The Systems I Wish I'd Had and When

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Matt Barton's picture

Apple II: The mother of invention.Apple II: The mother of invention.They say hindsight is 20/20. (Actually, I think it's more like 10/40, but what can you do?) So, if you found yourself suddenly zapped back to the dawn of the videogame era, what choices would you make? Which systems would you rather have had? And what impact do you think these changes would make on your personality today?

Of course, most of us back then could only afford to support one, maybe two systems (assuming one was older). It would have been nice to have enough money and time to have all of them.

Now that I'm older and hopefully wiser, I've put together a list of the systems I wish I had had, and roughly when. I'd very much like to hear your thoughts and see your lists.

1977-1982: Apple II. There's really no doubt about the importance of this system during this period (and beyond), but it saw the birth of countless genres and franchises. Ideally, I would have been able to expand and keep this system after getting a new computer, since it was still seeing important exclusives well into the 80s, especially the Ultima games and Sierra On-Line adventures.

My second choice for this period would be the Atari 2600, a very capable games console with a respectable lineup and of course immense popularity.

1982-1985. Commodore 64. I did have this computer during this period and beyond, and am very happy about it. While it may not be as impressive to designers (ahem, Romero) as the Apple II, it was (IMO) a superior games machine. Again, the ideal would have been to have this AND an updated Apple II, but if it were one or the other, I'd have switched. The lineup was and remains incredible, with so many brilliant games, such as the Gold Box titles and hits from Lucasfilm Games.

My second choice here would be the Apple IIe. While gradually diminishing in importance, the platform still had lots of exciting exclusives and got most of the important ports.

Amiga 1000: Didn't have an Amiga? I'm sorry.Amiga 1000: Didn't have an Amiga? I'm sorry.1985-1990. Commodore Amiga 1000. This is really a no-brainer. You get almost all of the cool, gee-whiz multimedia stuff of the new Macintosh, plus thousands more games--and it was cheaper. Right out of the gate you had some awesome stuff, such as Defender of the Crown, Mindwalker, plus cool apps like Deluxe Paint and Deluxe Music.

A second choice here is difficult. On the one hand, there are some fairly good computer choices. the Macintosh is an obvious contender, even though the games library is weak. The Atari ST is a closer rival, with more games. On the other hand, the NES was available in 1985, and everybody knows what happened next. So, if I couldn't have the Amiga, I'd go with the NES here.

1990-1995. DOS. I might have been tempted to give the Amiga one more year, but by 1990 DOS gaming was already cooking with games like Wing Commander. Every year saw the DOS star shoot higher, eventually leaving the Amiga in the dust. The action was really great with adventure and RPG titles, some (but not all) of which were ported to the Amiga or cloned. Still, I wouldn't want to miss stuff like Ultima Underworld (1993), Arena (1994), and of course Doom (1993) if I could possibly help it!

I don't really see a viable alternative here, though I suppose you could get by with an SNES (1990) or Amiga 1200 (1992). Given those two choices, the SNES is probably the best choice game-wise.

Windows 95: Boring but popular. Where's Clippy?Windows 95: Boring but popular. Where's Clippy?1995-2001. Windows 95. I know a lot of people resisted the move from DOS to Windows, but I would have happily jumped on the bandwagon in 95. I would have been fine skipping 3.1. A lot of games were becoming Windows only at this point anyway. This is probably the heyday of modern PC gaming during this period, though the consoles were catching up. MMORPGs were heating up, too, with Ultima Online in 1997 and EverQuest in 1999.

A very strong contender here for second place is the Sony PlayStation for the latter half of the decade and a mandatory switch to the PS2 in 1999. The PS2 would have continued to be a good choice really until the next gen, when I would've switched to the 360.

2001-2005. Windows XP. It's very tempting to want to go with a PlayStation2 or an Xbox at this point; it's a tough call. Still, there were plenty of great games exclusive or at least enhanced for this platform, and it's unquestionably far superior to Windows 95 in almost every way. BioWare released Neverwinter Nights in 2002, and Bethesda released Morrowind the same year. There were also (of course) plenty of great shooters and strategy games like Civilization III (2001). Who'd want to miss that?

Second choice: Definitely a PS2.

Xbox 360: If you can't beat'em...Xbox 360: If you can't beat'em...2005-present. Xbox 360. I probably would have waited until 2006 or possibly 2007 to make this move, and of course would want to keep my XP machine around for internet, MMORPGs, and productivity stuff. Still, the really exciting stuff was moving to consoles, and the 360 seems like the best choice.

Looking towards the future, it seems like the next step would be either to go back to the PC to take advantage of the generation gap, or stick around and enjoy the games made by developers who've had plenty of time to optimize their code for the platform. If you're just bored with the 360's lineup, you could always swap it for a PS3.

I'm guessing the next gen will make the PC seem like a more desirable option again, especially if the new consoles are expensive and don't offer as noticeable an improvement as we got from the Xbox to the 360 or PS2 to PS3. Still, that would require developers and publishers to focus on the PC first and then port their games to these consoles, something I don't see happening anytime soon.

In Matt's bizzaro world, the new 360 would run some form of Windows and include a wireless keyboard, and/or perhaps some kind of Kinect-based control scheme. Then the same game you buy for the 360+ would also run on a capable PC. This would allow developers to support both a PC and console market, since all they'd have to do is make sure it could be degraded to run smoothly on the platform. Hey, I said it was bizarro world, didn't I?


Joined: 01/21/2009
I can agree with um all

I can agree with um all except the last one.. I still feel the PC is the best gaming platform for the ( i wont say hardcore) GAMER.. it has the best control options, specialty flight controls, gamepads, mouse keyboards.. By far the largest gameing library. Where it might show some issues, is the consoles now own the "exclusive" area (whivh is quickly fading) so some game will not show on PC's. While we wont all agree i feel teh most interesting games right now are the Indie stuff, and pretty much all of it is on the PC.. the consoles have a few that are not, but eh PC has MANY indie games that will never see console play. Depending on how you see certian game styles this can be swayed either way. Ther is no doubt the current consoles are incredible games machens, have HUGE libraries of game, and have encrouched ont eh PC "online" foothold to a point the PC is secondary. If we are basing it purley on ease of use, comfort when play ( i sitll perfer my cahir to a couch but Im moniority on that) I cant argue, but 200-300 PURE shooters is just not a compelling library for me.. and YES im exagerating... but the PC still gets the largest spread of games. But in the end.. if i recomended somethign to a friend lookign for "gameing" i would probebly do just what you said and say "360"

I like the rest of you was an AMIGA nut and I dont say FANBOY as it was not blind love, but very well thought out love for a system that has quite a sstrong feature set compared to ist competitors. When games Like Wing Commander and yep Ultima Undwerworld came out.. they where game changers.. I knew the Amiga 500 didnt (at that time) have horsepower to do that.. yes as Matt metnioned the 3000 could.. but the Amiga while awosme at tits time was slowly(as it aged) losing ground do to graphic limitations and trying to adhear to a format the 500 (no upgrades) could withstand. If the AMIGA had hte option to upgrade ate h standard Intel PC did.. it might have lasted a bit longer.. sure the 1000, 2000, and 3000 could be upgraded.. but the devolpers where all hamstrung by keeping that wonder full ( but aging) 500 in the mix. I saw the writing on the wall.. The $2000 PC was a HUGE jump for me.. but i have never been unhappy with it..

As im a bit older then most of you I was lucky.. I had most consoles and most PC's (major brands).. and my addiction to this ment I picked up alot of closeouts when the stuff was dyuing its slow deaths. Apple GS, Lisa, I have a amiga 4000 even.. but not my trusty 500.. Still have my original c-64 and its box and all contentes from purchase.. and my atari 400.. and a 800.. errr nothing Like bills collection, but most of mine where bought when they where still in stores.. barely (most where closeouts).. I HAVE had every console sicne the 2600... I ALMOST skipped the Wii this gen.. but got one of those too..

Yep tht list shows the cream of the gaming crop.. i can agree.

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
This from one of my Google+

This from one of my Google+ friends:'

Chris Anderson wrote:

As someone who isn't super fond of consoles, I kinda disagree with the X-Box at the end, but I know that's personal preference.

As for windows running on the next console... don't be surprised if it does. Windows 8 is specifically designed to run on both tablets and PC's. This is a huge draw for developers as it means writing an ap or game on one, it plays on both (presuming hardware is up to it).

Push that a step further with a windows 8 running on your console, with just some propriatary hardware, and you have the home media center box windows has been trying to sneak in for years. The 360 is super, super close. But not quite there. The next one just might be.

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Joined: 12/31/1969
Sorry, anyone who spells Xbox

Sorry, anyone who spells Xbox "X-Box" clearly doesn't even know consoles, so I think it goes a little beyond just not being fond of them. There is also no way the next Xbox will run Windows. It doesn't need the overhead. Much like Windows Phone and Windows 8 share the same interface style, so too will the next Xbox, but like those two, the internals will be different. In fact, next month's major Xbox 360 software update will already have a strong Metro-style aesthetic.

There is also no way Windows 8 PC's will run 360 software, let alone its successor's software. Too many variables. Besides, Microsoft is having plenty of success keeping the product lines separate.

davyK's picture
Joined: 05/21/2006
While I kind of agree with

While I kind of agree with the earlier selections I find picking anything from SNES/Megadrive onward pointless. There are strong contenders but there have been too many brilliant exclusive games for me to able to hand-on-heart pick one platform from a generation, never mind an era. That's what makes this hobby so wonderful.

Joined: 03/23/2008
The systems I did have and when

Dates are approximate due to bad memory. :)

1980 - TRS-80 Model 1
1982 - TRS-80 Model 3
1984 - Atari 800 XL
1985 - IBM PC AT. The PC had a Hercules graphic card.
1986 - Commodore 128
1987 - Sega Master System
1988 - Nintendo Entertainment System (I never owned another console after this until the Xbox 360 which I won at a Microsoft conference. I then picked up a Wii and a DS Lite, and someone gave me his original XBox that he was getting rid of).
1989 - Intel 386-DX based machine with VGA and an original Sound Blaster card
1992 - Intel 486-based machine with Super VGA, a 2x CD-ROM, and a Sound Blaster 16 card

From there I went on to more advanced PCs and eventually laptops instead of desktops.

Thanks Dad!!!

PS - My Dad had an opportunity to get an Apple 2 for free in the mid-80s, but I remember that he wouldn't take it because he thought it was inferior to the other machines on the market. I wanted him to take it anyway but he talked me out of it. :)

Rowdy Rob
Rowdy Rob's picture
Joined: 09/04/2006
The older I get....

The older I get, the more satisfied I am with the gaming/computer systems I chose. I can't say I have any burning regrets, but I admit my choices limited my gaming experiences.

I can't offer any timelines, but the ONE major system I feel I really missed out on was the Commodore 64! Since most (all?) of you had the privilege of owning a C64, you know what a rich gaming platform it was. I had extremely little C64 experience in my lifetime. I went with the Atari 800, then the 800XL, then 130XE.

I don't regret the Atari choice, but I wonder what kind of impact the C64 would have had one me. How much of a different person would I have become if I went with that system? After all, my Ataris and Amigas (500 and 1200) had major impacts on my life!

I had access to TRS-80's and Apple II's at school, and spent probably as much time gaming on them as I did my Atari at home, so I didn't really miss them. I played most of the classic games on those systems.

Okay, a list here:

1. Commodore 64
2. Colecovision
3. Super NES (easily my favorite classic console)

I experienced the Amiga, so that trumps any "missed" stuff, so I can't say I feel much regret. Except the C64..... that was a MAJOR hole in my experiences!

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
The Worst Systems and When
Rowdy Rob wrote:

The older I get, the more satisfied I am with the gaming/computer systems I chose. I can't say I have any burning regrets, but I admit my choices limited my gaming experiences.
I experienced the Amiga, so that trumps any "missed" stuff, so I can't say I feel much regret. Except the C64..... that was a MAJOR hole in my experiences!

Reading your post, Rob, I started wondering what would be the worst systems to own at any particular point. Assuming a reasonably intelligent and knowledgeable person (i.e., not a determined idiot), what were the wrong choices to make...Choices that would have seemed perfectly viable or at least rational at the time, but turned out to be terrible? Let me repeat: this is not the worst picks possible, but the worst picks that a reasonably well-informed consumer might make given the information available at the time of purchase.

This is probably worth a separate article, and Bill is probably a better person to write it than me. Still, here's what I'm thinking at the moment, given five year increments and starting in 1977:

1977-1982: TRS-80. I could probably find a worse choice for this slot, but again, I'm assuming a real consumer who would have considered the options and went for what seemed like a sound choice. Radio Shack was and is a company with a good reputation for techie stuff, and would have seemed like a very strong contender over the then-unknown Apple and Commodore brands.

However, we all know the games selection quickly paled in comparison to stronger platforms, and there were plenty of technical limitations that limited what was capable game-wise.

1982-1987. Texas Instruments TI-99/4A. Another platform that would have seemed at the time quit viable, especially with Texas Instruments' dominance in the calculator market. Seems like a logical conclusion that anyone so good at making calculators would also be good at making computers. And there were some good games for this system (as with the TRS-80, but overall it never came close to the C-64.

1987-1992. Apple IIGS. Really not a bad choice in many regards, but outside of the hardcore Apple community, who wouldn't rather have an Amiga or Atari ST? It wouldn't be an epic disaster, but you'd probably soon wish you have gone with one of those other systems, or even a Mac or DOS machine.

I debated listing the NeXT Computer here. I'm fudging the years here a bit, but this seems like a true disaster from a gamer's perspective. It's a big stretch, too, since as far as I know there were no claims about it being a good choice for gamers.

1992-1997. TurboGrafx-16. So you say, TO HELL WITH COMPUTERS, and pick up this thing. After all, it has the best graphics and such, right? Some people still swear by this system, but let's face it, you'd still probably be better off with an SNES or Genesis. An even worse choice for the latter half of this era is the Apple Bandai Pippin (1995-1997).

1997-2003. Sega Saturn. Another reasonable assumption; surely a console from Sega would be a good choice. It must have sucked, though, to hear that the system had been discontinued only a year after you bought it. Even if you waited two years and got a Dreamcast instead, you'd still be dismayed to see the platform crash and burn.

2003-2008. Seems like you'd have to go pretty far out of your way to really screw up bad in this era. I guess some might consider the Nintendo Gamecube a failure, though that seems more a matter of opinion. I suppose, also, you could have gone with a LINUX machine, though that seems pretty far fetched. I assume if you had the tech knowledge to know about that option, you'd know what you were getting into.

From a purely gamers' perspective, you could list the Mac here and earlier. Definitely a capable system, but not a lot of games.

2008-. Again, it seems hard to argue with just about any of the modern gaming platforms or computers. Even Macs have a decent supply of games to choose from, though of course you're still better off in that regard with a Windows box. All the available consoles seem to be doing reasonably well; it wouldn't be a "disaster" no matter which you went with.

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Joined: 12/31/1969
Worst of the informed picks for games-centric systems

Worst of the informed picks, assuming you could pick only one console and one computer (again, top of my head, I'd probably want to give it a bit more thought):

1976 - 1981: Any custom CP/M machine (any of the big three had plenty of games at this time); Fairchild VES (it was first, but never evolved like the Atari 2600)

1981 - 1986: Timex Sinclair 2068 (you might have reasonably expected a steady stream of Spectrum conversions); Vectrex (so much promise, but lived too soon)

1986 - 1991: Apple Macintosh (seemed like a safe bet, but never much for games, and you might have chosen a black and white system); Atari 7800 (never lived up to the potential of the NES or SMS)

1991 - 1996: Amiga AGA (too little, too late); 3DO (so many manufacturers supporting it initially, but it never achieved critical mass)

1996 - 2001: Not much left to choose from at this point, so you could go BeOS, Linux, or even Macintosh; Sega Saturn (never matched the PS1)

2001 - 2007: As Macs moved to Intel architecture, it was less and less a poor choice, so again, something like an alternative Linux OS; Dreamcast (quickly overshadowed by the PS2)

2007 - 2012: (same as previous five years); You could argue the Wii would be a bad choice here, because the games have dried up in the past year or so

Rowdy Rob
Rowdy Rob's picture
Joined: 09/04/2006
"Reasonable" choices, and the WORST ALL-TIME CHOICE.
Matt Barton wrote:

Reading your post, Rob, I started wondering what would be the worst systems to own at any particular point. Assuming a reasonably intelligent and knowledgeable person (i.e., not a determined idiot), what were the wrong choices to make...Choices that would have seemed perfectly viable or at least rational at the time, but turned out to be terrible? Let me repeat: this is not the worst picks possible, but the worst picks that a reasonably well-informed consumer might make given the information available at the time of purchase.

Hmm.... this is actually a really tough one, Matt. Considering how many competing platforms with wildly different specs were available in the late-70's/early-80's, and also considering that new platforms were dramatically introduced back then on a yearly basis, it seems like a five-year window is a LONG time to consider for that era!

Seriously, you were taking a chance no matter which platform you went with, and you didn't really know what was going to happen in the future. Even the best-informed decision could have ended up "wrong." And the dumb kid next door could have lucked out when his parents bought him the Commodore 64 just because it was cheaper than the others!

For example, when I purchased the Atari 800, the C64 didn't even exist until at least a year later. I'm not entirely certain that even the VIC-20 was available! The only realistic choices were the TRS-80, the Apple II, the VIC-20, and the Atari 8-bits (I'm not sure about the TI-99 or the PET as realistic choices). Considering those choices, I think the Atari was the right decision from a gaming perspective. Given those choices, and assuming that you were a kid that didn't want to wait until you graduated high school to own a computer, I think most of you would agree that the Atari was the right choice, considering it was the closest to a C64. But from "historical" eyes, it was the "wrong" decision, with the "right" ones being either the Apple II or C64 platforms.

Matt Barton wrote:

This is probably worth a separate article, and Bill is probably a better person to write it than me. Still, here's what I'm thinking at the moment, given five year increments and starting in 1977:

It might have been better to start a new article, but what the heck. :-)

I'm very bad with yearly delineations, so I'll try it this way: I will list what I see as the "reasonable" choices of that competitive time-frame, and name what I consider the losing platform.

1. Atari 2600, Mattel Intellivision, Magnavox Odyssey 2. Loser: Odyssey 2

2. TRS-80, Apple II, Atari 8-bit, VIC-20. Loser: TRS-80

3. Colecovision, Atari 5200. Loser: Atari 5200

4. Apple II, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64, TI-99/4A, Coleco Adam, Tandy Color Computer. Loser: Coleco Adam

5. Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Sega Master System. Loser: Sega Master System.

6. Phillips CD-i, Commodore CDTV. Loser: YOU!

7. Apple Macintosh, Apple IIGS, Atari ST, Commodore Amiga. Loser: Commodore Amiga. Just kidding. Loser: Apple IIGS.

8. Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, NEC Turbo Grafx. Loser: NEC Turbo Grafx.

9. Atari Lynx, Sega Game Gear, Nintendo Gameboy. Loser: Atari Lynx.

10. 3DO, Playstation, Atari Jaguar, Sega Saturn. Loser: Atari Jaguar.

I left out many possible platforms here because I don't recall when they were released exactly, or I doubted their "reasonability," even if they were technically great platforms on paper. For example: I'm not sure where to put the Atari 7800 because of it's complicated release timeline. Others, like the Fairchild console, it's hard to say if it was ever "reasonable" because it appeared to be relatively unknown. Still others, like the NeXT and Apple Lisa, were so expensive that it's not "reasonable" for the average consumer to have considered them. And the Coleco Adam, it's hard to say if they were "reasonable" or not, since it was practically D.O.A. when released, even considering its competitive specs.

Now that I think about it, perhaps the Coleco Adam is the WORST CHOICE OF ALL TIME as far as "viable" choices are concerned. Many of the other "worsts" were either obscure, poorly marketed, or appealed to niche crowds, or just "flip-of-the-coin" choices, but the Adam was actually VERY reasonable to consider! It was already compatible with the very popular Colecovision console, it had very decent specs, it had great build-up hype, it came with a letter-quality printer, and it was competitively priced. How could you lose? The Adam seemed like such a viable machine pre-launch that I was actually afraid of it, being an Atari fanboy! I can definitely see a smart, informed person pre-ordering the Adam during this critical computing era!

But then it died! Poof! What happened? Now you were stuck.

Ok, I've droned on long enough, so I'll leave you with that. But this was fun to think about!

Eigen Lenk (not verified)
I'm reading your comments and

I'm reading your comments and I'm really envious. I wish I had had anything. I was born in 87 and the first computer I ever touched was an IMB XT with a green monitor in late 92 maybe. Then for a short while I had an 286 with CGA graphics. Oh joy. The first glimpse of real colors I ever got was with an 396 with VGA in 94.

There were definitely no Commodores, Ataris or Apples around here back then (that is, an ex-soviet country having been independent for a few years). There were cheap NES-like consoles around for which you could buy cartridges of 300 games on them but it wasn't something I wanted to own .. my friends had them but once I had DOOM running on my 386 with sound blaster blasting the sound, I was the go-to guy when I came to games. And my parents grew tired of bunch of kids always hanging around.

Had I lived in the western part of the world I would've probably wanted to own an Apple II, too.

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