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calimero

Bless and Curse of Atari and Amiga computer designs

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12 hours ago, zzip said:

DOS PCs made memory segmentation not just a programmers problem, but also an end user's problem.    "Do I need EMS, XMS or both?  How should it be configured? "  "What TSRs can I LH,  can I free up enough of the bottom 640K to get my new game to run?"   I never had to even think about such things on any other system I used.

Have to agree here, I started on 6502 Commodore Pet, Atari 800/130XE and then onto ST where I used Assembler and C (rarely used BASIC)

and not having to worry about memory (other than how much you have) was a blessing.

I later had to move to PC's to earn a crust and it was like taking a step backwards "near" "far" what were these things, programs that should work

failed, until I learned these things existed.

Once I figured out what they did it was ok, but still felt like a big leap backwards for mankind :)

 

I've programmed on loads of different systems in my career, and if you're not writing programs to drive hardware,

you shouldn't really need to know the architecture your running on (I do know it does help for performance) just

to be able to compile and run your programs, I believe the PC was the only system I came across where you had to

know about these memory drivers and the way memory worked. 

 

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6 hours ago, TGB1718 said:

Have to agree here, I started on 6502 Commodore Pet, Atari 800/130XE and then onto ST where I used Assembler and C (rarely used BASIC)

and not having to worry about memory (other than how much you have) was a blessing.

I later had to move to PC's to earn a crust and it was like taking a step backwards "near" "far" what were these things, programs that should work

failed, until I learned these things existed.

Once I figured out what they did it was ok, but still felt like a big leap backwards for mankind :)

Right,  if I had learned assembly on x86,  I might have had @Keatah's attitude of "well that's just how things are".   After all, Assembly Language was supposed to be hard, right?     But having used more elegent assembly like on 68000 ,  x86 did feel like a step backwards.  

 

Though I never tried using assembly for Protected Mode, I imagine 'near' and 'far' and other memory management details would be a thing of the past there.

 

 

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On 4/20/2022 at 4:03 PM, Keatah said:

On PC, you would plug in more memory, and if it wasn't available or didn't work, you would get a memory manager software package from your local supermarket/computer store, and suddenly everything would work. (Or the hobbyist geek might choose to do EMM386.) Either way there were several options to get going.

 

Yeah, no.

Recall that the 1st meg (plus 64K) on a PC (real mode) was fundamentally different from any other memory, and the only place you can run executables. Most often, the challenge was freeing up enough of that space for the program under consideration. Memory managers handled mapping the above 1 meg ram so that programs could access it (really just horrible bank switching or copying...) . They also exploited 'empty' spaces above 640k, but below 1 meg, for small things like mouse drivers. It wasn't plug and play, and it wasn't a lot of fun. For a challenge, get Doom running under DOS on a 4 meg machine, oh, and you'll need Lantastic to support your ArcNet cards.....

 

Better than chip, fast, slow, whatever? Probably, but it wasn't "just run this magic program and it will all work" either. 

 

Full disclosure, I came from 6502 and 68K, and you'll never convince me that segmented memory is anything other than an abomination unto mankind 😀

I remember having to learn about and choose from the 6 different memory models that Borland C supported... 'fun' times.....

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I know for a fact that aircraft manufacturers used 68000 chips in some of their computers purely for the simplicity

of memory management, imagine having to load memory drivers if they had gone x86 way :)

 

HP used them also in their controllers, I'm sure many others did too, was a shame Motorola didn't make more

of the supremacy of their chipsets.

 

 

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@save2600 nice video, also nice to see the chaps in the video saying much the same things we have about PC's :)

 

I can also say the Royal Air Force use some Atari Mega St's (I know because I purchased them) used alongside

HP controllers to produce software to test Aircraft Navigation Systems "Black Boxes" 

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On 3/21/2022 at 3:26 PM, oky2000 said:

People just assumed ALL PC DOS software was better back then (more fool them).

Because it was. No farting around with toy computers.

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20 hours ago, TGB1718 said:

I can also say the Royal Air Force use some Atari Mega St's (I know because I purchased them) used alongside

HP controllers to produce software to test Aircraft Navigation Systems "Black Boxes" 

that sounds interesting

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1 hour ago, Cyprian said:

that sounds interesting

No photo of the ST, but this is the system we built to test the black boxes, the ST was used to write the

test scripts which were then ported to the HP systems, it also produced all our technical documentation

and used CAD software to produce circuit board layouts and circuit diagrams, it used to drive an HP

10 pen plotter via it's RS232 to IEEE488 interface.

 

 

TestSet1.jpg

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On 4/24/2022 at 7:08 AM, Keatah said:

Because it was. No farting around with toy computers.

'Toy computers' lol shows how much you know, the hardware AND O.S. of PC was similar to a Sinclair/Timex 1981 junk 8bit in technical sophistication. The technical abilities of the Mono Mac and PC XT were also far inferior to any other 16bit home computer (ST, Amiga, Sharp X68000 etc) You try naming important business files and directories in 8 characters for a start so they mean anything to you 3 months later in a busy sole trader operation. Few people need something like SQL Forms based packages in most small to medium businesses. The cheap shit business software bundled with/made for the Amstrad 1040STF priced CGA PC compatible would have put most businesses out of business anyway, and nobody is buying Lotus Symphony on a Mac to run their office/large store. 

 

Commodore got it very wrong with their original Amiga 500 double page 'now all other computers are just toys' with a clockwork spring powered PET 2000/4000 look-a-like with ST function keys drawing in the corner. Should have been a doodle of a shitty Mac or a PC 3 box shape with an MS/IBM logo on the side. The only 16bit lumps of shit were the ones designed by enormous teams of clueless pricks and unlimited budgets at Apple, IBM and Microsoft mega corps. The only reason the Amiga 1000 came out a year after the pathetic mono Mac with crap copy of a good OS somebody else designed a decade earlier, is simply because the development for one was funded by excessively lucky cocksuckers loaded with cash and the other built by investment money begged from some private dentists.

 

We are back to 1986 era....when the Amiga 1000 was the best computer and the best games platform technically possible, today it is impossible for ANY PC or Mac to do real-time ray tracing game engines at anything like the price of a PS5 (because AMD will not release the PS5 APU which manages this for peanuts for OEM PC builders to make PCs from). A PC/Mac graphics card capable of any sort of real time raytracing costs twice the price of a PS5 alone lol and you need an i7/i9 class PC to get over the bloatware WANK Mac/Windows OS running your game engine like utter shit.

 

The only reason you wouldn't buy an Amiga 1000 in 1986 was you couldn't afford it, even though it was 50-66% cheaper than Mac/PC option, in which case you got a 520ST or 520STM more precisely (and a SCART RGB cable and a mono monitor bundle) which was 75% less. On something like an Amiga 1000 you could have made revolutionary software for the business environment. A full multimedia database of properties is a little bit more sophisticated than the text only PC based wank in use most of the 20th century where property picture were kept in card file folders and info sheets for properties displayed in the office window had extra copies of developed photos cut to side and stuck on the letter headed text only printed out sheets with glue like a bunch of fucking 5 year olds at playschool LOL.  

 

The only 16bit toy computers were Mac or PC compatible. It took IBM a decade and some insider knowledge/access to Kickstart OS kernal etc source code to come close to 1985 Amiga Kickstart 1.1 and Microsoft never did manage it (everything after XP Service Pack 1 is a backward step for OS efficiency/elegance).

 

If you needed to do anything scientific or seriously powerful etc with a PC your first step was to find a UNIX distribution...........this alone cost more than the price of a low end PC XT in 1980s because you need a 6000 dollar 286 PC AT!

 

The closest thing to UNIX on any 16bit computer is Kickstart....developed quickly in the UK by porting Tripos powerful 32bit OS to the Amiga 1000 motherboard in 2 months. How long did it get Micrococksuckers to get a mouse pointer working under interrupt for DOS GUI lol even the mouse is not an Apple invention, it is a direct copy of the 1960s invention with no innovation.

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46 minutes ago, oky2000 said:

The closest thing to UNIX on any 16bit computer is Kickstart.

The business world was a little different, I used an Olivetti Unix386 Unix system, must have been around 1990

it replaced a "mutli-user PC system", by multi-user I mean it ran 4 concurrent users each with 1MB of memory

that shared a common hard drive, essentially it was just like 4 PC's sharing a NAS although there was no network

all users just had their own local terminal.

We used Logistix Spreadsheet to log personnel timesheets etc.

With the Unix system we used Ingres and SQL Database, a great leap forward and of course number of users only

limited by the processing power of the CPU. 

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2 hours ago, oky2000 said:

'

 

The only reason you wouldn't buy an Amiga 1000 in 1986 was you couldn't afford it,

 

I think you are forgetting the position that the companies (not the products) were in in 1986.

 

The main reason I didn't buy an Amiga in 1986 is they were not sold locally near me.

 

What apple and ibm had in spades was distribution.  As much as I like Atari, at that point, where I live it was mail order only.

 

The best product in the world really isn't the best if it can't be bought.

 

When I switched from Atari to an IBM compatible around 1991, it was the like an explosion of software, accessories, and support available to me.  

 

 

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55 minutes ago, mickster said:

support available to me.

Unfortunately with PC's a ton of that was needed, from what I remember back then as a developer, installing something

and it working was almost unheard of, it always seems to take an eternity to get something going, unlike ST and I assume

Amiga, once installed, software just worked with minimal configuration. 

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5 hours ago, oky2000 said:

'Toy computers' lol shows how much you know, the hardware AND O.S. of PC was similar to a Sinclair/Timex 1981 junk 8bit in technical sophistication.

And yet PC had the engineered-in ability and technical support to evolve into 12th generation processors & systems we have today. An impossible-to-argue fact. All other platforms except Mac blew gas. Thankfully their smell dissipated.

 

6 hours ago, oky2000 said:

The only 16bit lumps of shit were the ones designed by enormous teams of clueless pricks and unlimited budgets at Apple, IBM and Microsoft mega corps.

Macs carved out a beautiful elegant niche and they are happy with their achievements. Especially M1 Apple Silicon. Desirable and respectable today.

 

6 hours ago, oky2000 said:

The technical abilities of the Mono Mac and PC XT were also far inferior to any other 16bit home computer (ST, Amiga, Sharp X68000 etc) You try naming important business files and directories in 8 characters for a start so they mean anything to you 3 months later in a busy sole trader operation.

And that is ok. An industry of trillions of dollars evolved from those inferior specs and features. ST/Amiga/X68000 were incapable of accepting upgrades that would increase their value beyond entry-level anything. Stillborn mis-shapan heaps of plastic. Cheap crinkly plastic that rotted and yellowed. VideoToaster being a short-lived example because it was actually professionally used. Still couldn't upgrade it beyond VideoFlyer though.. edit itself right out of existence.

 

6 hours ago, oky2000 said:

On something like an Amiga 1000 you could have made revolutionary software for the business environment. A full multimedia database of properties is a little bit more sophisticated than the text only PC based wank in use most of the 20th century where property picture were kept in card file folders and info sheets for properties displayed in the office window had extra copies of developed photos cut to side and stuck on the letter headed text only printed out sheets with glue like a bunch of fucking 5 year olds at playschool LOL.  

But did they? Playschool database with glue more easily understandable and versatile, with unlimited colors from real film. Not blocky digitized shit that costs thousands more dollars in clumsy (camera, lighting, color wheel) equipment to import photos.

 

6 hours ago, oky2000 said:

(everything after XP Service Pack 1 is a backward step for OS efficiency/elegance).

I'll grant you that. XP was and remains an example of an OS done right. After all.. I know good stuff when I see it! Happily continuing to use XP Home and goddamned fucking proud of it!

 

6 hours ago, oky2000 said:

If you needed to do anything scientific or seriously powerful etc with a PC your first step was to find a UNIX distribution...........this alone cost more than the price of a low end PC XT in 1980s because you need a 6000 dollar 286 PC AT!

This is ok too. A few short years later everyone was doing serious productive and valuable work, including science, with Windows 3.1 and forever thereafter. On the growing and thriving platform called PC.

 

Even with lousy smelling garbage like Vista/7/8/10/10 most professional activity takes place in one or two applications. Host OS relegated to background and not important.

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6 hours ago, oky2000 said:

The only reason you wouldn't buy an Amiga 1000 in 1986 was you couldn't afford it,

Or didn't want it! 😛

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4 hours ago, mickster said:

The main reason I didn't buy an Amiga in 1986 is they were not sold locally near me.

I did. Biggest mistake of my post-teen loserish life.

 

4 hours ago, mickster said:

The best product in the world really isn't the best if it can't be bought.

Correct. For the short time I used the Amiga, the frustration at being able to get supplies and accessories AND software was a constant uphill battle. I became role model for Sisyphus.

 

I either had to travel 20+ miles by car to go to a specialty computer store, if and when they actually had anything in stock. For fucksake even Apple II in 1979 had better software & peripheral availability.

 

4 hours ago, mickster said:

When I switched from Atari to an IBM compatible around 1991, it was the like an explosion of software, accessories, and support available to me.

It was not just any explosion! Nuclear Explosion! Suddenly everything was everywhere. 10+ stores within an 8-mile radius. Some even BMX'able even.

 

6 miles out was a cluster of 3 big boxes and 2 software strip-mall stores. I could get anything there including friendly tech support from those (momma's basement) geeks that knew everything from Unix and Xenix to solutions for NanoTank.

 

I loved how our CompUSA set up tents in the parking lot. Like going to a computer fair. You were given a two page flyer for the weekend specials. They had free snacks going. Bill Gates impersonators extolling the virtues of Windows95 with a cover band playing "Start me up!" The gala atmosphere was everywhere!

 

Across the street was Computer City and Best Buy. They were more toned down though had quite the selection too. One aisle you could get thermal compound and boxed Overdrive Processors. The next, e-Machines and 20 different kinds of printers.

 

Amiga? What's that?

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14 hours ago, Keatah said:

And yet PC had the engineered-in ability and technical support to evolve into 12th generation processors & systems we have today.

Doesn't mean to say it was the best, look at VHS,Betamax and V2000, of the 3 VHS was the worst, but with enough money being

thrown at it, it turns out to be the winner and we were all the losers.

 

PC is much the same, if the 68xxx processors had evolved in the same manner, who knows what they would be like today.

Also let's not forget the ARM processor, quietly taking over the world, probably in virtually everything that has a microcontroller

and running some version of Linux.

 

Maybe wrong, but I think ARM goes back to the BBC Micro successor, the Archimedes .

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On 4/30/2022 at 11:20 AM, mickster said:

The main reason I didn't buy an Amiga in 1986 is they were not sold locally near me.

 

What apple and ibm had in spades was distribution.  As much as I like Atari, at that point, where I live it was mail order only.

 It was similar where I lived at the time: there was a small, local shop that supported the ST and one or two others that sold the Mac, but the Amiga was nowhere to be found. 

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On 4/30/2022 at 2:19 PM, Keatah said:

And yet PC had the engineered-in ability and technical support to evolve into 12th generation processors & systems we have today. An impossible-to-argue fact. All other platforms except Mac blew gas. Thankfully their smell dissipated.

And they had to re-engineer the architecture how many times?   Add in 32-bit mode, get rid of the "Real Mode" except for backwards-compatibility purposes, add in 64-bit mode, get rid of countless bottlenecks, etc.

 

in reality if you invested the amount of money invested in x86 over the years into any other architecture, you could have kept them going for 50 years as well, with each new generation overcoming the shortcomings of previous generations.    There was nothing special about the x86/PC architecture in this regard.   It only succeed because IBM was such a heavyweight and later Microsoft was.

 

 

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Posted (edited)
On 4/30/2022 at 8:19 PM, Keatah said:

And yet PC had the engineered-in ability and technical support to evolve into 12th generation processors & systems we have today.

PC manage to survive by paddling compatibility of software at expend of hardware progress / main progress in x86 world at first place have x86 compatibility in mind. One can read Darek Mihocha, author of Gemulator, superb analysis of Pentium 4 CPU as reference.

 

On 4/30/2022 at 8:19 PM, Keatah said:

Macs carved out a beautiful elegant niche and they are happy with their achievements. Especially M1 Apple Silicon. Desirable and respectable today.

Reading about Apple M1, for me, bring feeling and spirit of Atari ST and Amiga time :) - INNOVATIONS and "next step" in computing :D!

 

On 4/30/2022 at 8:19 PM, Keatah said:

Stillborn mis-shapan heaps of plastic.

Do not forget that Amiga, Atari, Mac gave birth of most successful Windows software: all major software for DTP, Graphics, Text, SpreadSheet, 3D was born on alternative (non Wintel) platforms and later ported to Wintel.

 

On 4/30/2022 at 8:19 PM, Keatah said:

XP was and remains an example of an OS done right.

When people say: "Windows XP is OS done right" - first question that cross my mind: did you use Windows 2000? Can you tell what Windows XP had more then Windows 2000? (Except "themes" and "Windows media player"?)

 

On 4/30/2022 at 8:19 PM, Keatah said:

On the growing and thriving platform called PC.

PC looks good ONLY because you do not have any alternative to compare with. Thanks to Apple we have now M1 and we can see how crap Intel CPUs are (finally!).

And we all know that all alternative platforms/companies/standard are destroyed by abusing monopoly position (Microsoft is convicted guilty but they were never punished (like e.g. AT&T some decades before - by splitting company) - o no! Microsoft was REWARDED by becoming defacto standard in governmental institutions (punishment was to provide government with Windows and Office licences)! It is like a Monty Python sketch...).

 

On 4/30/2022 at 8:19 PM, Keatah said:

with Windows 3.1 and forever thereafter. On the growing and thriving platform called PC.

Like I said: all software that we use today WAS PORTED from alternative platforms to PC as soon as PC (Wintel) become good enough to support it (although many keep using e.g. ST for MIDI because Windows/PC was piece of crap in years to come when something like latency is very important!)

 

Edited by calimero

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On 4/30/2022 at 4:20 PM, mickster said:

When I switched from Atari to an IBM compatible around 1991, it was the like an explosion of software, accessories, and support available to me.  

Please, can you tell us what software/accessories make biggest impression on you when you switch to PC (I ask because many ST users was not aware of e.g. Signum).

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2 hours ago, calimero said:

Please, can you tell us what software/accessories make biggest impression on you when you switch to PC (I ask because many ST users was not aware of e.g. Signum).

Have to agree, if you wanted something, the ST/Amiga already had it as you say Signum/Fleet Street Publisher/GFA Draft, the list goes on.

I bought a PC, only because I was a freelance programmer, but all I did was move from C on the ST to C on the PC (and we're back to "near" and "far" 🤣 )

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1 hour ago, TGB1718 said:

Have to agree, if you wanted something, the ST/Amiga already had it as you say Signum/Fleet Street Publisher/GFA Draft, the list goes on.

I bought a PC, only because I was a freelance programmer, but all I did was move from C on the ST to C on the PC (and we're back to "near" and "far" 🤣 )

I was never hurting for apps on ST.   But eventually Atari wasn't able to compete with the clone world on features and price, so the app that caused me to switch was something called "Doom" :)

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8 hours ago, calimero said:

Please, can you tell us what software/accessories make biggest impression on you when you switch to PC (I ask because many ST users was not aware of e.g. Signum).

 

Hardware:     Soundblaster  Pro stereo sound card, VGA graphics,  very beginning of cdrom.

 

Software:  Anything from origin software (games like wing commander and ultima underworld), Wolfenstein 3d, Doom, and eventually Quake.  Played a lot of Doom via modem and serial link.  Eye of the Beholder (like dungeon master but with more depth), Xwing, Dark Forces (both very good star wars games). Duke Nukem, Red Baron. I loved the game Magic Carpet.  These were the days of big box software with thick manuals.  Playing Doom for the first time on a network with 4 players was crazy fun. 

 

Biggest impression was just going out to a local best buy and electronics boutique once a week for all the new software releases.  Tons of magazines (with demo disks).  Looking at all the different types of controllers, modems, vga cards , sound cards, and cdrom drives.  There were also local computer shows during this time filled with computers, monitors, tables and tables of accessories and software.

 

To me, the 90's with PC's is what the 2000's felt like with the xbox 360/PS3.  More games and demos that a person had time to look at it.  Something new to look at each week.  Huge games released every Christmas season.  Both of these times was very fun to be a gamer with $60 dollars in your pocket and a little time to shop.

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This really turned in some kind of fanboy flame war. And not so much between Atari ST and Amiga fans, but PC vs. ST . Luckily not into PC vs. MAC So, still not totally off topic 🙂

I want to add some things here, and that will be actually nothing new:  there is no product what is best in all aspects, everything has it's good and bad sides. Taking only good sides of some product, ignoring bad ones is not serious discussion.

Here is what I think about PC, ST, Amiga:

PC design was conservative, with business users in mind at start. Good side are standardized expansion ports and future proof concept. Unlike it was with home computers in those years - practically every new one needed new SW versions, because if nothing else OS was different.

To add that even MC68000/8 was considered as CPU, but they went on 8088 - some say because 68000 was still with bugs. Maybe price was what decided. It was expensive in 1981 .  Good thing with Intel CPUs was that they maintained pretty well SW compatibility, were no changes what needed corrections in SW - well until late 90-es. In case of 68000 family there were some starting with 68010,20,30, more with later.

Here to add that decision to not deal with OS by IBM was probably not good idea.

Atari ST: it came after PC and MAC. And yes, there is serious influence of them to Atari ST design. Selecting 68000 as CPU was pretty much best idea in those years. As lot of RAM for those years. They saved on some other things - sound chip. And probably worst idea and by me biggest flaw: no expansion slot - adding one with CPU bus and some relevant signals would help a lot in adding expansions.  At low cost. Here to say that all popular micros of that time had such thing.  And when they finally added it, starting with Mega ST - it was not 'future proof' - TT and Mega STE had different one (VME), Falcon again different one ...  That was not good for expansion manufacturers.

One the other side ACSI port was real success: pretty fast for it's time and good not only for mass storage.

 

SW side will need another reply ...

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