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What retro computer pleasantly surprised you?

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Every now and then, we all buy things on impulse, and it is often a disappointment, but every once in awhile you get something that you had low expectations for, but ended up really liking.

 

What retro computer did you pickup not expecting much, only to be pleasantly surprised?

 

I always derided the VIC-20, and still find it to be very limited, but perhaps because of low expectations I was very happy with an almost free unit that I picked up from a junk store. Some of the games are actually fun, it has a bright color palette, and is a nice window into how Commodore computers evolved.

 

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was a 286 Tandy TL/2 that I picked up awhile back. I guess you could say this applies to all retro PCs of the era, but I had always derided them. As a Commodore 64 and Amiga owner, I always looked down on the PCs of the 80s, but man do I love the directness of the architecture. Banging directly on registers, you can almost feel the interrupts. Plus they are brilliant to type on and great for productivity. I thought I would hate it but actually I love exploring old applications on the Tandy.

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I've had "surprise-good" experiences with many expansions, peripherals, and software. But not so much with the computers themselves.

 

I'm however pleased with the longevity/versatility of x86 rigs and the Apple II.

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can we nominate a games console?

 

If so I'd chuck the Wii U and 3DS in there.

 

They are just so damn polished and at least the Wii U is criminally under-rated.

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The Commodore Plus/4 was better than I expected. I like the little beast.

 

Really? Is it just the BASIC 4.0 or something else?

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The Atari 800 and 800XL.

 

I knew they were good, but I didn't previously realize just how many awesomely fun games there are for those machines.

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Really? Is it just the BASIC 4.0 or something else?

The BASIC is definitely a big part of it, also the higher clock speed, more colors, etc...

You know, computers don't have to include sprites or SID chips to be useful.

For static graphics images, the Plus/4 kills the C64.

The built in Plus/4 software package kinda stinks, but the idea was good.

Some different applications would have done it more justice, especially a better word processor.

One thing the Plus/4 lacks that should have been in it, is support for the 1571 high speed mode.

That should have been in the works before the Plus/4 ever came out.

It certainly would have made it more capable as a business machine like it was advertised.

 

The C64 is better at sprite based games for sure, but an all around computer it definitely has it's limitations.

It has a pretty good BASIC... for 1977. *barf*

The BASIC requires a lot of peeks and pokes to even do simple stuff game wise, or you have to use some sort of BASIC add on.

A lot of early business software was written in BASIC. Simple stuff like ELSE is missing let alone PRINT USING.

Once you get away from static images and hardware sprites, it's a bit of a dog speed wise.

The C64 really needs a faster clock speed for games based on 3D math and drawing lines like Elite.

Games that were written around the bitmapped graphics that have been ported to the Plus/4 look and play better on the Plus/4.

The C64 isn't very attractive either. The 64c is an improvement, but the Plus/4 still looks better.

 

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I've enjoyed the Amiga from the little bit of farting around with it I've done in emulation. It's nestled awkwardly in between the Macintosh and Sega Genesis somehow. I would have really liked owning one of these in an alternate time stream.

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My dad gave me his old Tandy 1000 back in the 90's. I thought it was a joke and never touched it, but I have a thing for keeping gifts so it followed me around from then until now. Finally hooked it up about a year or so ago because I read about the special graphics modes it had and I was really taken with the whole machine. I have the 1000RL/HD and it's very compact, has a great startup sound, and does a really good impression of an EGA-based machine. I also just enjoy the fact that it was a machine made in the 1990's that was based around an 8086. That'd be like making a computer today based on a Core 2 Duo or something, but then giving it a GeForce 1060. Just a really interesting and strange machine for its time.

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I've enjoyed the Amiga from the little bit of farting around with it I've done in emulation. It's nestled awkwardly in between the Macintosh and Sega Genesis somehow. I would have really liked owning one of these in an alternate time stream.

 

My Genesis owning friend was super jealous of my Amiga and we played it way more. But we were kids and games were the only thing that mattered. His family also had an Apple IIGS and well yeah we played Test Drive on it a couple of times and that was it from memory. Nothing could compete with the library of the 16 bit home computers at the time.

Edited by power
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I would say the TRS-80 CoCo3. I had a CoCo1 as a kid and it is not that impressive. But, the CoCo3 is a massive improvement. It has a great keyboard and the ability to expand up to 512k, and it looks nicer than the old grey CoCo1. I was vaguely aware they released a CoCo3 when I was younger. It was too late to the market to be a big success, but for a retro machine these days, it is surprisingly good.

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My dad gave me his old Tandy 1000 back in the 90's. I thought it was a joke and never touched it, but I have a thing for keeping gifts so it followed me around from then until now. Finally hooked it up about a year or so ago because I read about the special graphics modes it had and I was really taken with the whole machine. I have the 1000RL/HD and it's very compact, has a great startup sound, and does a really good impression of an EGA-based machine. I also just enjoy the fact that it was a machine made in the 1990's that was based around an 8086. That'd be like making a computer today based on a Core 2 Duo or something, but then giving it a GeForce 1060. Just a really interesting and strange machine for its time.

 

 

Being an Amiga user I felt the same about all the PCs of the day. I now own a Tandy TL/2 and those TGA graphics are actually pretty good. Plus the whole thing feels snappier than the Amiga. Definitely under appreciated machines.

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TRS-80 Color: Strangely, I had an old beat-up miscellaneous cartridge for it (Galactic Attack) for years before I ever even got a system to play it on. My first impression was that it was a little strange in some ways, but once I started getting more games for it and learning about its fairly huge third-party catalog of tape/disk software, it quickly became a favorite.

 

VIC-20: For many years I didn't give the VIC-20 much thought, if any. I regarded it as essentially a much more primitive iteration of the Commodore 64, which I already had, so why bother? Well, I found a cherry CIB system and a half-dozen games at a Vintage Computer Fest a few years back for the $50 that was burning a hole in my pocket. I was delighted to find that everything I thought I knew about it was wrong. :lol: Fun little thing. And VIC-20 carts are some of my favorite things to collect now.

 

Apple IIGS: First of all, I had never expressly set out to collect Apple stuff at all. At least as far as my hardware goes, almost all of it is just stuff that I lucked into (except my II Plus...that thing, I wanted). //e systems, printers, joysticks, monitors, all of it. Over the years I wound up with quite a pile of //e and //c parts, peripherals, drives, etc. That was good enough for me. I knew about the IIGS, and that it wasn't really as good a 16-bit system as stuff like the Amiga or Atari ST (which I had). A few years ago a buddy of mine messages me asking if I wanted one--I hadn't been looking for one, but the price (free) was right. ROM3 with a memory expansion and RGB monitor. All I had for it was a 5.25" drive so it was essentially just a snazzier //e until earlier this year when I finally got a CFFA3000, after which I've revised my opinion about IIGS a bit. :P

 

ADAM: I'm still pretty new to the ADAM, so I can't really comment too much on it at this point, but I'll say this--it's such a weird system. Not necessarily in good ways, but at least in interesting ways. My system came from Milli, with an internal power mod, so I don't need the printer, but that power-thru-printer design is one of the most immediately oddball things about this system. The other is the Digital Data Pack drive. I noticed it has none of the FF/RW/Rec/Play/etc buttons universally found on tape units. That's because ADAM tape drives actually act like disk drives--the system automatically peels through the tape (at noisily and terrifyingly high speed) looking for files and data in much the same way a disk drive seeks on a floppy. At first I was a little perplexed that ADAM CP/M came on tape--"How the hell can you run a disk operating system from tape?" Well...the ADAM DDP, that's how--the tape that thinks it's a disk. :-D It's faster than a standard cassette interface, but also far slower than an actual disk system. But it's definitely interesting!

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I would say the Atari 800. Never had one in the day and finally got a hold one one and it's a bit of a beast!

 

As for the Plus/4 and 1571 drives remember the Plus/4 had a drive all of its own, the 1551, that plugged into the cartridge port and it was super fast. I loved my Plus/4 in the day, despite it's shortcomings and it is a damn fine looking machine.

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I think the CoCo line suffered from Radio Shack distribution. At first it was a huge plus, but over time you had to actually go to a Radio Shack to get CoCo software (or user group). As a kid, I could only drag my parents into one electronics store, and between Radio Shack and Electronics Boutique (and later Babbages) I would always go for for the latter as they had the latest games. I didn't even know the CoCo 3 existed until I was an adult 20 years after I could have owned one.

 

I bought one and was not pleasantly surprised. The upgrades are super impressive, but it didn't suck me in like other retro systems do. I think it just a subjective thing, because I have no rational reason not to like it.

 

I would say the TRS-80 CoCo3. I had a CoCo1 as a kid and it is not that impressive. But, the CoCo3 is a massive improvement. It has a great keyboard and the ability to expand up to 512k, and it looks nicer than the old grey CoCo1. I was vaguely aware they released a CoCo3 when I was younger. It was too late to the market to be a big success, but for a retro machine these days, it is surprisingly good.

Edited by rpiguy9907

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The TI99... It's so strange as an architecture compared to its contemporary that it's like discovering computers all over again. And it has one of the nicest community of user around :-) Also the Peb is so badass looking!

 

The Apple IIe... Open architecture with expansion slots and really straight forward to code on.

 

I could never afford them when I was young, but I've got them now.

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If you are talking in contemporary terms, that would be the Amiga. I bought my first 500 to be a game machine as I wanted to play Shadow of the Beast, only to find the lot I picked up did not have it. But I figured, I had this new computer sitting here so I might as well learn to use it. It surprised me to be far more than just a great game machine but also a very usable computer system, serving me as a primary computer system from 1993 until 2001 in various forms: from the original Rev 5a motherboard with 4MB RAM to its final Rev 8 motherboard with 68EC030 GVP A530 Turbo.

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"Retro computer"? Do you mean vintage computer? I thought something "retro" was a modern creation that was attempting to look/act like something vintage.

 

Most vintage computers didn't surprise me because I already knew about them or used them years ago. There are many computers that I love, but they didn't surprise me.

 

I'd say the Kaypro pleasantly surprised me - the nice keyboard, metal case, the long persistent phosphor green screen. It has no graphics, colour or sound (other than key beep) and you can't do much with it these days, but it sure looks nice.

 

gallery_12824_521_83048.jpg

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I'm going to add the Adam to my list (which was just the Plus/4 so far).

My intro to the Adam was converting the boot software for the IDE interface to a ROM cartridge image.
Diving right into the tech docs without even owning the machine was interesting.
The memory mapping is decent for providing Colecovision compatibility as well as being a computer.
I've never been a fan of the VDP because the CPU doesn't have direct memory access, but in the right hands it can do some amazing stuff.
Based on the clock speed, etc... it should be faster than a regular CP/M machine.
The firmware is decent, I really like Adamnet, which is the Adam serial buss.
Adamnet is fast enough for a home computer, though it uses an odd baud rate due to their choice of clock to drive the 6801 that runs it.
It could have been faster but I'm guessing reliability was a concern at faster rates.
The built in word processor was both brilliant and horrible.
Being able to use the machine like a typewriter or word processor makes it easy for anyone to use, but it should have come on a ROM cart.
SmartBASIC is very fast compared to other 8 bit machines. It will look familiar to people that have programmed an Apple, and it is certainly better than what some othre machines came with.

SmartBASIC should have come on a cart though.

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"Retro computer"? Do you mean vintage computer? I thought something "retro" was a modern creation that was attempting to look/act like something vintage.

 

Most vintage computers didn't surprise me because I already knew about them or used them years ago. There are many computers that I love, but they didn't surprise me.

 

I'd say the Kaypro pleasantly surprised me - the nice keyboard, metal case, the long persistent phosphor green screen. It has no graphics, colour or sound (other than key beep) and you can't do much with it these days, but it sure looks nice.

 

gallery_12824_521_83048.jpg

 

Nice.

 

Looks like the kind of interface that could give you the status report on the Nostromo's systems. However, any data concerning Xenomorphs would be strictly classified.

 

A buddy of mine had an old terminal monitor. You could hook it up to pretty much anything and just start typing. Hollywood movies used to use them for simulating interactive texting between human and an A.I.s.

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Yes, it looks a bit like the MU/TH/UR interface, but my APL IBM 3278 keyboard looks more like the MU/TH/UR keyboard (white, red and black, with weird symbols):

 

 

alien__1979__nostromo_mother__muthr__int

 

 

(...and I do have access to that data concerning Xenomorphs. One look at my android eyes should tell you that I'm a goddamn robot.)

Edited by Mr.Amiga500
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Recently? MSX

 

Same here. I never knew about the MSX back-in-the-day, but I sure wish I had! Apparently it was popular everywhere *except* in the U.S. When I finally did discover it (I got an MSX1 Toshiba HX10), I was very impressed at how nice the system is to use overall, and the BASIC is really very nice and one of the best ROM-BASICs I have used. The library of available software is huge, and the quality (especially title from Konami) are second to none. They are great machines to mess around on.

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