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Drsoren24

is the 7800 necessary?

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Keatah said:

 

But whatever. The 7800 version shown in the above vid seems better, both sound and graphics wise. Maybe it sounds a little harsher and the intermission isn't as nice sounding as the NES. But overall the 7800 looks and sounds more arcadey. 

 

 

I'm assuming you're referring to the version with the TIA sound. Here is the version with Yamaha sound.

 

 

 

Edited by Defender_2600
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Yes. The TIA version. I prefer the TIA version despite it being harsher on the ears. The power-pill sound seems wrong in the xm version.

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13 minutes ago, Keatah said:

Yes. The TIA version. I prefer the TIA version despite it being harsher on the ears. The power-pill sound seems wrong in the xm version.

 

However that is a Yamaha WIP version, the final version has a lot of updates.

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3 hours ago, SoundGammon said:

Going into left field here.

 

I've always wondered what the 7800 would have been like if Atari didn't want backwards capability for 2600 games?

 

Maybe 2 pokey chips for sound. Use the PIA chip for joystick inputs and memory expansion? 

I would expect so at the least.  That's a tough hypothetical because 2600 mode was as critical to the design from above as having a cart slot!

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On 7/14/2020 at 12:06 AM, Drsoren24 said:

 I decided to take the plunge.  I have one on the way.  Does anybody have any games to sell at a reasonable price?  I was also wondering about controllers.  ...

 

 

Since you have finally decided to get a 7800, I would like to suggest you update the title of this discussion with something that everyone can interpret in a positive way. From the title, which you have chosen, it may seem that you are looking for a universal truth without having consideration of the people involved in the development of the system. I am sure that a moderator will be available to listen to your request. Thank you.

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19 hours ago, RevEng said:

Because POKEY was there and ready, rather than them developing something new. If I had my druthers they would have stuck in a chip with FM synthesis. But in a "why just TIA" discussion, POKEY seems like a no-brainer alternative; it's the minimum Atari should have done.

Sure - and I've got the impression there was a lot of hesitation to develop anything new. Especially from how long the Atari 800's chipset went without any significant changes. Yamaha's YM series were still very expensive at the time and required an external DAC, so while it'd be fantastic to toss one in it'd also bump the unit cost.

 

I wasn't there, so I don't want to say with any sort of certainty what would have been feasible. But in the spirit of how the hardware was designed, I think shipping with only the TIA was fine - with an asterisk that a new audio chip for cartridges should have been available from the get-go rather than later.

 

Luckily while we didn't get it then, we can add it now.

 

 

Quote

Most of those 40 pins are for functions the 7800 has no need for, so yes, the chip is a little bigger, but would it really impact the board all that much over some other chip? Genuinely asking, but given it doesn't add a whole lot of space to POKEY carts, it doesn't seem like it.

It'd be a tight fit with the current layout, but it's still physically possible. However - my reasons for favoring a newly designed audio core have more to do with long term cost, capability, and getting rid of some quirks that a stock Pokey has when used in the 7800.

 

If you're going to manufacture millions of a chip - then sawing off unnecessary features or reducing the package size will drop the cost a teeny tiny bit per unit, scale does the rest. The 6507 is a great example of this. There's a tradeoff between setup cost and the number of chips you're going to need, and since we never moved beyond a full sized Pokey in two cartridges - Atari's opinion on the matter was pretty clear.

 

The thing I can't speak for how much silicon work could have been done, and how cramped the dies are. If there was enough real-estate available on Maria she could have been repinned and given a small audio generator. This may have been the best route since no other components would have to be changed, and it wouldn't add another chip to the board which requires more routing and mapping. If we're assuming more time to rework silicon - then by all means buff what's in the TIA and tie the new features to whenever 7800 mode is enabled.

 

Ah, the PHI2 clock skew is another irritant - I brought this up during the last audio expansion discussion (or maybe it was the last one before...) but it's still kinda frustrating. Pokey is designed to be clocked entirely off PHI2, and this will skew in the 7800 whenever Sally accesses the TIA or RIOT. While most software has very brief interactions with either chip in the slow access club (and most Pokey cartridges sound fine), it's pretty rude to have an audio generator which can drift out of tune just by banging a register. Using one of the stable clocks (i.e. 3.58MHz or 7.16MHz) to run the channels is vastly preferred here.

 

Again, this is all just architectural handwaving - and the hardware as-is feels fine considering backwards compatibility with VCS software was a prominent feature. But including another denizen in each wedge should require it coalesce well with everything else.

 

 

18 hours ago, bizarrostormy said:

An audio-only (or audio+paddle) version presumably would have saved a lot on manufacturing across a lot of products. The time to do this would have been 1980 or 1981, when its sound capabilities were still relatively sophisticated. Unfortunately, by then Kassar had already laid off the R&D staff.

Pretty much, yeah...

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1 hour ago, TailChao said:

Sure - and I've got the impression there was a lot of hesitation to develop anything new. Especially from how long the Atari 800's chipset went without any significant changes. Yamaha's YM series were still very expensive at the time and required an external DAC, so while it'd be fantastic to toss one in it'd also bump the unit cost.

definitely R&D slowed way down at Atari.

 

But this debate comes down to should the 7800 have sounded like a 2600 or a 5200?  I would say neither, it should sound like a 7800!  Atari didn't have a Pokey successor ready, so they'd have to go with a third-party chip.   I don't know what the situation/costs of such chips were at that time, so I admit it may be wishful thinking on my part.    I just know that seeing these enhanced graphics 7800 games with 2600 sound is sad, and even a built in Pokey would have been better than that.

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5 hours ago, zzip said:

definitely R&D slowed way down at Atari.

That's an understatement.  After Jay Miner & crew left, Atari did jack squat.  Let's see here:

  • 5200 - re-packaging of the 400/800 chipset designed in late 1978
  • 7800 - designed by GCC
  • Lynx - designed by Epyx and some ex-Amiga folks
  • AMY sound chip - outsorced and the people at Atari couldn't figure out how to make it work so we never got that
  • ST - mix of standard off the shelf components
  • Jaguar - Designed by British company Flare 1

That about sums it up.  Atari was good from 1972 to 1978 and after that, nothing would have changed had they not existed at all.

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25 minutes ago, Stephen said:

That about sums it up.  Atari was good from 1972 to 1978 and after that, nothing would have changed had they not existed at all.

As kids and teens around that time and in the thick of it all - the last home Atari product we were really interested in was the 520/1040ST. And it was their revised 8-bit lineup, the XL/XE, that was the last of genuine Atari genetics. Other home/consumer products they made we not compelling to us.

 

I would argue that Atari remained influential past 1978. Their coin-op division had a whole truckload of hits. And many of them were firsts in the market. Their arcade cabs maintained my interest until around 1988-1989, with S.TU.N. Runner being the last Atari game I really wanted to complete.

 

The one product that disappointed me was the 5200. Yet we had real fun with it. I had the 400/800 and I didn't discover that the 5200 was a repackaging till many cartridges into the system. Sure there were a few customized hits that used the trak-ball or the analog sticks, but by and large we had it all on the computer. So I could have spent that money elsewhere.

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8 hours ago, zzip said:

I would say neither, it should sound like a 7800!  Atari didn't have a Pokey successor ready, so they'd have to go with a third-party chip.

As part of the whole 3600/7800 console design concept, GCC proposed to Atari a new, low-cost sound chip called GUMBY that Atari could license and supply to 3rd party cartridge manufacturers to include on each cartridge sold. Atari bought it the idea hook, line and sinker, with visions of millions of cartridges being produced and royalties or fees on each one one flowing back into Atari's coffers ... However, GUMBY is the ultimate (in my mind) as-yet-never-uncovered piece of Atari-related vaporware. To my knowledge, no functional specifications, schematics or chip plots have every been uncovered, let alone any prototype silicon samples. 

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7 hours ago, Stephen said:

That about sums it up.  Atari was good from 1972 to 1978 and after that, nothing would have changed had they not existed at all.

No, can't agree with that. Atari hadn't even reached its heyday in 1978, so it's a bit silly to make such a statement. Even Tramiel-era Atari had some moderate success in the latter half of the 80s, and they certainly had some long-term influence in both video games and computers. And using the argument that they didn't design much of their own hardware doesn't matter. They're the ones who brought that hardware to market.

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9 hours ago, Sauron said:

No, can't agree with that. Atari hadn't even reached its heyday in 1978, so it's a bit silly to make such a statement.

That made me scratch my head too.

In '78 and '79, I knew the VCS existed from seeing it in the Tepe's catalog.  At that time it appeared to be a $200 deluxe Pong system that I had no interest in.  When Space Invaders was released in 1980, I think the world realized that Atari was something special (that's when I became obsessed).  From '80 to '82, most kids would have murdered Santa Claus to get their hands on one and the sales figures prove that.

Also the whole 8 bit scene exploded in the mid 80s with lower cost systems, disk drives, Happy mods, user groups, BBSs, etc.

 

If Atari closed their doors in 1978, the 80s would have been far less exciting.

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It was perhaps a bit of a hyperbolic comment, but the engineering and custom chipset designs is what made Atari special and gave it lifeblood in the first place. That lifeblood stopped pumping, which is what I took Stephen's comment to mean.

 

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with using off-the-shelf components and leveraging vendors to do designs - in fact it's quite the modern way to do things. It just means that Atari itself was much less important to the overall process, and really no more special than any other company that could have contracted out this work, or assembled stuff off-the-shelf.

 

For sure some of the latter projects were some influential stuff. e.g. the ST was pretty much a staple of every music studio for the better part of a decade. And obviously I believe the 7800 matters. :P

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Yeah - I didn't mean Atari shouldn't have existed past 78/79 timeframe which is when they released the 400/800 computers.  What I meant, is after that time, all innovation and invention stopped.  The arcade division is of course a separate entity, but that really had nothing to do with what got released for the home.  The consoles I mentioned that Atari did not invent also didn't sell well at all, and whether or not they were branded Atari or ACME, it wouldn't have mattered.  Hence my comment that they produced nothing of interest internally after the 8-bit computer line.  They did release a lot of decent software at least.

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4 hours ago, Stephen said:

Yeah - I didn't mean Atari shouldn't have existed past 78/79 timeframe which is when they released the 400/800 computers.  What I meant, is after that time, all innovation and invention stopped.  The arcade division is of course a separate entity, but that really had nothing to do with what got released for the home.  The consoles I mentioned that Atari did not invent also didn't sell well at all, and whether or not they were branded Atari or ACME, it wouldn't have mattered.  Hence my comment that they produced nothing of interest internally after the 8-bit computer line.  They did release a lot of decent software at least.

Just the fact that the consoles weren't designed in-house is irrelevant. None of them would have seen the light of day were it not for Atari, who funded their development (outside of maybe the Lynx). Besides, the ST computer, despite its "off-the-shelf" design, had quite a bit of influence on the market, especially long-term, even though much of that influence came from the software developed for it. I wouldn't downplay Atari's contributions to the gaming and computer markets, and I'm not just saying that because I'm an Atari fanboy. There was still something special there that kept me and others with them over the years.

 

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Posted (edited)
On 7/16/2020 at 1:50 PM, sramirez2008 said:

Sorry to derail, but have to mention this...@patroclus99 nice avatar👍

 

And Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming.

Oh hey, thanks bud!

 

As an addendum, I thought I'd add this tidbit, as this was some of the TV/movie sound tech. when the VCS debuted circa '78 (part 1 of 4):

 

Pretty cool, huh?  And to make this submission tangently remotely related to this topic. . . No, I don't think the Cylons had POKEY, not even the high-end models like Lucifer!

Edited by patroclus99
I'm rambling.
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On 7/17/2020 at 10:47 AM, TailChao said:

I wasn't there, so I don't want to say with any sort of certainty what would have been feasible. But in the spirit of how the hardware was designed, I think shipping with only the TIA was fine - with an asterisk that a new audio chip for cartridges should have been available from the get-go rather than later.

It was an incredibly dumb idea and would make the cartridges less competitive had they decided to use them.  They could have at least put a low cost stripped down POKEY in the console itself.  It was one of the major failures of the 7800.  Even if everything had gone well and the 7800 released on time, the vast majority of the cartridges would have needed a sound chip, whether a POKEY or the GUMBY chip. It should have been obvious to every intern and janitor that the TIA would have been 7 years old on launch date!  Now you're playing with POWER, 1977 POWER!

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On 7/17/2020 at 6:34 PM, Stephen said:

5200 - re-packaging of the 400/800 chipset designed in late 1978

to be fair, this chipset was always designed to be used in a console to replace the 2600.  They had enough foresight to know the 2600 would be obsolete in a couple of years and they better have a replacement.   It just took until 1982 until it was cheap enough to be used in a console.

 

On 7/17/2020 at 6:34 PM, Stephen said:

ST - mix of standard off the shelf components

This I would argue was one of the few R&D successes of the later Atari era.   It was put together in months, not years,  not everything in it was off-the-shelf, and when it was released it was cutting edge (it beat Amiga to market), it was also surprisingly affordable.

 

After that, it seemed like every Atari development came to market a year or two later than they really should have.

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Soo much to like about this pic.👍
 

1. Cuttle Cart

2. Video Monitor

3. Lift that the VM is sitting on

4. Custom controller 

 

Oh yeah...the 7800. The most necessary item.

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I know the OP has already answered his question and has purchased a 7800, so answering him now is pointless.  I'm going to weigh in anyway - LOL

 

I've been reading this thread and am thoroughly enjoying the responses.  I personally love the 7800.  I have 3 working ones in my house . . . BUT I would say there is a scenario where I would recommend that a collector skip it.  For example, if a younger retro-gamer who has never purchased a pre-crash system wanted to experience the era for the first time, I would say s/he doesn't need a 7800.  There are just enough problems with the 7800 to make it something to avoid.  The power supply is kind of hard to find, there is no readily available flashcart, some units don't play specific 2600 games or homebrews, and almost all 7800s don't accept some of the 3rd party carts.  So if someone is new to Atari completely and is going to use their 7800 to mostly play 2600 games then I think you can safely skip the 7800.  Besides, you are probably going to buy a Harmony cart anyway, and you can still easily see what you are missing in emulation.  Or in the case of Rikki and Vikki, you can just buy it on Steam.

 

OTOH - the OP is already a deeply experienced collector of Atari stuff.  He's probably already seen what the 2600 has to offer.  In that case, the 7800 becomes a no-brainer.  The positives of the console are impossible to miss:  relatively cheap original library, great homebrew scene that probably has yet to even peak, and as a bonus - it will play your 2600 games.  When it is just a bonus then the 2600 compatibility is great.  When you are counting on it and you can't fit Demon Attack in the slot - it sucks.

 

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Every game fits with a hard push. 

Or by the lock on cart that adapts so it is easy to use every 2600 game.

I got into the 7800 cause the only Atari to be on a shelf or sears catalog in the 80s was the 2600 in my region of Canada. The others 5200 7800 were in the game flyers when you bought a 2600 game.  20 years later and the interweb is here and ebay happened so I had to find out what this is about...

Today for me the 2600 is too basic and gets boring quick. I needed 7800 propower to keep me going. I also had to get a  couple colecos, intellivisions (both very flaky consoles that are a miracle they work and crappy controllers from hell much like 5200 controllers(no phone controllers for me please!!) a 600xl with tons of mods and a piles of more modern systems. Tbh today the 7800 is the only system I care about.

 

 

 

My nerd backstory.. 

Growing up I had to play the Sears Telegames System at my friend's house for years and I wanted one badly.. but he wanted to play my Coco2 so we always had to fight about what place are we going to.. btw check out Downland and Color Baseball or your the loser!! I later bought all his VCS games so he could take up smoking.. he passed away at age 23 from diabetes.  R.I.P. Keith,  your responsible for my Atari addiction..

 

I think after begging my Mom for years the unobtainable 7800 was the system I was supposed to get for my birthday instead of my 49.95 suitcase 2600 wedge which I loved anyways..only one controller!!. I guess a trip to Woolco we grabbed that quickshot 2 so my brother could play too.. 

 

You guys ever look into time travel man?

 

 

 

 

 

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