If not the "Big 3" 8-bits then who?

Discuss and discover all the great games of yesteryear!

Moderators: mknott, NickThorpe, Darran@Retro Gamer, MMohammed, lcarlson

Which of these would have picked if not one of the "Big 3" 8-bit home computers?

BBC Micro
7
25%
MSX
3
11%
Commodore 16 & Plus/4
2
7%
Atari 8-bit
9
32%
Oric 1 & Atmos
2
7%
Acorn Electron
1
4%
Dragon 32/64
1
4%
Apple II
1
4%
Texas Instruments TI99/4A
0
No votes
Other
2
7%
 
Total votes: 28

User avatar
Matt_B
Posts: 5245
Joined: Wed Mar 14, 2007 9:30 am
Location: 5 minutes from the beach, 30 seconds from the pub

Re: If not the "Big 3" 8-bits then who?

Post by Matt_B » Mon Mar 12, 2018 11:46 pm

NorthWay wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 11:11 pm
The A8 for sure, I just wish the Dragon had some more interesting gfx chip as I much prefer the 6809. Incidentally, there is a 6809 transplant for the A8!
I'd think that Dragon, and also Tandy, went with the Motorola 6847 because it was specially designed to work alongside the 6809, making a combination that was very easy to implement. It would have been a decent enough solution by the standards of 1978 when both chips were designed, but it had aged badly by the early 80s with its limited graphics modes, dubious palettes, and the lack of any support for sprites and scrolling. Dragon really should have considered using the 6845 instead as used in the BBC Micro or Amstrad CPC, although that needed an extra circuit to turn the raw bytes into pixels that would have pushed the price up. Alternatively, they could just gone with a custom video circuit on a ULA as with the Spectrum or Oric and still done better.

You might like the Fujitsu FM-7 series which featured not one but two 6809s with the second being used as a dedicated graphics processor, and there are accordingly some impressive looking games. You could consider it the early 80s equivalent of the X68000, as it had a similarly small but dedicated following in Japan and a very high price into the bargain.

User avatar
outdated_gamer
Posts: 2599
Joined: Sat Dec 07, 2013 5:14 pm

Re: If not the "Big 3" 8-bits then who?

Post by outdated_gamer » Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:18 am

Matt_B wrote:
Sun Mar 11, 2018 1:09 pm
The 286 is a 16-bit CPU so you definitely couldn't have anything based on that. Maybe one of the 8088 based Tandy 1000s would have been a nice machine to have in the mid-80s though. The graphics on them were much better than CGA and it had three channel sound where pretty much everything else just had the basic bleeper; developers were pretty good at supporting it with games too.
Infact, the 8086, after which the x86 platform was named, was 16-bit too, the more popular 8088 was a cost-reduced 8-bit version.

Tandy wasn't shabby from what I've seen, certainly better from the commercially underperforming PC Jr, but for a similar price you could have already bought an Amiga 1000 or Atari ST, both of which better systems in terms of graphics, sound and processing speed.

I do think the IBM compatible PC didn't become a big player in the computer market untill the early 90s, when hardware became more capable and software started pushing the platform.

With that said, I think CGA graphics actually weren't all that bad, the thing was just that most didn't do what you're supposed to do when playing games on your CGA powered PC - hook it up to a TV set via composite. Thru NTSC artifacting, you get extra colours then in supported games. You can see some vids about this on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sj_R25n2VT4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Km7UB9CRMyE

As you can see, CGA graphics were actually much better on a NTSC TV screen.
Last edited by outdated_gamer on Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
outdated_gamer
Posts: 2599
Joined: Sat Dec 07, 2013 5:14 pm

Re: If not the "Big 3" 8-bits then who?

Post by outdated_gamer » Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:25 am

Matt_B wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 11:46 pm
You might like the Fujitsu FM-7 series which featured not one but two 6809s with the second being used as a dedicated graphics processor, and there are accordingly some impressive looking games. You could consider it the early 80s equivalent of the X68000, as it had a similarly small but dedicated following in Japan and a very high price into the bargain.
The real predecessor of the X68000 was the Sharp X1 though:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMDpSVVM8bc

As far as Japanese computers are concerned, I find the MSX pretty intriguing. It might not have been the most powerful or capable of the bunch, but a lot of big names of the gaming industry started on them. They also upgraded the system well past it's prime time, with the "MSX Turbo R" being a suprisingly capable 8-bit computer system:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvyiqeP5WwY

User avatar
Matt_B
Posts: 5245
Joined: Wed Mar 14, 2007 9:30 am
Location: 5 minutes from the beach, 30 seconds from the pub

Re: If not the "Big 3" 8-bits then who?

Post by Matt_B » Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:21 am

Yeah, the true predecessor of the X68000 was the X1 and the true successor of the FM-7 was the FM Towns. The X1 had some interesting capabilities like a built in genlock and optional video capture hardware - both well ahead of their time - but I'd think that the FM-7 had the more impressive looking games.

The MSX was an interesting concept, but I think they set too low a spec for the baseline and were always playing catch up with the hardware of other manufacturers. In particular, they went for a graphics chip from 1979 that wasn't considered particularly good back then when launching the first generation of machines in 1983, and that really hobbled them. Subsequent generations were considerably better but didn't get much of a foothold outside Japan. Since the Turbo R has a 16 bit RISC CPU (albeit one that still runs the Z80 instruction set) I'm not sure if it qualifies as an 8-bit; if it does though, it'd wipe the floor with anything with the possible exception of the CPC+ and the SAM Coupe.

The other big home computer in Japan in the early 80s was the NEC PC-88 series. They had the lowest spec of the lot but were the biggest seller. Ah well, what did you expect?

User avatar
The Laird
Posts: 8496
Joined: Thu Jul 16, 2009 3:01 pm
Location: Luton
Contact:

Re: If not the "Big 3" 8-bits then who?

Post by The Laird » Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:39 am

Matt_B wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:21 am
The other big home computer in Japan in the early 80s was the NEC PC-88 series. They had the lowest spec of the lot but were the biggest seller. Ah well, what did you expect?
Just like the Spectrum really!

NorthWay
Posts: 1568
Joined: Thu Dec 08, 2005 4:02 pm
Location: Grimstad, Norway

Re: If not the "Big 3" 8-bits then who?

Post by NorthWay » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:28 pm

Matt_B wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 11:46 pm
You might like the Fujitsu FM-7 series which featured not one but two 6809s with the second being used as a dedicated graphics processor, and there are accordingly some impressive looking games. You could consider it the early 80s equivalent of the X68000, as it had a similarly small but dedicated following in Japan and a very high price into the bargain.
Interesting. I have been keeping an eye open for info on the French Thompson machines, some of which used the 6809 AFAIK.

User avatar
felgekarp
Posts: 9350
Joined: Fri May 05, 2006 3:47 pm
Location: Earth 3

Re: If not the "Big 3" 8-bits then who?

Post by felgekarp » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:22 pm

I should pick the Dragon as that's what I had prior to getting a Spectrum but I've always preferred the BBC and that's over the 'Big 3' as well.
Splink!

User avatar
The Laird
Posts: 8496
Joined: Thu Jul 16, 2009 3:01 pm
Location: Luton
Contact:

Re: If not the "Big 3" 8-bits then who?

Post by The Laird » Sat Mar 17, 2018 10:14 am

Looks like the Atari 8-bit is the clear winner. I guess nobody likes the Acorn Electron or TI99/4A! :lol:

NorthWay
Posts: 1568
Joined: Thu Dec 08, 2005 4:02 pm
Location: Grimstad, Norway

Re: If not the "Big 3" 8-bits then who?

Post by NorthWay » Sat Mar 17, 2018 7:50 pm

The Laird wrote:
Sat Mar 17, 2018 10:14 am
Looks like the Atari 8-bit is the clear winner. I guess nobody likes the Acorn Electron or TI99/4A! :lol:
I feel sorry for the Electron - who thought it was a good idea to serve half memory cycles? (Ok, so it actually uses the same technique as the ZX Spectrum display (I think?), but nibble wide memory is just desperate).
And the TI has an interesting CPU as such, but the gfx and audio is boring bog standard stuff; the ColecoVision at least put those to good use through great (nay, wonderful) software engineering.

The 6809 is still more (i.e. most) interesting, but limited to Dragon/Coco3, Vectrex, and some Thompson stuff. And that Japaneses stuff I had never heard about before! Has Elite ever been ported to 6809 machines?

User avatar
Matt_B
Posts: 5245
Joined: Wed Mar 14, 2007 9:30 am
Location: 5 minutes from the beach, 30 seconds from the pub

Re: If not the "Big 3" 8-bits then who?

Post by Matt_B » Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:53 pm

It's no surprise that the Atari won for me. After all, it was probably the most successful 8-bit games computer after the big 3 in the UK and would have been much more successful than the Spectrum and the Amstrad in a lot of territories, possibly even in the world overall.

The Electron and the Oric sold quite well when they were launched but just didn't quite gather enough sales momentum to generate a lasting games scene. The Apple II and the BBC stuck around for much longer, but mainly sold to the business and education markets.

There's no port of Elite I know of to a 6809 based machine, but I'd think that one ought to be possible given that it found its way onto the NES of all things. Like any vector graphics game it'd be a dream port to the Vectrex, although I wouldn't expect it to be easy given that the game also leans heavily on raster graphics for things like the instrument panel.

English Invader
Posts: 465
Joined: Wed Mar 05, 2014 8:13 pm

Re: If not the "Big 3" 8-bits then who?

Post by English Invader » Sun Mar 18, 2018 1:23 am

fredghostmaster wrote:
Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:42 am
I'd vote for Vic 20 but it isn't on the list. People forget just how popular a machine it was around 1982-3 until the C64 kind of killed it.
I'm a present day VIC-20 user and a long-standing member of Denial (the VIC-20 forum) and it holds up surprisingly well against supposedly more powerful machines. Its main weakness is limited memory but the Beeb, Speccy and the C64 weren't that much superior in that regard; especially when you bear in mind that the Spectrum's 128k model was under-utilised in comparison to the more popular 48k and the C64's ROM Basic left the user with a mere 38k. The basic models of the Speccy and Beeb both came with 16k (a common expansion option for the VIC) and the model B BBC shipped with 32k (which just falls short of the VIC-20's maximum 35k or 32k+3k).

The VIC-20 was also more than a match for the Speccy and the Beeb in terms of graphics and sound and I regard it as one of the best systems around for old school arcade games. It was also capable of more than that as recent ports of Doom and Manic Miner emphatically illustrate.

User avatar
Matt_B
Posts: 5245
Joined: Wed Mar 14, 2007 9:30 am
Location: 5 minutes from the beach, 30 seconds from the pub

Re: If not the "Big 3" 8-bits then who?

Post by Matt_B » Sun Mar 18, 2018 3:29 am

English Invader wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 1:23 am
fredghostmaster wrote:
Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:42 am
I'd vote for Vic 20 but it isn't on the list. People forget just how popular a machine it was around 1982-3 until the C64 kind of killed it.
I'm a present day VIC-20 user and a long-standing member of Denial (the VIC-20 forum) and it holds up surprisingly well against supposedly more powerful machines. Its main weakness is limited memory but the Beeb, Speccy and the C64 weren't that much superior in that regard; especially when you bear in mind that the Spectrum's 128k model was under-utilised in comparison to the more popular 48k and the C64's ROM Basic left the user with a mere 38k. The basic models of the Speccy and Beeb both came with 16k (a common expansion option for the VIC) and the model B BBC shipped with 32k (which just falls short of the VIC-20's maximum 35k or 32k+3k).
You can say all that, but an unexpanded VIC-20 has only 5.5K to work with, and - unlike BBC B and 48K Spectrum that very quickly became the standard that games targeted - that's the machine that everyone had, with the RAM expansions being an additional purchase regarded by most users as optional. The incompatibility of the various expansions exacerbated the problem too, with the extra memory going into non-contiguous blocks, rearranging the system layout, and generally making it a developer's nightmare to get software to run on all of them. I'd think that ultimately most of the best VIC games targeted the 16K expansion, because there was a solid standard and a decent number of users, but there were a heck of a lot more made for the unexpanded machine just because that was the bulk of the market at the time.

Had Commodore set a standard for the 32K expansions right at the very beginning and made that the only official option for upgrading, it might have worked differently though.
The VIC-20 was also more than a match for the Speccy and the Beeb in terms of graphics and sound and I regard it as one of the best systems around for old school arcade games. It was also capable of more than that as recent ports of Doom and Manic Miner emphatically illustrate.
A couple of things that spring to mind are the double width pixels (and unlike the C64 you don't get the benefit of trading away colour clash for them) and the requirement to have the same background colour for the entire screen. It's also got no hardware sprites or scrolling support, but plenty of other machines worked well enough without those. I suppose if your game can work within those limitations the machine isn't giving too much else away though and, from a technical perspective at least, it could have continued to receive ports of a lot of the major releases well into the late 80s had the market been there for them.

Still, I'd agree with Fred that the main thing that doomed the VIC-20 was the success of the C64. Commodore could make them for a roughly similar amount of money by the end of 1984, but they could sell the C64 for a whole lot more. The C16 was an attempt to make a replacement that was cheaper to manufacture, but that's a whole other story.

kiwimike
Posts: 3643
Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2007 7:20 am
Location: Chch, NZ

Re: If not the "Big 3" 8-bits then who?

Post by kiwimike » Sun Mar 18, 2018 4:11 am

At first look, this is kind of tricky. I liked the BBC and Apple II. The BBC had some cracking games and power, and Apple II is a sentimental favourite for me, with great keyboard and games library....and the first 'proper' computer I got a go on at school.
But I think I'd have gone straight to Atari with it's games and capabilities had I not got my C64

English Invader
Posts: 465
Joined: Wed Mar 05, 2014 8:13 pm

Re: If not the "Big 3" 8-bits then who?

Post by English Invader » Sun Mar 18, 2018 11:03 am

Matt_B wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 3:29 am
an unexpanded VIC-20 has only 5.5K to work with
3.5k or 3583 bytes to be precise. The machine shipped with 5k but the ROM Basic eats up 1.5k. Some people love coding for the unexpanded VIC and have turned it into an art form. I'm not much of a coder myself but the VIC has a lot of appeal for hobbyist programmers and a lot of people are drawn just for the simplicity of the coding environment.

I think the VIC would have done better if the C64 had never happened because the C16 wouldn't have been enough of a jump to make people want to upgrade. I guess the C64 is to the VIC what MTV was to Christopher Cross.

User avatar
fredghostmaster
Posts: 640
Joined: Thu Mar 02, 2006 6:17 pm
Location: essex

Re: If not the "Big 3" 8-bits then who?

Post by fredghostmaster » Sun Mar 18, 2018 1:22 pm

The recent Vic 20 version of Manic Miner is incredible, hard to believe it is running on a Vic.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests