoying my Lynx since I got it and I can't help but be amazed by what this little handheld from 1989 can do compared to the consoles that were out at the same time. Given the size of the unit and the energy consumption it seems like an actual console may have been a better use for the technology. How feasible would that be? Is the scaling and rotation performance dependent on the resolution being so low, to the point where increasing it to something more appropriate for a TV screen would hamper it? I know it was designed as a handheld by Epyx first and foremost, so take this as a question from a novice.

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At the time the Lynx came out Amiga was already 5 years old. The games on the Amiga had excellent sound compared to the 22 cent polysound hardware of the Lynx. Amiga was already using 16 bit CPU's while the Lynx only had 16 bit Suzy for scaling. The CPU was an 8 bit unit.

 

Besides, in 1989 Commodore dropped the Amiga 500 price to £399 and bundled it with The Batman Pack. Right when the Batman movie launched. They sold 1 million units. I believe the Amiga 500 was the "console" at that time. You put in a disk, you played the game.

 

Many people were looking at the Lynx as a portable Amiga console. You could run Batman even away from home ;)

At least, this is how I saw the Amiga and Lynx in 1989.

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As a TV connected gaming system it would have needed to stand by the ST, 7800 and XEGs which would have added even more brand dilution at that point in time (never mind the existing Atari Competitors e.g. SMS, NES and Mega Drive. Its saving grace was the fact that it was competing in the hand held market space.

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Many people were looking at the Lynx as a portable Amiga console. You could run Batman even away from home ;)

At least, this is how I saw the Amiga and Lynx in 1989.

 

That may be true in Finland, but it wasn't really in the US (Atari's home and primary market). The Amiga never caught on here, in any form. Neither did the Atari ST. I don't think most American consumers had any idea (or cared) that the Lynx had any connection to the Amiga at all.

 

The Lynx in the US would have had the Game Boy as its primary handheld competition in 1989; the Game Gear would be introduced the following year. At the time, the Lynx was vastly superior to the Game Boy in performance, although it turns out that that wasn't as important as battery life or the right type of games in a handheld. (The Game Boy had Tetris, the Candy Crush of its day.)

 

Assuming you wanted to make it a home console, it would have had the NES and Sega Master System to contend with initially, but the much more powerful Genesis was introduced just a month after the Lynx went on the market. I distinctly remember thinking the Lynx looked really powerful in commercials... until I saw a Genesis in action. Then the Lynx looked like a handheld again. It did still make the Game Boy look pretty pitiful, though.

 

I think it would have been a disaster if Atari released the Lynx as a home console in 1989. There's no way it was going to do anything against the Genesis. It didn't have the power to keep up and it didn't have the game selection to make up for that. It would have been the 7800 all over again.

 

If they released it in 1987, maybe a different story, who knows.

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At the time the Lynx came out Amiga was already 5 years old. The games on the Amiga had excellent sound compared to the 22 cent polysound hardware of the Lynx. Amiga was already using 16 bit CPU's while the Lynx only had 16 bit Suzy for scaling. The CPU was an 8 bit unit.

 

Besides, in 1989 Commodore dropped the Amiga 500 price to £399 and bundled it with The Batman Pack. Right when the Batman movie launched. They sold 1 million units. I believe the Amiga 500 was the "console" at that time. You put in a disk, you played the game.

 

Many people were looking at the Lynx as a portable Amiga console. You could run Batman even away from home ;)

At least, this is how I saw the Amiga and Lynx in 1989.

 

Aren't you forgetting something called the Atari ST ?

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That may be true in Finland, but it wasn't really in the US (Atari's home and primary market). The Amiga never caught on here, in any form. Neither did the Atari ST.

 

I know about that but I always wondered what the heck US people used in their homes between the A8/C64/TI99/4a generation and ....whatever came after the ST/Amiga (PC and Mac).

 

I mean, PC's and Macs were boring like hell on those years. No decent graphics, few games, Mac was B/W only.....

 

I have always loved the ST because it was capable of being both a great games/graphics/sound machine AND a serious B/W production machine....

Edited by Level42

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I know about that but I always wondered what the heck US people used in their homes between the A8/C64/TI99/4a generation and ....whatever came after the ST/Amiga (PC and Mac).

 

Well, this is going OT quick I guess but anyway, most people didn't really *need* a computer at all back then, so they just continued using what they'd always had until finally upgrading to a PC or Mac. I used my Apple IIc from 1984 until 1993, when I got my first PC. It worked fine for what I did with it, although in the later years of course I knew it was pretty obsolete. I was in college then and most of my roommates (I had 5) were in the same boat with their PC's; they'd just recently bought their first, after ditching their 8 bit stuff. But not all of them had computers at all; both my original and later group of roommates had a few people who just used dedicated word processors. I even had one of those myself for a while because they were a lot smaller than having a desktop plus a printer; I realized I didn't really need a computer at college.

 

There were probably really two mainstream activities most people used their computers for in the pre-internet days: playing games and word processing. But game consoles of the late 80's/early 90's played games better, and word processing could really be done on anything. So most people just kept what they had, maybe they upgraded the RAM or something, or maybe they bought a C64C to replace their old breadbin but kept the same software, etc. Then they just got a PC or Mac when they could finally afford it.

 

I've always wondered why the Amiga and ST were so much more popular in Europe, but I wonder if it's because game consoles *weren't*. Is that the case? Around me, basically everybody had an NES or Genesis in 1992 (and maybe one guy had a Master System), then some got SNES's when that was released, but not everyone had a computer of any kind.

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Yeah sorry for the OT....but it's still related....

Yes I too think consoles were much less popular here. I think I knew only one nephew with a NES....most other "consoles" were the Gameboy. I saw the NES as a kids toy mostly when I saw Kirby....OK I was wrong and should have tried Mario World ;) (I made up by buying a 2nd hand SNES years later....only to play SMW).

 

Most players here had homecomputers (C64, A8, Spectrum) etc. in the early 80's and switched to ST/Amiga/something else in the mid 80's.

 

I have never even known anyone with a Sega console, whatever type !

 

I'm not saying NES or Sega's weren't sold here, but compared to computers (for gaming) it was much less... I remember Atari even let know the 5200 wasn't going to come to The Netherlands, they knew it was "computer" territory....

 

To be very honest....not being able to buy loads of cartridge based software was always a "strong" point for getting a computer to play games on.....if you know what I mean....

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I have never even known anyone with a Sega console, whatever type !

 

I think the Genesis probably sold better in the US than anywhere else. For a little while, it was *the* console to own. It came very close to beating the SNES, and it was only basically after that generation's war was over that the SNES finally pulled ahead. (So Nintendo now gets credit for winning, but it didn't feel that way at the time, basically for the entire duration of that generation.) It was the only Sega console that was really successful.

 

And that's a good way to circle back to the Lynx-as-console discussion, because it ends up back where we started. The Genesis is actually *still* pretty impressive as a 2D console - not many were better for 2D action games (the Saturn and Neo Geo AES arguably were, though neither had the developer support the Genesis did). I have one of the AtGames Genesis portables (in addition to actual Genesis consoles) and I play it a lot even now and many of the games hold up perfectly well today. I also have a Lynx - the Lynx just doesn't come close to competing with the Genesis, on any level.

 

I've never been a Nintendo fan even though I've owned like 90% of their systems, but the SNES - while very different from the Genesis - would trounce the Lynx as a home console as well. The SNES was slower than the Genesis but it had pretty impressive sprite handling capability, not to mention pretty great sound for its time. And of course it had Mario and Zelda and everything else, which the Lynx would never be able to compete with any more than the Jaguar was able to compete with those same games on the N64.

Edited by spacecadet
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Well I think Mario was what made Nintendo "win" in the end....which indeed can turn us back to the Lynx.......what was the "killer-app" for the Lynx ? I think there wasn't one.

 

If I had to choose it was probably Chip's Challenge. Although graphically it didn't pull the max out of the system, it really works well on the small screen and the handling of Chip is much better than the PC version f.i. And this coming from a guy who generally hates puzzle games ;) But even so....it's hard to call CC the killer-app.

 

But Atari had the problem they had from day 1: They didn't have a "hero" for any system. Nintendo had Mario, Sega tried to catch up with Sonic and partly succeeded, but that was it. Atari had nothing....They failed to see this someway. Atari Inc. was lucky with the Space Invaders conversion at the time of the 2600 which became it's killer app by accident. They were also foolish to never include it with a system. Coleco was very clever bundling DK with the system....that sold a lof of systems for them for sure.

 

The Lynx is more than capable of running a game like SMW or Sonic games. It's just too bad they would never arrive on the system because Sega and Nintendo would never allow it to.

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I know about that but I always wondered what the heck US people used in their homes between the A8/C64/TI99/4a generation and ....whatever came after the ST/Amiga (PC and Mac).

 

Where computers were needed for business and education, I think they got by with shared computers in school and workplaces. Everyone I knew in that era who had a computer (mostly scientist and professor types) had an Apple II variant. Most people didn't use anything, while a few geeks held on to their consoles and 8-bit computers for playing games. I had a TS-1000 (equivalent to your ZX-81) for learning programming, but didn't have a proper computer until my Mac SE for college in 1988.

 

Well, this is going OT quick I guess but anyway, most people didn't really *need* a computer at all back then, so they just continued using what they'd always had until finally upgrading to a PC or Mac.

 

There were probably really two mainstream activities most people used their computers for in the pre-internet days: playing games and word processing.

 

Totally agree. We're just swapping old-timer stories now.

 

The commercial internet, cheap dial-up, plug-n-play Windows 95, and true multimedia changed everything ... my workplace changed from shared computers to one for everyone. I think we sometimes forget just how useless the early internet was to most people, how expensive computers used to be, and the wide gap between them and normal people of the time.

 

Another thing about USA and European differences -- technology is significantly cheaper in America. I assume this is because of higher taxes and import tariffs in Europe? This might also help explain the relative popularity of Amiga and Atari in the UK, especially if they had manufacturing over there and the US did not.

 

We also never had things like the European PC games press. I used to run all over town for import magazines with demo disks before download speeds were good enough to get things that way. I assume the healthy press presence and being able to buy computer games at corner stores had something to do with it too, but I'm not sure if that was cause or effect.

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The Lynx is more than capable of running a game like SMW or Sonic games. It's just too bad they would never arrive on the system because Sega and Nintendo would never allow it to.

 

Well the OG Game Boy ran Super Mario, so sure, the Lynx could run that. And I'm sure it could run "Sonic games", just like the Game Gear did. But they wouldn't look as good or run as well as the home versions did on the Genesis. You're talking about a 68000 running at 7.67mhz vs. a 65SC02 running at 3.6mhz. The Lynx was really powerful as a handheld, but it just wasn't a match for the home consoles of the day. It was more on the level of previous-gen home systems like the Master System, which is pretty typical of handhelds in general. (The Game Boy felt a little further behind than that, but historically most top-line handhelds are about a generation behind current home systems.)

 

We also never had things like the European PC games press. I used to run all over town for import magazines with demo disks before download speeds were good enough to get things that way. I assume the healthy press presence and being able to buy computer games at corner stores had something to do with it too, but I'm not sure if that was cause or effect.

 

Yeah, I don't think I ever even bothered with demo disks at the time, but I watch a lot of YouTube videos from guys like Nostalgia Nerd these days and they always talk about them. The only way I had to find out about new games and play them was by reading about them on BBS's and then either just taking a total chance buying the full game in a store (I did do that about once every couple of months), or downloading through an AE. Both the BBS and AE thing were totally nerdy at the time; regular people didn't ever do stuff like that.

 

With game consoles of the time you obviously couldn't download a game, but since so many more people had consoles and more stores had them too, it was easier to see games in action before buying. It was also just easier to buy them, again because more stores had them. I don't know if I ever even saw an Amiga or ST in an actual store that wasn't a small, indie computer store, and there just weren't a lot of those around. I had to make a special trip across town (on my bike!) to go to one of two that we had in a 10 mile radius. But every department store had game consoles and the games to play on them, and they'd usually be constantly demoing them.

 

And I almost forgot about game rentals. When I was in college, which is sort of the period in question here, everyone in my dorm was constantly renting games from Blockbuster. They had a huge rental section, and they usually had even the newest titles. It was $2-$3 to rent a game for 3 nights. Blockbuster at the time was *huge*, so I imagine this actually went a long way in promoting the game systems of the time. They obviously did not rent computer games, probably because the market was just too small but I'm sure also because of piracy.

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Well I think Mario was what made Nintendo "win" in the end....which indeed can turn us back to the Lynx.......what was the "killer-app" for the Lynx ? I think there wasn't one.

 

It was actually a whole bunch of games that ultimately helped them pull ahead.

 

I loved that era. Nintendo had gotten so smug during the NES era that I loved it when Sega kicked them in the crotch, knocked them off their podium and then fought them like a wild animal for every scrap of marketshare. Possibly the greatest console rivalry in history because - in North America - it's the only one I can remember being really 'close' for a long time. Games came out on both and every Christmas, they seemed to trade the #1 crown back and forth.

 

In truth, I hated the SNES at first when it came out. I saw it and said, "Seriously?! That's it? Two years working on this and that's all you can do? Come on ..."

 

But in retrospect, there were a lot of great classic SNES games from Nintendo because they were trying to keep Sega from cutting them off at the knees.

 

Good times, good times!

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Well the OG Game Boy ran Super Mario, so sure, the Lynx could run that. And I'm sure it could run "Sonic games", just like the Game Gear did. But they wouldn't look as good or run as well as the home versions did on the Genesis. You're talking about a 68000 running at 7.67mhz vs. a 65SC02 running at 3.6mhz. The Lynx was really powerful as a handheld, but it just wasn't a match for the home consoles of the day. It was more on the level of previous-gen home systems like the Master System, which is pretty typical of handhelds in general. (The Game Boy felt a little further behind than that, but historically most top-line handhelds are about a generation behind current home systems.)

 

The Lynx did had some things that some of the consoles didn't have. For example, it had hardware assisted scaling, which the Genesis didn't have. Blue Lightning wouldn't have been possible in the same way. It also had 4096 colours, which was quite a bit more than the Genesis, though only 16 at once.

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What's an AE?

 

ASCII Express. It was the software that everybody used to share games on Apple II in those days. It was sort of like a dial-up ftp server. These would mostly operate in the shadows, and occasionally they'd get shut down. But new ones were always popping up, and you just had to know the right people to give you the always-unlisted phone numbers. Some of my floppy disk jackets are covered with phone numbers and passwords for various AE's.

 

 

The Lynx did had some things that some of the consoles didn't have. For example, it had hardware assisted scaling, which the Genesis didn't have. Blue Lightning wouldn't have been possible in the same way. It also had 4096 colours, which was quite a bit more than the Genesis, though only 16 at once.

 

With almost any two systems, there will be individual things that you can pick out that one does better than the other. As you say, 4,096 colors doesn't mean a whole lot when you can only display 16 at once compared to the Genesis' 64. Games on the Genesis will always appear more colorful. Scaling is something SNES fans used to poke the Genesis about also, but there are actually plenty of Genesis games with scaling, it's just done in software. That means the CPU's going to be working harder, but the 68000 in the Genesis is quite a bit faster than the 6502 in the Lynx. (It is literally like comparing an Amiga 1000 to an Apple IIc Plus - same CPUs running at basically the same clock speeds as the Genesis and Lynx.)

 

I know the Lynx (and Genesis) had custom chips to handle graphics and sound so just comparing CPUs isn't normally all that fruitful, but I'm just talking about a particular feature that the Genesis would likely have to do on its CPU, but it certainly could do it without breaking much of a sweat.

Edited by spacecadet
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ASCII Express. It was the software that everybody used to share games on Apple II in those days. It was sort of like a dial-up ftp server. These would mostly operate in the shadows, and occasionally they'd get shut down. But new ones were always popping up, and you just had to know the right people to give you the always-unlisted phone numbers. Some of my floppy disk jackets are covered with phone numbers and passwords for various AE's.

 

 

With almost any two systems, there will be individual things that you can pick out that one does better than the other. As you say, 4,096 colors doesn't mean a whole lot when you can only display 16 at once compared to the Genesis' 64. Games on the Genesis will always appear more colorful. Scaling is something SNES fans used to poke the Genesis about also, but there are actually plenty of Genesis games with scaling, it's just done in software. That means the CPU's going to be working harder, but the 68000 in the Genesis is quite a bit faster than the 6502 in the Lynx. (It is literally like comparing an Amiga 1000 to an Apple IIc Plus - same CPUs running at basically the same clock speeds as the Genesis and Lynx.)

 

I know the Lynx (and Genesis) had custom chips to handle graphics and sound so just comparing CPUs isn't normally all that fruitful, but I'm just talking about a particular feature that the Genesis would likely have to do on its CPU, but it certainly could do it without breaking much of a sweat.

See: Sonic: The Next Level.

It sets the golden standard for any homebrew/hack. Period.

What it does:

Pushes everything to the limit.

Occasional Voiceover, no CD. Suck on that Super Metroid. ;P

Polygons

Scaling

Pixel Manipulation

Fluid Animations

Rotation

More than just 64 colors.

Music that is not distinct to the Yamaha chip inside

Just play it, ok?

Edited by Appadeia

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Well I think Mario was what made Nintendo "win" in the end....which indeed can turn us back to the Lynx.......what was the "killer-app" for the Lynx ? I think there wasn't one.

 

If I had to choose it was probably Chip's Challenge. Although graphically it didn't pull the max out of the system, it really works well on the small screen and the handling of Chip is much better than the PC version f.i. And this coming from a guy who generally hates puzzle games ;) But even so....it's hard to call CC the killer-app.

 

But Atari had the problem they had from day 1: They didn't have a "hero" for any system. Nintendo had Mario, Sega tried to catch up with Sonic and partly succeeded, but that was it. Atari had nothing....They failed to see this someway. Atari Inc. was lucky with the Space Invaders conversion at the time of the 2600 which became it's killer app by accident. They were also foolish to never include it with a system. Coleco was very clever bundling DK with the system....that sold a lof of systems for them for sure.

 

The Lynx is more than capable of running a game like SMW or Sonic games. It's just too bad they would never arrive on the system because Sega and Nintendo would never allow it to.

But Atari had Bently Bear though. 😀

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A console Lynx would have needed higher resolution and that probably would not have been possible at the same speed without changing the whole architecture to allow for more graphics throughput.

 

I changed from 8-bit to ST both for Atari brand loyalty and because the ST had the 70Hz paper white "hi-res" SM124 that was really revolutionary at the time and beat ordinary PCs in readability by far. That suited me well for word processing was one of the main things I needed after starting at university.

 

As for Europeans using more Ataris and Amigas for playing have been caused by higher prices for console games. Stuff was sold at list price then and we did not have the multi-tiered distribution system and mail order sales keeping prices down. With one distributor per country and less volume per country there was probably an extra level of markups/margins to be paid. Having played on the 8-bits and still occasionally playing on the ST, mostly pirated software on both, buying full-price console games did not seem that appealing. Having a girlfriend and later a job reduced time available for gaming anyway.

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A console Lynx would have needed higher resolution and that probably would not have been possible at the same speed without changing the whole architecture to allow for more graphics throughput.

 

I changed from 8-bit to ST both for Atari brand loyalty and because the ST had the 70Hz paper white "hi-res" SM124 that was really revolutionary at the time and beat ordinary PCs in readability by far. That suited me well for word processing was one of the main things I needed after starting at university.

 

As for Europeans using more Ataris and Amigas for playing have been caused by higher prices for console games. Stuff was sold at list price then and we did not have the multi-tiered distribution system and mail order sales keeping prices down. With one distributor per country and less volume per country there was probably an extra level of markups/margins to be paid. Having played on the 8-bits and still occasionally playing on the ST, mostly pirated software on both, buying full-price console games did not seem that appealing. Having a girlfriend and later a job reduced time available for gaming anyway.

 

that is true, as the super Gameboy I had on my Snes, didn't stretch the image, it was boxed from what I remember, so even if you could have hooked the lynx to a TV, it would have been a box with borders around it.

Edited by D.Daniels
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This actually existed, but never made it to full production. It would have been a bit a head of it it time in that you plugged your lynx into a dock. A la the upcoming switch you would get upgraded graphics graphics and ram. Very cool little device, I've only seen one once. Maybe some collector has one to show of pictures, I know I love to have one.

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When I saw this topic, my first thought was low resolution and weak color pallet would not have been a great TV console.

 

Sega kind of did the opposite, putting the Master System into a handheld. They actually increased the on screen colors for the Game Gear.

 

Atari didn't have the licensing muscle they once had, so I am afraid it would have been a challenge with Neo Geo quality hardware..

With conversions, such as their poor Lynx version of Ms Pac-Man, the battle would have been even greater.

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With conversions, such as their poor Lynx version of Ms Pac-Man, the battle would have been even greater.

I thought Ms Pac-Man was actually good on the Lynx.

 

Atari screwed over Epyx, that's the biggest cause of the Lynx failure. Early Epyx games were awesome, just think what could have been.

BadPricey

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Consolized Lynx can be done. I've built an adapter that lets me use PSX controller instead of built in Lynx controller. With the LCD mod by McWill, a VGA display or VGA to HDMI/Component/Composite converter and regular TV can work.

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