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damanloox

Why was 7800 discontinued

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1 hour ago, MrTrust said:

It would be tough to substantiate this, but I suspect things aren't that different now.  People may be more willing to "adopt technology" now, but from what I observe, this amounts to being willing to own a smart phone and maybe a laptop or tablet, and learning how to do 4-5 things with it.  To this day, the Millennials I work with will bristle at having to switch applications for something, or even moving to a new version.  And actually getting a new piece of software, reading the manual, and toying around with it to see what it can do?  Forget about.  You still have to write out step-by-step, click-this-thing-then-click-that-thing instructions for them or they just shut down. 

I'm sure that there's a higher level of incompetence that once people hit, the technophobia returns.   I worked in tech for 20+ years, and even I get overwhelmed when I start using unfamiliar technologies, until I learn them.  

 

But I don't see the basic tech incompetency that I used to see where they can't even click an icon without written instructions.   People are comfortable using their phones/tablets.  They know how to use the everyday apps.   Beyond that, I'm sure they are still lost.

 

2 hours ago, MrTrust said:

But yeah, people hated the computerization of everything back when it was being introduced.  Do my home budget on a computer!?  If I did my budget on a computer, it would explode!  Remember that old chestnut?  Right up there with programming the VCR and talking to an automated phone system.   More people saw them as a burden imposed on them by weird nerds than as The Future.

 

Hell, I still hate talking to automated phone systems or any voice recognition system!   I feel like that scene in the Lego movie when every computer system has a Siri interface and constantly misunderstands the directions you gave it :)

 

1 hour ago, Keatah said:

This is a growing problem that no one seems inclined to address. Or even recognize exists. Are they that stupid where they can't merge concepts into a whole to achieve a desired outcome? Are they just lazy and balk at the thought of having to think for one iota? Instead just drifting away on single-click social media activities which induce even more incompetence.

I get it though.  When I'm trying to do my job I don't want things to become hurdles that get in my way.   I'm not going to spend time learning the ins and outs systems that have little to do with my job-- too much else to focus on!  

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1 hour ago, Keatah said:

This is a growing problem that no one seems inclined to address. Or even recognize exists. Are they that stupid where they can't merge concepts into a whole to achieve a desired outcome? Are they just lazy and balk at the thought of having to think for one iota? Instead just drifting away on single-click social media activities which induce even more incompetence.

 

I guess that's why Windows 10 got rid of local detailed help. I guess that's why we have pictorial quickstart guides instead of a real manual with text that has to be, OMG!, read and understood. I guess that's why manuals (if you can get one) don't have Theory of Operation or even Product Introduction sections anymore.

 

At the risk of digressing the thread even further, yes, it is that they can't take and synthesize concepts and extrapolate from them.  That doesn't make them stupid and lazy; this just isn't how most people's brains work, or ever have worked, at least not at the level of abstraction that real computer literacy requires.  For instance, we transferred to a new application at work a few years back, and this was supposed to streamline everything we did, since every department would be using this same app, and everyone could see what everyone else was doing instantaneously.  Immediately, I noticed that we had a problem: everyone was having to manually enter information on a certain form, but you could only select one field at a time, so pasting over a whole spreadsheet at once was not a possibility.  People were spending hours and hours doing this; one of the most tedious and time-consuming aspects of everyone's job, we spent all this time and money on this thing, and it didn't automate that.  So, what the hell was the point?

 

Now, I'm no computer genius, but I knew enough to write a basic AHK script that would take the clipboard from your Excel selection and break it up into X number of tab-delimited strings, store them in an array, do a FOR loop that pastes the string at the current index and advances to the next field in the form, then iterate until the whole array has been copied (Aha!  Finally, learning all that 80s line-number BASIC pays off!).  Compiled that into an executable, tossed it onto the server, and sent out an e-mail that said "here, run this thing and you can paste in the form with Ctrl-J like a normal spreadsheet".  Nobody did it.  I showed them, physically, here's what you do.  This will save you hours and hours out of your week.  Just do these two things.  They ooohed and ahhhhed, and... they went right back to copying everything over line by line.  People just don't_wanna'_be_bothered with thinking about this stuff, and the more you try to make them, the more they just get annoyed and shut down.  This used to drive me absolutely nuts, but after a while I realized they're not the weird ones.  I am.  Just have to accept it.  

    

The real problem is that computing should only have ever been for nerds, not the average person.  We had a bunch of really smart people in the 80s and 90s doing amazing things with computers, and without internalizing the fact that most people are not really smart, and embarking on a campaign to make technology a prominent fixture of everyone's lives, and to make everyone computer-literate.  They put a lot of money and effort to that end, I think it's safe to say it was a massive failure.  We don't have millions and millions of computer-literate people.  We have millions and millions of people who are addicted to the stimuli they get from electronic devices, and who can follow instructions just about well enough to do simple data entry and maybe a little cursory troubleshooting research.  In other words, pretty much the same kinds of skills people had prior to the wide adoption of computers.  I believe we could still transition a lot of the stuff people actually do with computers to other types of hardware and everyone would be happier and more productive for it.

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Well, naturally everyone who still has 80s Atari stuff as a hobby is enough of a nerd to get the exception.

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20 hours ago, MrTrust said:

Now, I'm no computer genius, but I knew enough to write a basic AHK script that would take the clipboard from your Excel selection and break it up into X number of tab-delimited strings, store them in an array, do a FOR loop that pastes the string at the current index and advances to the next field in the form, then iterate until the whole array has been copied (Aha!  Finally, learning all that 80s line-number BASIC pays off!).  Compiled that into an executable, tossed it onto the server, and sent out an e-mail that said "here, run this thing and you can paste in the form with Ctrl-J like a normal spreadsheet".  Nobody did it.  I showed them, physically, here's what you do.  This will save you hours and hours out of your week.  Just do these two things.  They ooohed and ahhhhed, and... they went right back to copying everything over line by line.  People just don't_wanna'_be_bothered with thinking about this stuff, and the more you try to make them, the more they just get annoyed and shut down.  This used to drive me absolutely nuts, but after a while I realized they're not the weird ones.  I am.  Just have to accept it.  

e-mail is never going to cut it.   You have to demo it several times, and let them be in the driver seat for some of the demos

 

It just comes down to they'll go with whatever feels the most comfortable to them

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, zzip said:

It just comes down to they'll go with whatever feels the most comfortable to them

 

Correct.  Even if it's just double clicking an icon and using a different hotkey to paste in this one form, if it's not what they're used to, it's like steering a barge to get them to change.

 

I will say that for the 8-bit micros.  If you got introduced to computing through one of those, you were expected to learn at least a little bit about how computers work even if all you wanted to do was play games.  They should still start kids out with a simple machine, a command line interface, and a language with an intuitive syntax like BASIC if they want them to really learn.

 

My kid always talks about wanting to build inventions, so I've bought her little circuit building and coding kits, but if you want to get into actually writing code with them, you need to get into JavaScript or C++.  That's hard for me to wrap my head around, let alone a 6 year-old.  If I could remember jack about doing the graphics, I'd say screw it, let's break out the Atari and write a dice rolling game.  Probably would still be preferable to a lot of what's out there for learning tools.

 

 

Edited by MrTrust
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Posted (edited)
On 3/30/2021 at 3:42 AM, damanloox said:

Anybody has any idea why Atari discontinued 7800 in favour of XEGS? XEGS doesn't really seem to be technically superior (in fact Maria in 7800 seems to be superior to Antic). 

I get the point of 8-bit line compatibility but it doesn't seem "logical" to drop (seemingly) better architecture for... worse (when you're competing with Nintendo).

It was a commercial failure due to near no 3rd party titles to compel many people to buy the console.

Edited by Tidus79001

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On 4/2/2021 at 7:06 PM, MrTrust said:

My kid always talks about wanting to build inventions, so I've bought her little circuit building and coding kits, but if you want to get into actually writing code with them, you need to get into JavaScript or C++.  That's hard for me to wrap my head around, let alone a 6 year-old.  If I could remember jack about doing the graphics, I'd say screw it, let's break out the Atari and write a dice rolling game.  Probably would still be preferable to a lot of what's out there for learning tools.

Yeah, to me the hardest part of a new coding project is getting it started and running to the point it does anything.  For most coding environments, you first need a bunch code to initialize everything you are planning to use

 

In Atari Basic it was very easy to start new programs.   To take your dice rolling example--   You could draw the dice faces in Atascii, put them in print statements, add random numbers, and I'd bet I could produce a dice rolling simulator within 10 minutes, even though I haven't coded Atari Basic in  years.

 

If I wanted to create the same (functionality wise) dice rolling program on PC, or Android-  then I would first need to draw dice in a graphics tool, or find suitable images online.   Set up all the skeleton code needed until I'm at the point the program can load and display images--  I'd probably be looking at the better part of an hour.

 

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The Monday morning quarterback in me thinks they should have released the 400 as a console as planned but in 1980, membrane keyboard included, as a followup to the VCS, then sold them alongside each other for 1 year or two, and Sold the 800 as a full 48K machine as a computer to compete with the Apple ][ at that price point.

 

Remember, the Odyssey2  had a membrane keyboard, the Astrocade had a calculator keypad, and the Intellivision and Colecovision had the numeric keypads as did the VCS with the keyboard controllers, so keyboards would be a good selling point for the 400 as a console only.

 

The 7800 as a follow on to the 400 but with Pokey and some sort of keyboard would have been a natural successor in 1984.

 

The 5200 as it came would never have needed to exist.

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11 hours ago, zzip said:

In Atari Basic it was very easy to start new programs.

 

That, and the syntax was intuitive plus statements were in plain language: LET, PRINT, GOTO, etc.  Even the functions were easy to use for anyone who could understand a scientific calculator.  PEEK and POKE would give you some extra power without much cognitive overhead.  No namespaces, classes, method/function sorting.  Just identify your problem to be solved, write some code, test, debug, and go.

 

I know people like to dump on it, but has there ever been anything else that got Average Joe to grasp the fundamentals of programming as effectively?

 

4 hours ago, Zonie said:

Remember, the Odyssey2  had a membrane keyboard, the Astrocade had a calculator keypad, and the Intellivision and Colecovision had the numeric keypads as did the VCS with the keyboard controllers, so keyboards would be a good selling point for the 400 as a console only.

 

Would they?  Odyssey2 and Astrocade weren't exactly setting the world on fire.  Intellivision games made a lot of use out of the keypad, but Colecovision not so much.  Even games that relied on it heavily, like Wargames or Gateway to Apshai, were also done just as effectively with a CX40 and a single-button control scheme or using console switches/buttons.

 

The thing about all those keyboards/pads is other than educational games and flight sim-type games, what was anybody going to do with them?  I loved Fortune Builder and It's Only Rock & Roll on CV and Star Raiders and Space Shuttle on 5200.  Arguably both were helped by the keypad, but were any of these real draws for the respective consoles?  I doubt it.

 

But, yeah, we're talking 1980 and that would have been pretty cool back then.  Still would be pretty pricey, and if it was only 8k, I'm not sure the Intellivision wouldn't have still been able to hold its own against it as well as the 2600.  Those early 8-bit games that were made to run on a stock 400 are pretty weak.

 

4 hours ago, Zonie said:

The 7800 as a follow on to the 400 but with Pokey and some sort of keyboard would have been a natural successor in 1984.

 

True, but this would require Atari to still be a games company, and in 1984 they no longer were.  Nintendo was on the horizon and though the NES early years had a lot of arcade ports, the really popular stuff was largely games that were developed for the machine and were fundamentally distinct from the coin-op world.

 

I don't see any evidence that any other company seemed to internalize the fact that home hardware catching up to arcades in a serious way was several years put at that point, and what people wanted at home were different kinds of gsmes all together, and not "inferior" versions of last years' coin-ops.

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1 hour ago, MrTrust said:

Those early 8-bit games that were made to run on a stock 400 are pretty weak.

Not for 1980

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As others have pointed out, the XEGS did not replace the 7800.  Indeed from 1988 to 1992, Atari sold three 8-bit console architectures as the 2600 was also still being actively sold.

 

The August 1988 Antic article that @pacman000 linked to earlier is almost as interesting for the questions that were not asked; namely "why another architecture?" when Atari already had two, one of which was at least somewhat competitive to the NES and Sega in terms of hardware (at least if you turned the TV volume down to zero).

 

A review of Toys R Us catalogs from late 1988 shows the 7800 being positioned as cheaper ($80 vs $100) than the Sega or the NES in basic package form.  That the executives quoted in the Antic article wanted the $150 games machine over the $80 "powerful" computer isn't surprising.  The computer would likely create an expectation of post-sales support from technically challenged parents, whereas a simpler game console would not, and the game console would generate additional revenue from game cartridge sales, whereas a computer might not.

 

But how to create a higher-margin deluxe 7800 package?  Atari killed off the keyboard attachment and the XM expansion (or whatever it was going to be called) and had torched the relationship with GCC.  Nintendo had their light gun and a dance pad.  For the 7800 Atari had.... a sexy euro-style controller?

 

In addition someone else pointed out in an earlier thread that I think bears repeating; Nintendo was locking up software publishers with exclusive deals for the NES, freezing out Sega and Atari.   But these deals could not cover software that already existed.  Atari struggled to launch new titles for the 7800, and much of what did come out was improved arcade conversions from the early 80s, but less so titles that were in the arcades at the time.   But with the XEGS Atari was able to instantly bring to market a significant number of game cartridges of a higher quality than they would be able to quickly get ported to the 7800.

 

The Tramels didn't care at all about their customers, they cared only that they were making a profit.  I for one don't blame them for that, although it was ultimately short-sighted and self-defeating.  What I find interesting is that they didn't kill of the 7800 in 1988, and that they did not tells me that either it was selling well enough to justify continuing supplying it, or that they had a warehouse full of unsold inventory that they were slowly draining.  I don't know when the last 7800 production run was made and I would be interest to learn if anyone knows.

 

But the XEGS totally made sense to me in retrospect.  For almost no development cost they got a "new" console product with a software library that circumvented Nintendo's strangle hold and allowed them to position it as a more sensible alternative to the game-only NES.  Of course that all makes sense in the abstract.  In reality, the kids wanted Super Mario Bros, and even a face lifted Mario Bros on the XE just wasn't going to cut it.

  

 

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If I remember what I read about Nintendo’s monopoly hearings right, companies could make games for other systems, but they couldn’t be the same games released on the NES; Nintendo had a 2-year exclusivity deal on those.

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16 hours ago, Zonie said:

The Monday morning quarterback in me thinks they should have released the 400 as a console as planned but in 1980, membrane keyboard included, as a followup to the VCS, then sold them alongside each other for 1 year or two, and Sold the 800 as a full 48K machine as a computer to compete with the Apple ][ at that price point.

That's kind of how the 400 and 800 were positioned.  400 Low RAM, cheap keyboard, not much of a computer really and intended more for the games crowd.   But the cost to build was still high.   

 

11 hours ago, MrTrust said:

I don't see any evidence that any other company seemed to internalize the fact that home hardware catching up to arcades in a serious way was several years put at that point, and what people wanted at home were different kinds of gsmes all together, and not "inferior" versions of last years' coin-ops.

Well Mattel was not concerned with porting licensed arcade titles, and instead were doing original games, and sports games

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3 hours ago, pacman000 said:

If I remember what I read about Nintendo’s monopoly hearings right, companies could make games for other systems, but they couldn’t be the same games released on the NES; Nintendo had a 2-year exclusivity deal on those.

This is exactly right. It wasn't that Nintendo "figured out what gamers wanted". It was that they locked 3rd party development houses into shady/illegal exclusivity contracts. Sega had the same kinds of games on the SMS, and they were released within months of each other in the US. Nintendo's first 2 years of released in Japan are Arcade re-treads.

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To me the 7800 and any other console for that matter, is discontinued when it has run its course and is no longer considered to be viable to the company to continue supporting it or creating games.

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4 minutes ago, -^CrossBow^- said:

To me the 7800 and any other console for that matter, is discontinued when it has run its course and is no longer considered to be viable to the company to continue supporting it or creating games.

THIS.

 

And that happened earlier for the 7800 than it did for the 2600, or the NES or SMS, because Atari woefully mismanaged their product development and marketing post 1984. The 7800 had hardware up to the task to compete with it's contemporaries - better in some areas, worse in others, mostly a wash, techncially. But Atari Corp. didn't care enough to keep it viable, for a variety of reasons. Tramiel's disdain for game consoles, and the Warner switch timing botched it from the beginning.

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15 minutes ago, John Stamos Mullet said:

THIS.

 

And that happened earlier for the 7800 than it did for the 2600, or the NES or SMS, because Atari woefully mismanaged their product development and marketing post 1984. The 7800 had hardware up to the task to compete with it's contemporaries - better in some areas, worse in others, mostly a wash, technically. But Atari Corp. didn't care enough to keep it viable, for a variety of reasons. Tramiel's disdain for game consoles, and the Warner switch timing botched it from the beginning.

 

This is really debatable. The 7800 lacked all the things that have come to define 3rd gen hardware. Tile based rendering, scrolling, sound hardware capable of music and such was all missing from the 7800 board. The only thing it really had going for it was it could put 100 sprites on a static screen and not flicker and grind to a halt.

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Just now, dmckean said:

 

This is really debatable. The 7800 lacked all the things that have come to define 3rd gen hardware. Tile based rendering, scrolling, sound hardware capable of music and such was all missing from the 7800 board. The only thing it really had going for it was it could put 100 sprites on a static screen and not flicker and grind to a halt.

The lack of tile-based rendering is a related to a difference in design philosophy; GCC designed it to work like arcade machines, since they mostly made arcade games. It had multipurpose graphics blocks which could be used in place of tiles & sprites, if my understanding is correct.

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7 minutes ago, pacman000 said:

The lack of tile-based rendering is a related to a difference in design philosophy; GCC designed it to work like arcade machines, since they mostly made arcade games. It had multipurpose graphics blocks which could be used in place of tiles & sprites, if my understanding is correct.

 

You're missing the point, tiles and tilemaps are something that's credited with making game development more accessible and also lowered development time. The argument is that Nintendo and Sega were able to make more complex games in the 12 week development cycle because they weren't spending so much time on basic rendering.

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48 minutes ago, dmckean said:

This is really debatable. The 7800 lacked all the things that have come to define 3rd gen hardware. Tile based rendering, scrolling, sound hardware capable of music and such was all missing from the 7800 board. The only thing it really had going for it was it could put 100 sprites on a static screen and not flicker and grind to a halt.

on the flip side, the reason these features defined that generation was because it was what the NES was good at, and so so many games were written like that.   If the 7800 had been the most popular console then the generations defining features would likely be things the Maria chip excelled at.

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1 hour ago, dmckean said:

 

You're missing the point, tiles and tilemaps are something that's credited with making game development more accessible and also lowered development time. The argument is that Nintendo and Sega were able to make more complex games in the 12 week development cycle because they weren't spending so much time on basic rendering.

And they caused thousands to trigger epileptic seizures with their flickering.

 

Tomato/Potahto.

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Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, Zonie said:

Not for 1980


And it would have had the price tag to match.  I'ts whether they were so much better than comparable Intellvision and 2600 games to justify it that is the question.

 

5 hours ago, zzip said:

Well Mattel was not concerned with porting licensed arcade titles, and instead were doing original games, and sports games

 

Technically true, but Astrosmash and Frog Bog are not really what I meant.  Yes, I know about Utopia and B-17 Bomber and all that, but were these kinds of also-ran home computer style games ever going to be a real draw for the home consoles?  Maybe.  I doubt it.

 

2 hours ago, John Stamos Mullet said:

This is exactly right. It wasn't that Nintendo "figured out what gamers wanted". It was that they locked 3rd party development houses into shady/illegal exclusivity contracts. Sega had the same kinds of games on the SMS, and they were released within months of each other in the US. Nintendo's first 2 years of released in Japan are Arcade re-treads.

 

This is another piece of received wisdom about gaming of that era that I just don't buy.  The biggest selling games for the NES were far and away Nintendo's own first-party games, and it ain't even close, not even when you account for some of them being sold as pack-in games later.  I don't care how many third party titles all the competing consoles could have come up with, they weren't going to have the SMBs, the Zeldas, Metroid, Punch-Out!!! and so on.  And so it is to this day when their third-party support is substantially weaker.  

 

The SMS had similar games, and none of them were as good.  Sorry, Sega partisans; we had an SMS with all the big games for it, too.  Alex Kidd was no SMB, Golvellius was no ZeldaZillion was no Metroid.  Good games all, but there's a reason none of them were as memorable or well received that had nothing to do with Nintendo's agreements with third-party developers.  I'm not arguing that those policies weren't anti-competitive; they clearly were, but I don't think there's any basis for saying, but for these policies, they would not have been the runaway leader through the first half of the 90s.  Even in the absence of restrictive deals, third-parties have always gone where the money is, and Nintendo's marketing for the NES was great while Sega's for the SMS, at least in America, was pretty bad.  The early sales reflected that.

 

Re: the arcade ports.  That's true of the first two years of the NES (though they did also have two of the biggest games ever in those years with SMB and LoZ).  It's also true of the SMS, and both of them were head and shoulders above the competition from whatever the American console guys would have had at the time, at least in graphics and sound.  That ought to put to bed any notion that, well if only Atari'd gotten Donkey Kong in '83 or whatever, they might be okay.  NES was going to happen in 1985 regardless, and I've never seen anything that leads me to believe Atari, Coleco, Mattel, Bally, or whoever had anything in the pipeline that could have traded blows with it.  

 

 

 

 

Edited by MrTrust
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16 hours ago, MrTrust said:

 

That, and the syntax was intuitive plus statements were in plain language: LET, PRINT, GOTO, etc.  Even the functions were easy to use for anyone who could understand a scientific calculator.  PEEK and POKE would give you some extra power without much cognitive overhead.  No namespaces, classes, method/function sorting.  Just identify your problem to be solved, write some code, test, debug, and go.

 

 

That's because BASIC was created so that students from any other field of study than computers/electronics could learn to use it.

 

 

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