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Bless and Curse of Atari and Amiga computer designs

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Indeed. Accelerating machines that have custom chips as part of their architecture is a mixed bag at best.

 

I used to think exotic custom chip rigs were way way advanced beyond "mere CPU only" machines. That all turned around once CPU's kept gaining speed, and custom chips morphed into liabilities as they lagged behind.

 

What a fool I was to buy into systems like that.

 

 

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My opinion is that accelerators were interesting and useful back in time, so when Atari STs or some other like Amiga were main home computers.

So, diverse SW like databases, assemblers, compilers etc. worked faster - and that could mean like 10 minutes instead 30 for doing something.

And was good for some games too. However, not so good for some other games - least problem is when game just became too fast. Some just worked not with faster CPU. Especially if it was not same, 68000, but for instance 68020/30. Because some differences like stack frame, pipeline.

And even RAM usage changed in many cases, what was not good for some games too.

Today I really don't see some real benefit from accelerating very old, over 30 years old computers. They will be way too slow in any case for some modern tasks. More important is that they will be able to run good old SW. And that will be best at regular speed, with regular CPU.

And maybe biggest argument:  if want it faster, just use emulator. Steem can work 30-50x faster than regular ST speed in max speed mode. But user can set it for less, if it is too fast for certain SW.  So, much bigger acceleration for free.

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18 hours ago, oky2000 said:

Yeah but in 1984/85 these things weren't available as far as I know. It was cheaper to get performance via esoteric custom chips back then, today it seems to be too expensive for MS/Sony to go down the PS2/PS3 custom silicon and the only reason the PS5 is 'custom' is because they threw money at AMD not to release their hacky real time ray tracing APU for PC OEMs, it was meant to be sold to them initially though. 

 

I remember going to an Atari show not too long after I bought Gauntlet 1 for my ST and I did see a 16mhz accelerator for the ST at the show, remember thinking how useful that would be for Gauntlet 1 back then :) I did have a 14mhz 020 CPU card for my Amiga 2000 around 1990 but it does bugger all good for bitmap games on Amiga and most just crashed anyway.

 

Well...the ST wasn't even available until 1985'ish :) but I see your point.

 

I believe the AdSpeed board came out in 1990. I'm guessing that's what you saw.

 

I've had very good luck with software and accelerated machines here. I have a

Mega ST4 with an AdSpeed in it. I use it for my BBS but before then it would

play most games fine and there's an "on the fly" ability to drop it to 8mhz using

either an ACC, CPX, or small program. You can also install a hardware switch.

On top of that, the software for the board has a list that you can put a program

into, specifying speed (8 or 16mhz), cache (on or off), etc and when you run

that software, the AdSpeed will check that list and run that software accordingly.

 

I've also got a STacy with a Pak 68/3 board in it. TOS v3.06, 40mzh 68030,

40mhz 68882, etc, that flies. Most of the hard drive adapted games these

days works without having to do major tricks. If they don't, the board has

a "fall back" compatibility option that lets you reboot into TOS v1.4 and 8mhz

for total compatibility.

 

But....as you said, those things weren't available in the mid 80's or so....

 

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17 hours ago, Keatah said:

Indeed. Accelerating machines that have custom chips as part of their architecture is a mixed bag at best.

 

I used to think exotic custom chip rigs were way way advanced beyond "mere CPU only" machines. That all turned around once CPU's kept gaining speed, and custom chips morphed into liabilities as they lagged behind.

 

What a fool I was to buy into systems like that.

 

 

 

Can't speak for others but I personally have had very good luck with software and my accelerated Atari's...  :)

 

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10 hours ago, ParanoidLittleMan said:

My opinion is that accelerators were interesting and useful back in time, so when Atari STs or some other like Amiga were main home computers.

So, diverse SW like databases, assemblers, compilers etc. worked faster - and that could mean like 10 minutes instead 30 for doing something.

And was good for some games too. However, not so good for some other games - least problem is when game just became too fast. Some just worked not with faster CPU. Especially if it was not same, 68000, but for instance 68020/30. Because some differences like stack frame, pipeline.

And even RAM usage changed in many cases, what was not good for some games too.

Today I really don't see some real benefit from accelerating very old, over 30 years old computers. They will be way too slow in any case for some modern tasks. More important is that they will be able to run good old SW. And that will be best at regular speed, with regular CPU.

And maybe biggest argument:  if want it faster, just use emulator. Steem can work 30-50x faster than regular ST speed in max speed mode. But user can set it for less, if it is too fast for certain SW.  So, much bigger acceleration for free.

 

For me, acceleration has decided benefits. For example, using an AdSpeed accelerator on my Mega ST4

gives much improved response and stability for my BBS. You can see and "feel" a definite difference when

running at 8mhz vs 16mhz...

 

I also tinker with MINT/Thing and Neodesk/Geneva. Accelerated machines greatly improve the performance

of both setups as well as almost all productivity software.

 

But...I know...that's not games.  :)  I think you are right that most Atari games will not benefit from an ST

that is accelerated. However, there are a few. In my case, the AdSpeed and the Pak 68/3 boards both have

compatibility modes that allow them to work with non-compliant games.

 

In the end though, I would agree that going through the trouble of adding an accelerator board to an ST

*just* for the games would probably not be optimal. But...for us "diehard" enthusiasts...  <shrugs>  :)

 

 

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Adspeed showed the ST shouldve come with the 16mhz 68K as standard.  Like Darklord stated everything seemed smoother and snappier.  I can only think of 1 weird issue when using 16mhz mode - when launching Spectre 128 software in 16mhz mode it would scramble my settings so I had to start in 8mhz and flip the switch to 16mhz after launch.

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On 3/3/2022 at 5:43 PM, DarkLord said:

 

I believe the AdSpeed board came out in 1990. I'm guessing that's what you saw.

 

 

 

Nah it was early 1987- early 1988 (a few months after I had got the newly launched Gauntlet 1 for my ST), I think it was a German import but the first ST CPU upgrade I remember. I didn't buy many magazines just for the ST back then so it may be older than that.

 

I always wanted AdIDE for my Amiga 1000 but I think they also did AdSpeed for Amiga too.

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On 3/3/2022 at 6:38 PM, Goochman said:

Adspeed showed the ST shouldve come with the 16mhz 68K as standard.  Like Darklord stated everything seemed smoother and snappier.  I can only think of 1 weird issue when using 16mhz mode - when launching Spectre 128 software in 16mhz mode it would scramble my settings so I had to start in 8mhz and flip the switch to 16mhz after launch.

And that would have probably added 25% to the price...the magic price of $999/£999 for a colour 520ST. In 1985 the ONLY option is custom chips if you don't want to pay for the cost of a faster CPU. Even more important the 520STM launched in Spring 1986 was only 399 which is the only way it was going to start making it into big sales. The plan was always to get it into the hands of the slightly more sophisticated home user than the 8bit micro consumers of 1986 onward and a 16mhz 520STM could not be pulled down to a price that they intended to hit by Summer 86 I guess.

 

Excluding C64 vs ST comparisons, the 1988 299.99 520STFM not that long after the 499.99 A500 was out in Autumn 87? was one hell of a bargain. A disk based Amstrad 6128 with a pathetic 12 inch colour monitor with a dime store quality CRT tube cost about the same as a 520STFM+14 inch CRT TV which was even better. Being forced to put the ST back up to 399.99 and Commodore bringing down the price of the A500 to 399.99 is ultimately what killed it probably. The ST was a lot of computer for the money, the only people who had to think really hard about getting one was the C64/Atari 8bit computer owners who loved fast and loud arcade games. The ST is 100% better than a 399 Amstrad disk based CPC/249 Sinclair disk based Speccy +3, any Acorn machine etc and I'd rather play Gauntlet 1 on ST with iffy h scroll than the shit 8bit versions costing just 5 bucks less on disk. It was also a better business machine than the dime store rubbish all in one word processor PCW crap (but you do get a shit printer included in that package). A500 and DRAM price problems are a combination Atari could never predict. 

 

The Amiga 500 and Atari STFM price converging at 399.99 was the killer I reckon, the STE did not improve the screenshots of the games vs Amiga either so it was all down hill. Imagine if Commodore actually improved the Amiga 1000 chipset between 1984 Lorraine final prototype boards and 1992 Amiga AGA update (no update to audio so half an update really). The A500 price lock is the only thing 

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4 minutes ago, oky2000 said:

520STM launched in Spring 1986 was only 399

That was me :) , until then it was still my 800 and 130XE

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With focus just on games the Amiga had advanteges when the prizes of A500 and 520STM equalized. But if you see the whole package with midi-music and productivity software (DTP, CAD, Text-Processing etc.), the ST-Line was in summation ahead (e.g. "High resolution, SM124, SLM Laserprinters") of the amiga-line and you could also play some amazing games with the tv via Scart-cable. In Germany this was the common setting. My neighbour wrote his Diploma work on my uncles 1040STE with Signum because his Amiga there was no competition for this task!

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3 minutes ago, stokowski said:

With focus just on games the Amiga had advanteges when the prizes of A500 and 520STM equalized. But if you see the whole package with midi-music and productivity software (DTP, CAD, Text-Processing etc.), the ST-Line was in summation ahead (e.g. "High resolution, SM124, SLM Laserprinters") of the amiga-line and you could also play some amazing games with the tv via Scart-cable. In Germany this was the common setting. My neighbour wrote his Diploma work on my uncles 1040STE with Signum because his Amiga there was no competition for this task!

Each system found a niche when it came to creative/productive work.  Back then,  Mac was best for Desktop Publishing,  ST was best for music composition, and Amiga was best for creating what was loosely-termed "multimedia"

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21 hours ago, zzip said:

Each system found a niche when it came to creative/productive work.  Back then,  Mac was best for Desktop Publishing,  ST was best for music composition, and Amiga was best for creating what was loosely-termed "multimedia"

Very much agree.

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On 3/7/2022 at 8:07 PM, zzip said:

Each system found a niche when it came to creative/productive work.  Back then,  Mac was best for Desktop Publishing,  ST was best for music composition, and Amiga was best for creating what was loosely-termed "multimedia"

The niche stuff is interesting, for large data processing apps and stuff like Forms based database apps PC DOS was the best I remember. Not even sure SQL existed for ST or Amiga on the professional scale. 

In the 80s for me it seemed....

 

ST + mono monitor + 4mb was indeed the cheapest and never bettered for music studios really.

 

Amiga only had one real rival for all aspects of digital video/art and that was the workstation priced Quantel Paintbox etc.  Quantel was better but ten times more expensive and not 10 time better even at broadcast recording resolution. I am not talking 1990s Video Toaster I am talking 1980s pioneers like Newtek Digi-view/Digi-Paint and the fact the Amiga is one of the few home computers to display no borders at all etc.

 

DTP...hmmm....I am not sure the massively more expensive Mac setup was massively better than the best ST based DTP packages. We could be into the area here like with the Amiga video setups where for 99% of the people it does 100% what they want and for a fraction of the cost. I really don't know much about scalable fonts etc but I have seen a 1987 manual for the SLM804 which is a real fox among the hens. The SLM804 was a revolutionary printer, one Microsoft would claim to be their invention half a decade later with 'Windows printers' vs Postscript Laser printer cost. I know there is also a really high end PC based DTP system in the 80s but forget the name (Pagesetter? Pagemaker?) but mostly I remember Quark Express being mentioned in Mac emulation as something full priced high street magazines were produced with. Really depends how good stuff like Calamus was at the professional level, something I have no clue about.

 

Took a long time for really decent MIDI software to come out on Amiga, even then the Cubase/Steinberg interfaces seem much more functional and efficient anyway. The CDTV had MIDI built in.

 

I got a copy of First Word with my 520STM (or later free when I took it back to Compumart) and I remember years later trying it with a particular software blitter and it was absolutely fine for my University stuff in 1992. 

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15 hours ago, oky2000 said:

Really depends how good stuff like Calamus was at the professional level, something I have no clue about.

 

Technically I think it was accepted that Calamus was actually more accurate, and generally more powerful than Quark at the time (and even years later with SL), unfortunately it was also very much not the 'standard' (that icon heavy interface took some learning) and Germany aside, I think only a few print shops in the UK could actually handle the conversion to those Linotype 'printers'. It was also not available on the Mac, which didn't help...

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On 3/11/2022 at 8:14 PM, oky2000 said:

DTP...hmmm....I am not sure the massively more expensive Mac setup was massively better than the best ST based DTP packages. We could be into the area here like with the Amiga video setups where for 99% of the people it does 100% what they want and for a fraction of the cost. I really don't know much about scalable fonts etc but I have seen a 1987 manual for the SLM804 which is a real fox among the hens. The SLM804 was a revolutionary printer, one Microsoft would claim to be their invention half a decade later with 'Windows printers' vs Postscript Laser printer cost. I know there is also a really high end PC based DTP system in the 80s but forget the name (Pagesetter? Pagemaker?) but mostly I remember Quark Express being mentioned in Mac emulation as something full priced high street magazines were produced with. Really depends how good stuff like Calamus was at the professional level, something I have no clue about.

ST may have had some highly capable DTP packages,  but Mac got to this market first and had the name-brand packages professionals used.   Which has always been kind of the curse of the ST line.   It was highly capable, but the name-brand apps were usually on other platforms and ST got limited acceptance in the professional world.

 

MIDI/Music was the exception to this, where ST was often the platform of choice of professional musicians.

 

For scalable fonts.   One issue was GDOS came late and was kind of awkward to use so ST didn't handle scaleable fonts as well as it should have.

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On 3/7/2022 at 9:07 PM, zzip said:

Each system found a niche when it came to creative/productive work.  Back then,  Mac was best for Desktop Publishing,  ST was best for music composition, and Amiga was best for creating what was loosely-termed "multimedia"

How Mac was “best for DTP”?

 

Which year?

What hardware?

What softwate?

 

I did not use Mac for DTP but Calamus on ST was better than PageMaker. 
 

EDIT: ignore my post!

zzip and oki already answered in consequent posts... and I do agree (except for GDOS: best ST apps did not use GDOS at all (Signum, Calamus..))

Edited by calimero

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On 3/7/2022 at 1:51 PM, oky2000 said:

16mhz 520STM could not be pulled down to a price that they intended to hit by Summer 86 I guess.

Motorola did not release 16MHz version of 68000 until 1989. (Or it was 1990....?)

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53 minutes ago, calimero said:

How Mac was “best for DTP”?

Which year?

What hardware?

What softwate?

Since like forever. MACs had the rite stuff to get the job done.

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16 hours ago, calimero said:

Motorola did not release 16MHz version of 68000 until 1989. (Or it was 1990....?)

From the WiKi:-

 

10 MHz chips became available during 1981[citation needed], and 12.5 MHz chips by June 1982.[7] The 16.67 MHz "12F" version of the MC68000, the fastest version of the original HMOS chip, was not produced until the late 1980s.

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On 3/12/2022 at 4:34 PM, Zogging Hell said:

Technically I think it was accepted that Calamus was actually more accurate, and generally more powerful than Quark at the time (and even years later with SL), unfortunately it was also very much not the 'standard' (that icon heavy interface took some learning) and Germany aside, I think only a few print shops in the UK could actually handle the conversion to those Linotype 'printers'. It was also not available on the Mac, which didn't help...

Interesting point, this was always the problem with business. Tell the guy in the large cornershop video rental store you can supply him with a £600 Atari branded system as good as a £1500 non Atari business (mostly PC DOS) system and they would still want to know more about the PC based system! Up to the point of Commodore 128, about when production of PET was stopped, Commodore had a pretty good rep for business equipment even in large corporate/educational/government departments (spot the business not using PETs in 1984-85 video clips!). They ruined that by the time of the A500 era and their name was worthless outside the domestic/leisure market too.

 

 

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On 3/14/2022 at 3:07 PM, zzip said:

ST may have had some highly capable DTP packages,  but Mac got to this market first and had the name-brand packages professionals used.   Which has always been kind of the curse of the ST line.   It was highly capable, but the name-brand apps were usually on other platforms and ST got limited acceptance in the professional world.

 

MIDI/Music was the exception to this, where ST was often the platform of choice of professional musicians.

 

For scalable fonts.   One issue was GDOS came late and was kind of awkward to use so ST didn't handle scaleable fonts as well as it should have.

Same on both ST and Amiga really, they left it too late and customers thought the solutions they had were 'acceptable'. To update a new aspect of your business is really expensive too and scalable fonts is something you have to spend a lot of time on to make it perfect if you want DTP market. 

 

 

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9 hours ago, TGB1718 said:

From the WiKi:-

 

10 MHz chips became available during 1981[citation needed], and 12.5 MHz chips by June 1982.[7] The 16.67 MHz "12F" version of the MC68000, the fastest version of the original HMOS chip, was not produced until the late 1980s.

I went to an Atari show in 1988 and somebody had a 16mhz accelerator upgrade for the 520ST/STM, I would say possibly 1987 then for 16mhz 68000. I remember this because it was not too long after I got Gauntlet 1 for my ST (Autumn 1987 release in UK?) and I was trying to convince myself spend 50% what I paid for my STM to make horizontal scrolling smoother in Gauntlet was worth it! :)

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On 3/19/2022 at 3:45 PM, oky2000 said:

Interesting point, this was always the problem with business. Tell the guy in the large cornershop video rental store you can supply him with a £600 Atari branded system as good as a £1500 non Atari business (mostly PC DOS) system and they would still want to know more about the PC based system!

Because the business owner isn't just thinking in terms of upfront costs, but also support.  When the thing breaks (not if) they want someone on the phone or on site to fix it.   That's why they buy from the more business-focused brands since they'd offer that type of support.

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On 3/18/2022 at 3:15 PM, Keatah said:

Since like forever. MACs had the rite stuff to get the job done.

It was around late 1985 and early 1986.

Programs like Ready Set Go (Manhattan Graphics) and Pagemaker came out around then, and the introduction of the first LaserWriter kicked everything off.

 

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6 hours ago, zzip said:

Because the business owner isn't just thinking in terms of upfront costs, but also support.  When the thing breaks (not if) they want someone on the phone or on site to fix it.   That's why they buy from the more business-focused brands since they'd offer that type of support.

I am talking about a Mom + Pop store and an off the shelf system with no extra support at all. Same shit as when an Estate Agent bought an Amstrad PC and some off the shelf office CHEAP apps to run his business...and yet you could do it better with an ST for them but no office would ever buy a £299.99 STFM instead of a 549.99 PC 1512 with mono monitor (+ extra for software on both). People just assumed ALL PC DOS software was better back then (more fool them).  

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