The Platform Less Travelled By

Matt Barton's picture

Mark's segment this month was about platforms and how they affected us. How did having a Spectrum instead of a Commodore 64 affect your outlook on gaming and computing? I would also wonder how only having a console (such as the NES or SNES) compares to having a home computer (such as the Amiga or DOS).

In my experience, people who had no computers or only DOS machines (not gaming rigs) tended to favor consoles for gaming, whereas those with more multimedia-capable machines (such as the Atari ST or Amiga) tended to prefer computer games. This of course began to change in the EGA and VGA era, when PC gaming became more competitive or even superior to more games-centric platforms.

To answer Mark's question, I'd have to imagine that I had either grown up with a game console and no computers, or went with Atari over the Commodore machines. That's very interesting. I know one big deal about the ST was all the MIDI capability, so it's likely I would have gotten into that and perhaps ended up with a MIDI keyboard. Who knows, perhaps today I'd be a decent musician and have knowledge of how to read music and what have you. I'm sure I would also have adored Dungeon Master. I'm guessing I would have been a big fanboy, too, despising Commodore more and more as they fought against my beloved 800 or ST. I bet the Lynx and Jaguar would've been a big deal for me, too.

Here's the video by Marlinlee that Mark was talking about. This guy is great.

Bill Loguidice
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Prior to getting an Amiga

Prior to getting an Amiga 500, which was my primary computer for several years, I had a Vic-20, which was sold off to get a C-64, and later I got a Coleco Adam out of the classifieds for dirt cheap. So I essentially had a C-64, Adam, Atari 2600 and ColecoVision when I got my Amiga. Obviously the leap was monumental.

I forget exactly when, but it was early on in the Windows 3.0/3.1 days that my father bought a 386 SX-20. The liar of a sales person said it came with DOS/Windows, but it in fact came with DOS/GEOS. While GEOS was great and particularly well suited to the limited SX-20 platform, eventually we had to get Windows 3.1 and put that on, for obvious reasons. Anyway, while I used the 386 quite a bit, I still considered by Amiga 500 my primary computer. That slowly began to change, though. Eventually we did sell off the 386 SX-20 with 5MB of RAM and 80MB hard drive after I put in a CD-ROM drive (!) and found it still unable to run games like Myst (it was barely able to run Doom - it did better with games like Blake Stone and Wolfenstein 3D).

Eventually, when we got a Gateway Pentium 90 with 16MB of RAM and really nice Trinitron monitor, my Amiga days were pretty much fully behind me (Doom ran like a beast on that thing). I remember prior to getting the Pentium 90 going to some guy's house and seeing his Amiga 1200 and being impressed by it, but I already knew the Amiga was a dead end (that was clear by less and less software being available at Electronics Boutique). I actually always liked Windows 3.x, but I certainly got caught up in the hoopla around Windows 95, even going to CompUSA at midnight of the launch day to get my bundle. It was a very good OS relative to the time, and was certainly an improvement for getting games to work as they started to become compatible. I would estimate by 1994, I was 100% into the PC stuff, though I obviously was into it by the early 90's, if not a bit before.

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Matt Barton
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I'm trying to remember when I

I'm trying to remember when I first cut the Amiga cord. I guess it was around 1998 or maybe 1999. I had gotten by with an Amiga 3000 until then, and of course was on a college campus, so I could use PCs whenever I needed to for applications (and MUDding, stuff like that). However, my girlfriend at the time had a modern PC, and I installed Might and Magic VI on it and was having a blast. When the relationship ended, I was about 1/2 way through MM7 IIRC, so I couldn't resist--had to buy a PC immediately. I called up Gateway and ordered a computer then and there on a credit plan.

Funny tidbit, right around that time Gateway was rumored to have purchased Amiga. So I kept asking the salesperson about it; were they planning to release an Amiga or some hybrid machine soon? The guy just kept saying, "Why the heck would we do that? We already make the best PC in the world, yadda yadda."

I'm pretty sure it had Windows 97 on it; at least, I only remember Windows 95 from the labs at school. I sadly missed the 3.1 and majority of the DOS era.

What got me was the unavailability of software for the Amiga. I got tired of having to mail order everything, and it was too tempting to be able to buy games from Wal-Mart. I have met individuals who have kept using Amigas right up to this day. My poor ol' 3000 couldn't even surf the web properly; a lot of images and such weren't compatible. I saw 1200s in operation that could do a good job back in the late 90s, but I wonder if anyone could use a stock 1200 or even 4000 and get the full browser experience today (without third-party boards and such).

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clok1966
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win 95
Rowdy Rob wrote:

When Windows 95 came out, I finally started to feel that it might be time to bail on the Amiga platform. When the Amiga died, there was only a few choices: Windows, Mac, or Linux.

Well, I went with the only choice I could make: I chose the “game” machine. :-)

I had a dos machine before win95, and did play a few games here and there, I belive I finally picked up a true Dos machine when Wing Commander came out (had to have it), but for a few other games my Amiga still seen 95% of my time. Like you, when 95 came out was about when my AMIGA finally took the back seat in use. I can still remeber my "aha!" moment. I had just picked up Wing Commander III. I was very unsure if I shoud install win 95 beta as I didnt think it was going to work well and I really wanted to play WC III. But being the true tinkering geek I am.. I installed 95 before WC III. I looked around 95, painfully found some drivers (my Turtle Beach sound card was not supported!!!!, so a quick $180 sound blaster was purchased). A day later I installed WC III.. it played well, in fact great on win95.. so what happens if i run some stuff in the background like I can with my AMIGA? WOW.. its working, Im doing 2-4 things at once on a Intel box!!!!!! I can have the higher tech graphics, and multi task too! ok... this win 95 might be a real OS... WHile it wasnt the best, I never looked back.. ever... I actually like win7 its been a great OS for me so far.. In fact so good I am almost lost when a problem does happen, I dig so little to fix stuff I dont know where to go.

Rowdy Rob
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My Path: the "Game" Machine

This is a very interesting topic. What did my “parallel universe” counterpart end up like as he choose the Apple II over the Atari 800, or the MS-DOS machines over the Amiga? How did it affect his personality and his technical/artistic abilities? What if he, instead of spending his money on that Atari 800, spent it on an Intellivision or Colecovision, then moved on to the NES/SNES/Genesis?

In my case, I chose the “computer” over the “console” because of my high school computer club experiences. I joined the computer club because I could play videogames at school (!!!!) and get away with it. But I learned that these computer games were PROGRAMMED by someone, and that *I* could be that next “someone!!!” Yes, I wanted to create videogames. Hence I needed a computer.

The only computers I was familiar with at the time were the Radio Shack TRS-80 and the Apple II. That’s basically all that was realistically available to me. Nobody I knew had an Atari computer, and the Commodore 64 didn’t exist yet. (The Vic 20 didn’t impress me at the time; I don’t think I even saw one until long after I acquired an Atari 800).

But then I saw the listing for this mysterious “Atari 800 computer” in the “AAFES” catalog, which was sort of the American military analogue of the “Sears” catalog. For overseas personnel, the AAFES catologue was a great way to acquire everything from camping gear to lingerie. Well, anyhow, the catalog listed the Atari 800 having “player/missile graphics, 128 colors, 4-channel sound, 16k RAM...” etc. etc... I was intrigued. I read a bunch of computer magazines that seemed to confirm that it was a decent computer, so I worked summer jobs, saved up my money, and TOOK THE RISK! I bought the Atari 800 for (if I recall correctly) over $800 for a 16k RAM version with a cassette drive.

I made the choice most of you would have made: I went with the “game” machine. The Atari 800 was certainly more of a “game” machine than the TRS-80 or Apple II. I was very self-assured that I made the correct choice (and still am!). But then the C-64 eventually came out, and then... “oh no!!! I should have waited!”

As an Atari user, I admit to jealousy of the software coming out for the C-64, but if I’d have went with the TRS-80 or Apple II, I think I’d have REALLY been jealous.

To be honest, though, I think, despite the technical differences of the major 8-bit computer platforms, the experiences on each were generally similar, give or take a few pixels and sounds. They all played good games of every type (often the SAME games), and they all had decent (or at least usable) productivity software. Experience-wise, it was hard to go wrong (except maybe the TRS-80), and probably the same general influences would have emerged.

But what if I/we went the console-only route? That would have made a DRAMATIC difference, I think for the worse. Think of the talents you have. In Bill and Matt’s case, I would find it hard to believe that having a home computer didn’t have a major impact on their writing talents! We all probably wouldn’t even be here on AA if it weren’t for that twist of fate that allowed us to have a computer back in the day. But hey, I might have been a better athlete, math whiz, or lady magnet... who knows?

clok1966 wrote:

The Amiga was truley and amazing machine compared to its rivals.. if it had as much "productive" software as the rest it would have been what we are all using today.

When I finally made the jump from 8-bit to 16-bit, I again followed my true path: I went with the “game” machine. Yes, I looked at what was available, and the Amiga was clearly the best “game” machine at the time. I still wanted to program games, and the Amiga was where it was at.

I just can’t imagine the “what if” scenario of “what if I went with an MS-DOS machine?” The piddly EGA graphics and plinky sound just wouldn’t do it for me. I suppose if I didn’t have the money for a computer, and someone GAVE me an MS-DOS machine, I would probably been less able to pursue graphics/art and music interests, and might have been less interested in programming. I think following that path might have seriously stunted my creativity. I might have become more of a “tech-head,” though, and might have ended up more proficient with Windows machines than I am now.

Clok, much has been said about the “game machine” moniker that the Amiga (and Atari 8-bit) received back in the day, but I wanted it BECAUSE it could play great games! I knew that if you could program a computer for games, it was very likely that it could be programmed for “serious” stuff easily as well, so why not get the “games” benefit on top of the serious stuff?

I went to an MS-DOS users group meeting once, and it was basically older guys talking about Lotus 1-2-3, Desqview, and com ports and such. Snooze..... a totally different (and more serious) crowd, and I could do spreadsheets and such on the Amiga anyway, so there was just nothing there for me.

As for rivalries, my Atari and Amiga “cliques” certainly looked down on competing platforms. I felt a “friendly” rivalry with the C-64 “cliques,” but never really expressed outright hostility towards them. The “rivalry” was more internal with other platforms; I really, totally believed that the Atari 8-bits were clearly superior to the Apple II, and the Amiga was totally superior to MS-DOS. The C-64.... I wasn’t so sure. I didn’t even know any C-64 users in high school, so there was no rivalry, and by the time the C-64 really hit its stride in the mid-80’s, I was getting a bit too old for “cliquishness.” When the Amiga came out.... it was just the best computer in my mind, case closed, no “jealously” needed. For the most part, I just always felt smug that I had the “superior” machine.... is that rivalry, or is that conceitedness?

When Windows 95 came out, I finally started to feel that it might be time to bail on the Amiga platform. When the Amiga died, there was only a few choices: Windows, Mac, or Linux.

Well, I went with the only choice I could make: I chose the “game” machine. :-)

clok1966
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I think i had access to most

I think i had access to most all of them, I'm a "upgrade" fanatic.. When the next big thing comes I got it.. As a hands on guy I loved anything I could 'dig into' so to speak. My only failing on that was Linux.. I loved the efficent OS, but man... by the time it was really robust there was simply no real reason to use it (ok yes, there where still some). Learning to use it was a blast, but it always seemed like there was something new to learn (good and bad, you get to a point where wanting to "do" starts to overshadow the fact I had to learn something new forever).
The Amiga was truley and amazing machine compared to its rivals.. if it had as much "productive" software as the rest it would have been what we are all using today. Multitasking.. Argubly a better GUI then mac (opinion only), simply an amazing machine compared overall when released.. to bad it degenerated into a game machine and scared off the Productivity users. it might be the only system/OS i hung onto even when I knew it was dying.. I resisted the Intel PC urge for a couple years and dogedly paid excessive amounts to upgrade my Amiga 500, 2000, then 3000.... My atari ST did some double duty at the time, but it never could match that Amiga.. it was good, but the amiga was great.
Consoles.. wow.. I dont have anything like Bill does.. but I do have all the ones I bought originaly with the boxes/manuals etc.. from my Bally to my last purchase the PS3... I had pretty much any of the american released ones. My 2600 was the first to really capture me.. sure the ones before entertianed, but not like the 2600, SPACE INVADERS!!!! real arcade games! (even if they only slightly resembled them).. but of that generation my Intelvisiion was still my favorite. the 2 Player games captured something that still resonds today, a Real player is better then any CPU AI. Utopia, Sea Battle, any of the sports games.. that was some true gameing fun. The coleco was awsome no doubt, but computers where taking over then. After that.. they where all pretty great, but never like the early years. Consoles where common then..and they all did the same games. it wasnt till the 3D craze hit that I really played alot again on consoles.. Toshiden, tekken, War Hawk, etc...

I do think there is some truth to the Amiga user loves PC thing.. it works in my case... But I dont think (again, ponion onlyh I sure cant tell wahts in anyones mind) any of is platform agnostic. We are human and we like things for strange reasons and no matter what we have love/like/hate/dislike for some stuff. I was a HUGE atari fan.. right up till the Atari XE Game system (still have my 130XE someplace)... a rebadged atari 400/800 :( After that I made one last attempt at the jaguar.. (still love iron solider, tempest 2000 and AvP).

Maybe that my hate for apple and MS.. my Apple IIE was the only one I liked.. the Apple III... that was some huge money wasted (and bought at closeout prices, maybe that should have been my first clue) the GS was not supported do it being a flop... I do have a LISA (also a huge mistake.. but I did buy it at a HUGE discount! like $800 back in the mid 80's... I even have a offer from Apple to trade it in on a mac plus in my folder of papers for it if I rember right). 3 Strikes your out (and you have proved Im an idoit for buying 3 flops in a row from same company)

there is your next topic.. tech support, do you hate devices you have to help people figure out?

Im biased.. and I have almost all system/platforms.. I think I tend to gravitate to what I find easy to use.. not only the interface.. but when I can make it do more with tinkering. Maybe that is a clue.. I have modded all my consoles that I can.. A wii with a HD and Coverflow.... no more swapping discs for my ADD game play session.. i can swap games in seconds.. My 360 plays pretty much any Media Format now, no more converting. My DroidX can hook to any monitor and a bluetooth keyboard and i have instant acces to anything at a size I can deal with and my Net connection is the phone. (yes I carry the cord with me in my car at all times so i have it a few steps away if iI need it). Alos it allows me ot put my apps on the SD card, but i did have to root the phone. I use MS windows and I dilike the company and its practices alot.. but hey, you gotta work with what they pay you to work with.. and as a gamer on PC's its the only game in town.

i think I like the stuff I get the most use out of.. maybe not the easiest to use, but use the most :) I know I prefer keyboard mouse controls so I love PC games.. there are a TON of great console games, but my frustration gets high useing the gamepad so I tend to play PC games.

I think there are so many reason I like and dislike some stuff.. and I know I have changed my mind several times.. I bought my 360 on launch day and hated it.. (probebly mostly as its a MS product and the XBOX had a pretty lackluster game set) but it has warmed on me.. I still prefer my dualshock.. and as Im not a HUGE console FPS fan.. prefer the exclusives on teh PS3.. i tend to play the 360 the most.. so my attitude on it has changed for sure.

I also think im a anti-anti guy.. if the world hates something i tend to sway the other way... I like to think cuz im logical and most "hate" for stuff is more a populartiy contest then real reasons, but much like the mob mentality... instead of joining the mob, im the idiot that joins the monster the mob is after...

Bill Loguidice
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Degrees
Matt Barton wrote:

For instance, Mac fans tend to be a lot more vocal about their support for Apple products than PC fans do about Microsoft's stuff. Linux fans, of course, are some of the most vocal and active, even going so far as to evangelize the movement and even spend their free time developing free software for it.

That's very true. It seems the smaller the market share (to a point, obviously it can be TOO small), the more vocal. The bigger the market share, the less vocal. I'm sure there are plenty of Windows fanboys, but it's like, why do they have to bother evangelizing a platform with something like 90% market share?

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Matt Barton
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You make some good points,

You make some good points, Bill. I do think there's a reason for fanboyism that goes beyond that, though. Platforms exist in competition with each other. Let's face it, most people won't buy both, so there is competition for limited resources. If you own a PS3 instead of a 360, naturally you'd like to see the PS3 get a huge adoption rate, which would lead to a lot more games and exclusives to choose from. If it gets marginalized, though, fewer publishers will bother with it, and it certainly won't get the maximum benefit from online community type stuff. I do appreciate your point about being a part of something--that explains why the members of the smallest, most marginalized platform tend to be the fiercest proponents and bond most tightly together.

For instance, Mac fans tend to be a lot more vocal about their support for Apple products than PC fans do about Microsoft's stuff. Linux fans, of course, are some of the most vocal and active, even going so far as to evangelize the movement and even spend their free time developing free software for it.

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Bill Loguidice
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I'm like Mark in that I'm truly platform agnostic

I'm like Mark in that I'm truly platform agnostic, and have been for many, many years. I simply love all platforms. Of course, it wasn't always like that, because as a kid I had limited access to platforms, which I think is the genesis of fanboyism--you don't like what you don't have and can't intimately understand (or, like Android users who hate Apple products, for instance, what you CHOOSE purposely not to like). I had an Atari 2600 and ColecoVision, so I had some jealousy of the Intellivision and Odyssey2, not really understanding the true pleasures of either platform. Having a C-64, I stuck my nose up at Atari 8-bit computers, and to a lesser degree Apple II computers, with their comparatively primitive audio-visuals. TI-99/4a users, forget about it. Etc. Same thing when I got my Amiga. I disparaged PC and Mac platforms (the ST was barely a blip here in the US for me to care about).

The bottom line is, it's all really silly if you think about it, but also very understandable in the scope of human nature. We all want to be part of something, be it planet Earth, the United States, New Jersey, or for our favorite sports team and against the nearest city's sports team. To me, if you really, truly love the subject/sport/activity, there's little to no room for overt dismissal of the "other" guys.

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