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?

Comments

Jackie P. Emerson (not verified)
Possible ST Superiority
clok1966 wrote:

Well im a fan of the netbook.. over my Ipad or Iphone.. not over my laptop though.. Im not sure what the speed deal is.. My netbook plays WoW (and other modern games just fine if the strange screen size is supported).. But im not a fan of anything that is considerbly less powerfull then my HOME pc.. so laptops are my second choice by far.. But Im not to concerned with portabliity.. if I need to work I take some thing that can do all things, not just some.. my laptop.. as for just junk (email) stuff.. i prefer a real keyboard.. always will.. Im going to be the crusty old guy who wont adjust to virtual keyboards, or screen.. I just know it.. :)

as for the Amiga AtariST thing.. I have no idea but I was wondring which sold more.. couldnt find any concret figures ( and sales do not equal better) as a woner of both in their prime Im an AMIGA fan.. so i cant andd anythign unbiased myslef.. I know the Midi thing was huge for the ATARI and the better screen was a big thing but not in the USA.. seems 75% o all ST's where sold in Eroupe. while the Amiga was bit more "even" in sales worldwide.. still the USA was not much stronger for the AMIGA then the ST. The MIDI port was nice, but to use it cost you well over the price of the computer so other hen hardcoer music people it wasnt used till very late in its life when MIDI stuff was MUCH cheaper. The Amiga actually had cheaper Midi addons then the ST earlier to combat the ST better abilities.. so in the end it was actually cheaper to use the AMIGA (but most did not) The amiga had a big following in Video.. Babyalon 5 (sci fi show) used them for the special effects.. while not movie quality they where fairly impressive for hte time from a $500 computer. The ST has a 1Mhz faster processer.. today thats nothing but at the time.. it was an Edge. percived at least.. I doubt any game (or prodcutivity software) could show you any diffrence. The ST came out sooner and had a bigger folloing earlier so MANY of its titles where ported to teh AMIGA.. which made many games look better on the ST.. the same can be said for this 360=PS3 generation.. made on one ported to the other) but in the end, tHe amiga built steam and had better sales for a prolonged time and soon the oppsite was true, the Amiga got it first the ST later.. The Atari ST was killed by ATARI due to lack of sales.. the Amiga was still selling ok (but the writing was on the wall, in the US it was all but done, but it held on in Eroupe much longer) but died about a year later due to a mismanged company .

I will be honest I prefer the amiga for gaming reasons.. and the OS was just easier to use for me.. Also the MUSIC store carried the ST, the computer store carried the Amiga.. lets jsut say games whre not plentifull in the MUSIC store.. I would guess in another country whre it sold better the the ST would have been more a consideration for me.. I alos like the Amiga had upgrades that where much cheaper. I had a quantum box that added to my amiga adding 2 megs of ram, and it bumped my processer up in speed too... it wsa $1200 bare and cost anotehr $700 for hte Processor upgrade, HD and Ram).. the Atari one was almost 1/3rd more.. and it didnt upgrade the CPU at all.

Old crustacean to the rescue again.

The Atari ST's MIDI port was widely used beyond just the musical applications. MIDI Maze was an extremely popular multiplayer first-person shooter game that allowed up to sixteen people to play it at one time. That's right 16 thanks to a music port. That was the intelligence of the design. This was out before ID software's Doom and Wolfenstein 3D. Its a shame that few outside of the ST community has heard of it. The Amiga had nothing like it.

There is a video on YouTube that shows comparisons of ST vs. Amiga games, in all but a few cases the ST clearly is the winner. This is mostly due to the increased memory (the Amiga 1000 had only 256 K of RAM) compared to the 520ST with 512 K. The 520ST+ had a full MB. There's really no comparison. Hundreds of games people think are Amiga games are really ST games, such as Dungeon Master and Star Glider.

I could go on and on but you get the point. I strongly suggest doing a side by side comparison if you have both machines. Unless the Amiga is enhanced with third party devices, you will come to the same conclusion. Amiga users like to claim that 4,096 colors is standard, but that is using a cheat called HAM and no games used it. In fact the actual colors are only 4 in high-resolution.

About the ST interface, it is GEM, and it was the first Windows. That's right, even before Microsoft or Macintosh. Commodore just ripped it off along with the rest.

Also, Babylon 5 was made with Silicon Graphic Workstations, not Amiga. Only part of the pilot was made with Amigas, and that pilot has the worst graphics of the entire series. It was so bad some of the actors quit over it and are not seen in the first episode.

Not meaning to insult anyone here, just prefer facts to opinions.

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Crusty is the Right for It
Jackie P. Emerson wrote:

Not meaning to insult anyone here, just prefer facts to opinions.

Give me a break. It's a bit ridiculous (to say the least) of accusing all of us of being Commodore fanboys, and then making it painfully clear that you're only a fanboy of a slightly different stripe.

I found the video you were talking about but couldn't seem to find it. I do recall watching something like that before, so perhaps it was taken down? But I did find this:

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Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Your fanboy is showing again...

Wrong again, Jackie, but what else is new? In common usage, the Amiga displayed 32 onscreen colors (sometimes as many as 64) with no issues, while the Atari ST could only do 16 onscreen colors. That's why Amiga games look superior. The Amiga also had far superior sound. Those are facts. Also a fact is that they were fairly similar in terms of memory, with most software requiring 512k - 1MB of RAM, which both platforms had in abundance.

Look, it's one thing to like or even prefer the ST - heck, some prefer the ZX Spectrum to the C-64 - but trying to say the ST is somehow more powerful than the Amiga is grasping at straws. Why not try a different tactic, like the MIDI thing - which again, few people could take advantage of - or the fact that there was a transportable model or something, which the Amiga side lacked. Something, anything, just not the ridiculous statements that you're making. We get it, you don't like Commodore and you love Atari. No one cares. It's tedious. Again, all you need to know is that Atari's first choice was to have the Amiga technology, but Commodore swept in at the last minute and took the company's assets instead, leaving Atari with a platform that couldn't do true multitasking and had inferior sound and graphics. It sure was great competition for the Mac, though, particularly at the competitive price point. Again, facts.

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Rowdy Rob
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Joined: 09/04/2006
Trolling
Jackie P. Emerson wrote:

Also, Babylon 5 was made with Silicon Graphic Workstations, not Amiga. Only part of the pilot was made with Amigas, and that pilot has the worst graphics of the entire series. It was so bad some of the actors quit over it and are not seen in the first episode.

Not meaning to insult anyone here, just prefer facts to opinions.

You are obviously trolling. A simple Google search should turn up all the evidence needed to prove Amigas, using Lightwave, were indeed used in Babylon 5's pilot and first season for CGI FX.

You already knew that, and are just here to stir up BS.

Jackie P. Emerson (not verified)
Change the name of the site

How typical. SO I'm just a troll because I'm not impressed with the Amiga, no need to consider my actual post. HOW CONVENIENT.

Change the name of this site to Amiga Arcade. Why call it a forum if you just want to preach to the choir? Any Commodore fanboy will obviously agree with you, but if someone disagrees, there just "wrong" and a "troll." If I were writing about how great the Amiga is, nobody would be calling me a troll. I'm too old to be offended by that nonsense, but if you want a good discussion board, you respect other opinions than your own, no matter how right you think you are. Go to the Atari sites and see what people think about the Amiga. You wont' see them saying its superiority is a fact.

I can't stand hypocrites. If you are Commodore blowhards, fine, but dont pretend to be a complete history as the site claims. If you are incapable of seeing how revolutionary the ST was, you have NO business calling yourself a history site.

Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
I'm not sure what your

I'm not sure what your problem is, but we love all systems here. We also love facts, something you're clearly averse to. Our posts and history showcase both those things clearly. You'll never get it though apparently, so you may as well find a nice Atari site where the facts don't matter and you can validate your sincerest wish that Atari is always best, no matter what.

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Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
I don't know, Bill, his

I don't know, Bill, his effective arguments worked on me. Who needs facts when you got that kind of people skills? Great strategy--burst onto a forum where you know nobody and call them all idiots. That'll win them over to your view!

Maybe you don't realize how abrasive you seem. I sometimes stick my foot in my mouth, too, but in general try to remember that if you want to be persuasive, don't be offensive! If you can't be genuine about it, at least pretend to be respectful of who you're talking to. You seem to have that "everyone but me is an idiot" mentality that I've encountered from time to time in unpleasant people.

My guess is that you're so defensive about the ST because somehow you identify with it and want to see it live on, glorified. It's a strange coincidence but I was just reading about "terror management" in a book on Immersion. I won't go into the details, but it amounts people fearing death and wanting to be attached to something they perceive will live on forever, such as their country (patriotism) or religion. Nobody wants to feel like when they die they'll just be forgotten and their legacy is worthless. Maybe for you Atari is like that; those computers mean so much to you because you feel that if it turns out they're not so great, you lose part of your legacy.

It's probably why most of us here on this site--because we grew up with this stuff that the majority of humanity thinks is a useless hobby, and even modern gamers probably see us foolish for being so into "obsolete" games. In other words, part of US is deemed worthless by society. We could decide to view that time as a waste; "Oh, man, why did I have to waste my youth playing videogames when I could have been doing something worthwhile!!"

Why settle for that? Here, you're among friends who value old platforms and games, not just the ST or Amiga but all of them. Nobody here thinks the time you put into your Atari machines was worthless! Indeed, I'm sure we'd all love to read about your experiences and compare them to our own.

Why not see a positive? Regardless of whether Amiga or ST or whatever is better in some objective sense (I for one think that whole argument is ludicrous), why not feel special because you DID have so much access and knowledge to platforms that many of us didn't? One thing I HATE about modern gaming is the limited number of platforms. Back in the 80s you had so many options. My original post here was to stimulate discussion of what platforms you wish you had chosen; that's all. Even if you were "stuck" with a Coleco Adam or a TRS-80, that just makes you more interesting as a gamer because your experiences make you stand out. Would things really be that much better if everyone had Atari computers only and the other companies didn't exist? I certainly don't think so.

At any rate, now I'm wondering if my original post and the "worst of" lists may have been misguided. Perhaps a better post would have been about which platforms were the most interesting at any given point, not necessarily which ones had the most games or most colors or whatever. I imagine that Coleco Adam guy always has an interesting story to tell about his early days of computing that many of us would envy.

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Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Waxing poetic about videogames, computers, and technology
Matt Barton wrote:

At any rate, now I'm wondering if my original post and the "worst of" lists may have been misguided. Perhaps a better post would have been about which platforms were the most interesting at any given point, not necessarily which ones had the most games or most colors or whatever. I imagine that Coleco Adam guy always has an interesting story to tell about his early days of computing that many of us would envy.

Wonderful point. That's why I collect every system like I do. While not every system might have been great, every system had interesting, unique things about it. That's a big part of why this hobby, this interest, this passion, whatever you want to call it that we have, is so special--there are so many unique ways to enjoy it.

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