Atari vs C64 // was: 8-Bit Computer Poll

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Best 8-Bit

ZX Spectrum
109
41%
Commodore 64
121
46%
Amstrad CPC 464
25
10%
BBC Micro
8
3%
 
Total votes: 263

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Matt_B
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Post by Matt_B » Fri May 18, 2007 10:27 am

TMR wrote:But the PET wasn't aimed at gaming or really for home use; no user-defined graphics, no sound, green screen display and it was very much the archetypal image of a business computer. Or a Star Trek prop. The Apple was aimed fairly and squarely at people who wanted a computer at home that'd make pretty things happen on the screen, a very different market.
I don't think you could say that the PET and Apple II were aimed at different markets. There were no business applications to speak of in 1977 and both machines would have mostly appealed to affluent computer hobbyists. When the business market did kick off, the Apple II did rather better at it than the PET too, for what it's worth.
And the KIM-1... well it was a hobby project rather than a computer in the same way the Altair was, it hardly counts as a "consumer device" like the Apple 1, Atari 8-bit and later hardware did. And it's not really a Commodore machine as such, it was built and originally marketed by MOS Technologies. =-)
Given that Commodore bought up MOS just after the KIM-1 was launched, I think that's a bit of a moot point. Also, the Apple-1 was most definitely not a "consumer device". You needed to build it yourself and supply various parts such as the power supply and keyboard.
Last edited by Matt_B on Fri May 18, 2007 10:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by TMR » Fri May 18, 2007 10:31 am

Atari Frog wrote:What I meant was that there was no real competition from other computers. Moreover, software development was still in its infancy from 1979 to 1982. People had a unique beast with the Atari 800 and maybe it also took a bit longer to master than other platforms.
And three years wasn't enough to get at least some mastery going? Three years into the C64's lifespan meant games like Airwolf, Paradroid, several Minter titles but i'll mention Batalyx in particular because it was several playable games in one, Bounder, Impossible Mission, Cauldron and the list goes on; most of these games took the C64 forwards in leaps and bounds, the animation in Impossible Mission, the simple parallax in Bounder, the sheer involvement of Paradroid...

My point is that the Atari didn't have documentation available whilst the C64 did. Forget comparing platforms for a moment, look at the difference between the first games and those three years after launch; what other reason is there for the Atari not having the same kind of software support? It won't be marketing because Commodore weren't much better and barely wrote their own software anyway, it can't be because the hardware wasn't as powerful because most of the Atari camp keeps insisting it was, so unless the lack of documentation hurt the Atari's formative years, how else can the lack of overall popularity be explained?

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Post by TMR » Fri May 18, 2007 10:33 am

emkay wrote:And what is the problem , when using some CPU time?
We can use almost 50% of it and have still a faster machine than the C64 is. So where is the offence?
Because in order to be "better" you're using up CPU time that will be required to do the software sprites needed to match the C64's hardware. And what happens if you have an action game that needs that kind of splitting for a couple of hundred scanlines?

Oh, and try scrolling that horizontally like the C64 can.
Last edited by TMR on Fri May 18, 2007 10:56 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by TMR » Fri May 18, 2007 10:36 am

Matt_B wrote:I don't think you could say that the PET and Apple II were aimed at different markets. There were no business applications to speak of in 1977 and both machines would have mostly appealed to affluent computer hobbyists. When the business market did kick off, the Apple II did rather better at it than the PET too, for what it's worth.
Well, there were business uses even if there wasn't applications, these were the days of bespoke software development. But you've pretty much proved my point; Commodore didn't have a head start marketing computers with the PET because they were crap at it. =-)
Matt_B wrote:Given that Commodore bought up MOS just after the KIM-1 was launched, I think that's a bit of a moot point.
Not really, they didn't market it as such and merely slapped their brand on it; that's two very different things.
Matt_B wrote:Also, the Apple-1 was most definitely not a "comsumer device". You needed to build it yourself and supply various parts such as the power supply and keyboard.
Wasn't there a version shipped pre-built as well or is my memory failing... i must admit, i only read the part about Sierra when i re-read Hackers!

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Post by Atari Frog » Fri May 18, 2007 11:08 am

TMR wrote:And three years wasn't enough to get at least some mastery going? Three years into the C64's lifespan meant games like Airwolf, Paradroid, several Minter titles but i'll mention Batalyx in particular because it was several playable games in one, Bounder, Impossible Mission, Cauldron and the list goes on; most of these games took the C64 forwards in leaps and bounds, the animation in Impossible Mission, the simple parallax in Bounder, the sheer involvement of Paradroid...
Except the 1979-1982 and 1982-1985 eras can't be compared as things had moved on with a more mature market and a winning Commodore strategy. Maybe the C64 led the way more than the Atari should have but I still think context and circumstances played a major role in Atari's semi-failure. I also explained why I believe a more meaningful presence in the UK would've changed things (you're also proving my point: all the games above except Impossible Mission were coded in the burgeoning UK market). Also, don't forget the Atari 800 set some trends of what could be done.

There definitely WAS some nice stuff being worked on in 1982-83: take Eastern Front (1941) (first wargame with a scrolling map), Excalibur (artificial intelligence), Preppie! (most colorful game of the time with multi-channel sound), Boulder Dash, the Ozark Softscape games, the Lucasfilm stuff (the Ballblaster beta is from 1983)... Take a look at the what coin-op games looked like at that time and you'll pretty much agree with me that the Atari wasn't ridiculous. This was NOT 1985 where things had changed radically.
My point is that the Atari didn't have documentation available whilst the C64 did. Forget comparing platforms for a moment, look at the difference between the first games and those three years after launch; what other reason is there for the Atari not having the same kind of software support? It won't be marketing because Commodore weren't much better and barely wrote their own software anyway, it can't be because the hardware wasn't as powerful because most of the Atari camp keeps insisting it was, so unless the lack of documentation hurt the Atari's formative years, how else can the lack of overall popularity be explained?
I think I clearly answered these points already, sometimes twice.

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Post by gury » Fri May 18, 2007 11:10 am

TMR wrote:
emkay wrote:And what is the problem , when using some CPU time?
We can use almost 50% of it and have still a faster machine than the C64 is. So where is the offence?
Because in order to be "better" you're using up CPU time that will be required to do the software sprites needed to match the C64's hardware. And what happens if you have an action game that needs that kind of splitting for a couple of hundred scanlines?

Oh, and try scrolling that horizontally like the C64 can.
Yeah, Atari has three less hardware "sprites", but it still has good games.

Hmm, horizontal scrolling... Yes indeed, Atari has just 160 pixel horizontal resolution, but practically I don't see it as quirk. The speed will be noticeable just when slow scrolling is in stage. For any other situations, demos, games like Dropzone, Super Cobra or Last V8, Airstrike... there is no real difference.
Last edited by gury on Fri May 18, 2007 11:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Matt_B » Fri May 18, 2007 11:11 am

TMR wrote:Wasn't there a version shipped pre-built as well or is my memory failing... i must admit, i only read the part about Sierra when i re-read Hackers!
There was no pre-built version of the Apple-1. Only a few hundred kits were sold in their entirety. It did make enough money to give them the idea of making it a pre-built system and that's what became the Apple II.

The PET was basically just doing the same thing with the KIM-1. It ended up a more limited machine, but it still sold fairly well and Commodore made a nice profit out of it. Considering they nearly bankrupted themselves in the mid-80s by driving the price of the C64 through the floor, I'd see it as one of their better periods in terms of marketing.

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Post by oswald » Fri May 18, 2007 11:16 am

emkay wrote:And what is the problem , when using some CPU time?
We can use almost 50% of it and have still a faster machine than the C64 is. So where is the offence?
look at the speccy, its faster than c64 or atari. and then look at the speccy games. maybe cpu speed aint everything? software sprites are horribly slow.

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Post by gury » Fri May 18, 2007 12:29 pm

oswald wrote: look at the speccy, its faster than c64 or atari. and then look at the speccy games. maybe cpu speed aint everything? software sprites are horribly slow.
Totally wrong!!! Please don't make such assumptions before checking them Oswald.

1 Mhz of 6502 is 3~ Mhz of Z80. So, ZX Spectrum is usually faster than C64, but not faster as Atari 8-bit is. It has 2x as such power. Atari can afford software sprites, because it has custom chips which help limit CPU overhead in such circumstances. There is also ZX emulation in development and it will be optimized.

There is no "better" machine, all are good for what they can do!
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Post by potatohead » Fri May 18, 2007 12:51 pm

Software sprites are no big deal for the 8bitters.

Look at Apple ][ robotron. Excellent, and with a lot of movement going on full screen. It's one of the best ports ever of that game, and there was no hardware assist at all!

BTW, Apple had a color bit in each high-res byte. This is one of the distinctive elements common to the C-64. It does offer some advantages for many game types. This is one feature I really like about the C-64.

Anyway, software sprites, done right, are no big deal.

Put into the context of the discussion above, it's essentially a draw, IMHO.

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Post by TMR » Fri May 18, 2007 1:00 pm

gury wrote:Yeah, Atari has three less hardware "sprites", but it still has good games.
i don't believe i mentioned the games in that statement?
gury wrote:Hmm, horizontal scrolling... Yes indeed, Atari has just 160 pixel horizontal resolution, but practically I don't see it as quirk.
i was talking about scrolling that specific example of Emkays, please keep these things in context because they'll get confused rather rapidly otherwise.
gury wrote:The speed will be noticeable just when slow scrolling is in stage. For any other situations, demos, games like Dropzone, Super Cobra or Last V8, Airstrike... there is no real difference.
That isn't actually true because there's a glaring difference in Last V8 in particular when it's scrolling slowly; the vertical shift steps twice as often as the horizontal and it wobbles badly and Dropzone suffers at low speeds too. But because they were designed not to move that slowly too often it's not as noticeable as it could be.

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Post by gury » Fri May 18, 2007 1:04 pm

TMR wrote:
gury wrote:Hmm, horizontal scrolling... Yes indeed, Atari has just 160 pixel horizontal resolution, but practically I don't see it as quirk.
i was talking about scrolling that specific example of Emkays, please keep these things in context because they'll get confused rather rapidly otherwise.
I just wanted to clarify (for others) what difference is between Atari and C64 horizontal scrolling, as they both have horizontal and vertical registers to make things easier.
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Post by TMR » Fri May 18, 2007 1:10 pm

potatohead wrote:Look at Apple ][ robotron. Excellent, and with a lot of movement going on full screen. It's one of the best ports ever of that game, and there was no hardware assist at all!
Umm, that's sort of how software sprites always work... without hardware assist? =-)
potatohead wrote:Put into the context of the discussion above, it's essentially a draw, IMHO.
Ah, so because you think that software sprites are no big deal the sheer amount of data movement required for them is suddenly negated? One 16x16 pixel object requires, depending on the hardware, 72 bytes of data to be read, masked and written (not forgetting to stash what was there originally to repair it before the next frame) so that's 288 memory transactions compared to... erm, three per sprite on the C64 and 33 without tricks for the Atari 8-bit. i don't call that a draw, especially since the hardware sprites still have other advantages like pixel perfect collision, independent colours and being bigger on average than 16x16 pixels.

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Post by TMR » Fri May 18, 2007 1:11 pm

gury wrote:
TMR wrote:
gury wrote:Hmm, horizontal scrolling... Yes indeed, Atari has just 160 pixel horizontal resolution, but practically I don't see it as quirk.
i was talking about scrolling that specific example of Emkays, please keep these things in context because they'll get confused rather rapidly otherwise.
I just wanted to clarify (for others) what difference is between Atari and C64 horizontal scrolling, as they both have horizontal and vertical registers to make things easier.
That was covered a fair few pages back, along with the finer sprite positioning. =-)

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Post by gury » Fri May 18, 2007 1:16 pm

TMR wrote: That was covered a fair few pages back, along with the finer sprite positioning. =-)
DOH :D
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