7th Link CoCo (Color Computer) CRPG

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yakumo9275
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If anyone is interested in playing another old CoCo CRPG like ultima III, check out The 7th Link here http://www.distantsystems.com/personal/jeff/coco.htm

disks and info here
http://www.distantsystems.com/personal/jeff/CocoEmulation.htm

-Stu

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Matt Barton
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grandpa
adamantyr wrote:

- I highly doubt Linux will ever be mainstream, namely because there's no backbone company. The only reason Microsoft got off the ground was the backing of IBM, a venerable company that had more than fifty years of earned trust. Linux doesn't have this, and you're not going to get grandpa, who only checks his e-mail and plays solitaire, to abandon Windows over some obscure argument about open-source development. And don't tell me such customers "don't matter"... oh heck YES they do.

I'm not sure why you think I asserted otherwise, but in any case that's not what I wanted to do. However, I don't think Grandpa cares one way or the other about the OS, be it Windows, Mac, etc. All he wants to do is check email and not have it be a hassle. If you told him, "Look, here's computer X that you can use to check your email for $1000, and here's computer Y that does the same thing for $500, and finally here's computer Z that does the same thing for $100..." You get the idea. Now what might make a difference here (besides price) is which one has the best warranty/support. Grandpa will say, "If I get that $100, what happens if I can't get it to work?" Oops, you're own your own, Grandpa. No thanks, let's try the $500.

I imagine the first thing grandpa will say at the computer store is, "I don't care about games or anything fancy. I just want a basic machine that I can use to check email and scan my family photos/download my digital camera, print stuff out, etc." They'll set him up with a low-end PC with Windows, probably XP but maybe Vista. Support will be through the store's outsourced tech support in Bangalore and whatever he can get out of Microsoft.

People still haven't realized that there are third parties out there that you can for support for linux, but it's just easier to go with Windows because "that's what everybody does." I'm not trying to trivialize that; it's a major factor. I also agree about the lack of a backbone. People think in terms of "product" and "manufacturer," even when that is a total fiction. What I mean is that the company's logo on a product doesn't mean much anymore, except perhaps who gets sued if the Chinese don't get all the lead out.

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adamantyr
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Linux, Apple, Windows, etc.

Wow, we really strayed off topic. :) The Seventh Link, incidentally, plays a lot like the PC version of Ultima 4 that uses VGA graphics.

The only thing I'll add here is:

- I highly doubt Linux will ever be mainstream, namely because there's no backbone company. The only reason Microsoft got off the ground was the backing of IBM, a venerable company that had more than fifty years of earned trust. Linux doesn't have this, and you're not going to get grandpa, who only checks his e-mail and plays solitaire, to abandon Windows over some obscure argument about open-source development. And don't tell me such customers "don't matter"... oh heck YES they do.

- Apple's real weak spot is customer service. My brother's been through three iPod's over the last four years, and their CS department was terrible with every case. Not only that, their iTunes "back-up" system is buggy, only allows you to burn to CD or DVD, and it doesn't bother to tell you if some didn't make it. My brother lost about 20% of his library when moving up to a new hard drive as a result. Now the whole iPhone fiasco with not being able to replace batteries has just further cemented my opinion in this area.

Bill Loguidice
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Apples and Linux

A few points. When iPods were first released, I was against them too, but over time, they improved dramatically to be both stylish and functional music/photo/video players and actually fairly price competitive. Apple also has a great marketing team that these other guys can't seem to compete against. So no, I'm not surprised that the iPod is the icon of the MP3 world that it is. The fact that iTunes is well stocked and fairly priced doesn't hurt either (though the studios are finally pushing back a bit).

Linspire (Lindows) was a great idea that never took off. Basically create a low-cost Linux with turn-key (almost set-top-box) simplicity. Subscribe to the service and the world of Linux was open to you for push button download and installs (sort of like Linux GameTap...). Again, I go back to the point, regardless of the advantages of either Linux or MacOS, Windows works well enough, has enough computer shelf space and has shelves stocked with compatible software that until there is a radical consumer shift in mindset, the Windows world will always be "best". After all, even Apple lets you run Windows now... (and is perhaps the best strategy - hell, if Apple pseudo-endorsed a Linux installation like they did with Windows via Bootcamp, it would be the darling of the hacker community (of course they'd need one or two highly expandable models, but with the coming of all external hardware - even video and sound cards - perhaps Apple's "all in one" strategy will start to really pay off with EVERYONE in a few years)...

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
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Matt Barton
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Why no Linux?
Bill Loguidice wrote:

As always, it's important to separate OUR feelings/needs/ideals from what is best for the "masses". Yeah, Mac or Linux may be "better" than Windows, but do the pluses outweigh the negatives of not being with a standard for an individual who doesn't want to be hassled with compatibility issues? And further, is being with Windows really THAT bad for the average person? Realistically, no, but obviously alternative platform die-hards would never acknowledge that, instead choosing to be angry and "superior" that their choice is best, no matter what (a lot like religion, right?).

Funny, I was thinking also about religion. Catholicism vs. Protestantism springs to mind. ;-)

I really don't think it's possible for Mac to ever compete with MS on an equal footing, simply because they're a completely proprietary system. They haven't separated the OS from the hardware, and since Apple has a monopoly on the hardware they can (and must) charge higher prices. Compare that to Windows--you can buy a computer from anybody, even build one yourself. Microsoft has a monopoly on the OS, of course, but the cheaper hardware makes up for it. Then again, it's amazing what Apple has done with the iPod. I still don't understand why anyone would buy one when they could get a much better "off-brand" product for much less money. It's just sheer marketing. Amazing, really. Same thing when an "average user" springs for a Mac--most of them know very little about the actual hardware/software or care, they just think it looks cool and will be more prestigious. Besides, I bet the ratio of gamers to "average" computer users is probably something like 1 to 10. If all you really need is a web browser and a few apps, who'd know the difference?

Still, at the end of the day people must be sane enough to ask whether they want to spend $2000+ instead of $800 because of a brand name. Yes, many will spring for the brand name regardless, but I can't believe that's the majority.

What really surprises me (shocks me, even) is that Linux hasn't fared better. I stick by my prediction that it will eventually replace Windows as the dominant platform, but it sure ain't happening quickly. Logically speaking, it would seem to make sense that if Microsoft won the PC wars by creating a closed OS on open hardware, then Linux would win the second round by being an open OS on open hardware. In other words, you open up competition to both sectors (hardware & the OS). It'd be as though Dell, Gateway, and the rest could license or create their own Windows-compatible OS and compete with other for the lowest price/best feature set. Why hasn't Linux won already?

The only thing I can figure out is that Windows is so cheap that it just isn't on people's radar. Yes, it's very "expensive" in terms of, wow, $200 to go out and buy Vista, etc. But really, the Windows OS comes bundled with what--99% of home computers? Most consumers probably don't even realize there are options. Plus, the big manufacturers probably get a great deal on volume, so if you said something like, "I don't want Windows on the computer--just a blank hard drive," you would only save a few dollars (or actually have to pay more for a "special order.") It'd be like going to McDonalds and asking for a burger with no pickles, because you have an unlimited supply of free pickles at home. Why bother if you're not saving any money at McD's? It's not as though they're going to knock off twenty five cents for the missing pickles.

I thought Wal-Mart might lead the way with their Linspire machines, but those aren't technically free OS (though based on them). Still, people still seem willing to pay a little more for the Windows machines; i.e., the price difference isn't enough to make people notice. I'm guessing that the most you could save would be something like $20, all other things but the OS being equal.

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Bill Loguidice
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Innovation today, Microsoft's place, Mac, Linux, Internet, WWW

Your post would be good fodder for a new blog post, Matt. I think the Internet/WWW have pretty much done part of what you're suggesting, in that there's a somewhat neutral platform that can be used on and with a variety of devices (game systems, computers, phones, etc.) and from a variety of locations (wireless, wi-fi, offices, etc.). Just because Windows is "dominant", doesn't mean that the alternatives (Mac, Linux) have any less relevance to those who choose to use them. Perhaps innovation happens a bit slower now than it might, but I don't think we'd see much benefit either through Microsoft being pushed harder or the other guys having more resources. In other words, innovation still happens and the status quo continues to get pushed regardless of what the market share numbers clinically say. We have the typical games (the push for bigger, better, faster resulting in more technological demands) to thank for that and of course the almighty Internet (and particularly the WWW), which pushes infrastructure, access and standardizations (the latter out of necessity). It's arguable that the OS be damned in the future, if you just have a robust enough browser you can do pretty anything, from gaming to productivity to communications to anything else the Internet offers. It won't happen anytime soon and may never happen, but the power is there. After all, the Apple iPhone ads like to speak of the fact that you get "the Internet", rather than WAP or the mobile Internet or some of the Internet.

With all that said, it was and is important for 90% of the population to have one standard to turn to for computing. If Microsoft didn't win the computer wars, it's arguable that home computing would be much less prevelant in the home than it has become and business computing would be much different. Regardless of Microsoft's intentions and quality, the Intel/DOS/Windows platform is what eventually became standard mostly because the industry needed a standard and that grouping happened to be ideally positioned to make it happen. For the other 10%, some can co-exist peacefully in the Windows world while dabbling or being primarily in the alternatives, while the rest can be perfectly happen being entirely outside the Windows world. As always, it's important to separate OUR feelings/needs/ideals from what is best for the "masses". Yeah, Mac or Linux may be "better" than Windows, but do the pluses outweigh the negatives of not being with a standard for an individual who doesn't want to be hassled with compatibility issues? And further, is being with Windows really THAT bad for the average person? Realistically, no, but obviously alternative platform die-hards would never acknowledge that, instead choosing to be angry and "superior" that their choice is best, no matter what (a lot like religion, right?).

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
======================================

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Matt Barton
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Commodore and GGS

You know, reading adamyntr and Bill's comments has brought me back to a discussion I read in the awesome book Guns, Germs, and Steel (buy it if you get a chance). At the end, Diamond talks about "optimum fragmentation," which goes something like this. You don't want either extreme--say, near-total unification (China), because then the all-powerful, unified government can squash innovation and change, keeping you mired. On the other hand, you don't want too much fragmentation, because you need a certain critical mass of people to get enough inventions (though most will come from outside). Writing, for example, isn't something that will ever arise in a hunter-gatherer society. You need a big base of people with farmers, specialized workers, etc., to support writing and make it worthwhile. The ideal is a situation like Western Asia, where ideas could spread among independent peoples all the way from the east to the west. In Europe, for instance, if the rulers of one country decided that exploratory voyages were forbidden, who cares--just go to Spain, and they'll fund you.

The discussion really got me to thinking about the platform wars. Now we're in a "China" like situation where one company (Microsoft) pretty much controls the PC market. Is that good or bad for the industry? I look back at the early 80s, when you did have very interesting competition for the top spot. On the one hand, you did get great innovation, but there were the many problems associated with being re-inventing the wheel (would've been nice, for instance, if the C-64 used great Apple II disk drive technology, etc.) It also divided users into separate camps. On the other hand, if you saw something very cool on a TI-99, there was a great chance you could adapt it somehow for the C-64. That's where the ideas are coming in from outside.

I guess we see that with stuff like Firefox or OS X, since Microsoft sees that and integrates it into its own OS. I suppose as long as Microsoft is open to change, it'll likely remain dominant. It'll only crumble if it can or will no longer adapt, or if it just starts doing stupid things (charging too much, too many bugs, etc.)

What I'm trying to figure out is whether we're in an optimum situation now, with Microsoft on top and a few stragglers coming up with ideas (i.e., Macintosh, Linux), or would we better off if Microsoft had to share the pie with at least one equal competitor?

Let's imagine, say, that Microsoft/PC were only 40% of the market, with Macs at 40% and Linux at 20% (the "magical" 40/40/20). Would that lead to faster innovation and better products? Or would the resulting confusion/incompatibilities/porting be enough to stymie it?

In real life, Macs only have a 3.9% penetration (2% worldwide), and PCs dominate at 90%. The rest is "other," probably Linux and possibly hold outs.

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adamantyr
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8-bit systems

Oh yeah, I would never dispute that Commodore 64 had the best to offer in graphics and sound. A lot of their other stuff was trash in the computer, though, like the I/O. We had a few friends who had them, and what I do remember is how quirky the C64's could be. One neighbor's system always crashed after about an hour, guaranteed. And the load times for games was just awful... I remember we'd sit back and read comics and talk while waiting for the stupid games to load! The splash screen could only hold your interest so long.

Make no mistake, if money hadn't been an issue, both me and my brother agreed that we would have asked for an Apple II. Unfortunately, my parents were not in the line of work where computers started appearing, and they figured the $250 the TI cost them in 1984 was sufficient. By the time I was looking at computer ads a few years later, the prices had shot back up to the $1-2k price range. Well beyond a 10-year olds allowance.

The Amiga had all the fixings to take the market by storm, and yet it failed. Part of Commodore's fall, interestingly, was the price wars from 1982-83, which they never fully recovered from. Although Tramiel liked to portray it as a victory, in truth he bled his own company white to bring down the market. There's a rumor that he partly pursued a price war in vengeance against Texas Instruments for driving Commodore out of the calculator market.

And did he succeed? Not really. TI just cut their losses and backed out, and have survived pretty well even keeping their lead in the calculator market. He killed Atari, but that's hardly an accomplishment, since it was dying anyway. Then the whole Atari ST/Amiga split didn't help the start of the 16-bit era at all. I remember that most people thought that computers were just a "fad" and it was over. Thank goodness that wasn't true!

Bill Loguidice
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Commodore - Computer company of the 80s, but not the winners

From a pure gaming standpoint, I'd have to give the edge to the Commodore 64, since it had far superior graphics and sound and two standard joystick ports. All the Apple II series really had as its advantage from a gaming standpoint was two button joysticks (presuming analog versus digital was a wash, though frankly back then being digital like the C-64's Atari-style joysticks was arguably superior) and blazing fast (relative) disk access. So, as a gamer's system, the C-64 is it for 8-bit in the 80s. From a historical perspective though and today, assuming you can look past certain audio-visual deficiencies, the Apple II is MORE than a match for any other 8-bit system of the era, particularly in certain genres (text adventures, text and graphics adventures, strategy games and RPGs, as a few). Arcade-style (action) games could sometimes be good on the Apple II (Karateka for one and the occasional solid arcade port), but they were rarely a match for other platforms.

I also agree about your Amiga statements. All things considered, that was THE 16-bit computer, though PC EGA was itself dominant based on sheer volume of translations and a few originals. Indeed, though, once the VGA/Sound Blaster/DOS combination became standard, it was the end of the Amiga's relevance.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
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Matt Barton
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Commodore and Apple
adamantyr wrote:

It makes me wonder, though, what other machines may have a lot of rich software titles that escaped notice because of obscurity and the overshadow of the 6502 systems and their descendants. (Apple II and Commodore, respectively.)

I was mired solidly in the Commodore camp during the 1980s and thus missed out on what was going on other consoles. To this day I'm still curious about these other systems. Although many early CRPGs were ported to the C-64, most of them originated on the Apple II--with a few exceptions such as Temple of Apshai, which apparently originated on a PET.

All in all, though, I'm glad my family went with the C-64 instead of a CoCo, TI, or Atari system, since those seem to struggle behind. I'm not sure what to think of the Apple II during this era. I still think the graphics and sound are inferior to the C-64 (at least from what I've seen), but there's no doubt it was a programmer's platform. Maybe I'm just being ignorant, but it still seems to me that the C-64 was the best overall gaming platform of the early 1980s.

Things are more complicated after the 16-bit systems started popping up. Lining up the ST, A500, and IIgs side-by-side doesn't really come up with anything conclusive (at least for me). They're all good machines with plenty to offer gamers, though the A500 may have dominated in sheer raw number of titles (not certain). The PC really didn't get competitive until the VGA era, and even then took quite a few years to really surpass what was available on these three platforms.

I may be flopping around like a drunken platypus being electrocuted on a DDR, but I still think the Amiga could have dominated the late 1990s if it had been marketed better--and, ahem, someone had enough brains to upgrade to 16-bit sound and adopt CD-ROM as the new standard. Still, the A1200/4000/CD32 were just too little too late, and in any case the developers had long since moved on--much as Apple's finest gravitated to EGA/VGA, but that's probably because Apple wasn't fully behind the IIgs, pushing the over-priced Mac (who needs color? Uh, me.)

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Bill Loguidice
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Computer software depth, both mainstream and semi-pro
adamantyr wrote:

It makes me wonder, though, what other machines may have a lot of rich software titles that escaped notice because of obscurity and the overshadow of the 6502 systems and their descendants. (Apple II and Commodore, respectively.)

Well, it's hard to compare against the 80's 8-bit "triumvirate" in the US of the Apple II, C-64 and Atari 8-bit, as they all had their originals as well as shared a great deal of software. Everything else was really second or lower tier until the true 16-/32-bit era ushered in the Amiga and PC DOS (EGA-base). Anyway, I'm obviously working on "the first 15 years" book and, looking through my list of US entertainment-centric systems, I can't really think of anything with particularly stand-out, unrecognized software besides the CoCo and TI systems. Certainly the Adam had a strong public domain/user development community, but they never came up with anything particularly "great", especially not in the CRPG mold. Certainly the TRS-80 Model I/III/IV line were primary game systems from the late 70's through very early 80's and received quite a few top titles, but due to technical capability really can't be considered part of the slightly later era (though it was obviously a contemporary of the first Apple II's). Other system lines either were too technically inept, didn't have their best showings in the US or relied too heavily on first-party only software (a relative limitation that both the CoCo and TI were able to overcome to a degree).

Without overthinking it, I'd certainly have to rank entertainment-based computer systems up to the rise of the Amiga and PC EGA (roughly 87/88) in the US as:

Tier 1 - Apple II, C-64 and Atari 8-bit (with Atari definitely third)
Tier 2 - CoCo, TI, PC MGA/CGA, VIC 20 and TRS-80 Model x (the latter only because of technical limitations and losing support by the early 80's)
Tier 3 - Coleco Adam, Commodore PET, Timex Sinclair/ZX81 (the former due to time-on-market and the latter two due to technical limitations)
Tier 4 - Everything else, though some would certainly rank far higher than others in this last tier

======================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
======================================

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