What's your favorite vintage computer company?

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Mark Vergeer
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Apple II had great potential

The way the Apple II was expandable was great, all these carts that were available for it. The downside to that is that in my view most software was only written for the standard non-expanded AppleII despite all it's great ISA like expansion slot-capabilities. The AppleII was not a mainstream machine here in the Netherlands during it's peak. Mostly because of the cost aspects and the small graphics capabilities. Here we mostly had AtariXL, ZX Spectrum, C64, MSX in the 8-bit era.

Like the AppleII, CBM documented it's C64 in a wonderfull hardware-software themed "programmer's reference guide" which also featured detailed schematics of the C64 made the machine one of the most ultimate coding machines alongside the AppleII. Indeed the lack of multiple colours on the AppleII was offputting.

-= Mark Vergeer - Armchair Arcade editor =-

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Bill Loguidice
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Apple and $$$ and More thoughts on the platform

Apple was famous for their 30% profit margins on hardware right through the Macintosh era. Initially, with the first Apple II's, it probably was partially a case of cost, but the Apple II line retained its high relative cost right through the 90's, when it would be hard to argue that component pricing wouldn't have dropped significantly.

Commodore was able to keep things so cheap of course and have continous amazing price drops because they manufactured much of the hardware inside their systems. Most other companies were unable to keep up with these price drops and stay profitable, which is one of the factors in the demise of system's like the TI-994/a.

By the way, while the Apple II line was quite underpowered in regards to visuals (despite several different color and hi-res modes) and sound (internal beeper), one of the nice features of the system and one that no doubt contributed to its value as a programming platform was the fact that courtesy of Steve Wozniak, the architecture was intimately documented. This was in contrast to companies like Atari, who kept a lot of the feature knowledge of their 8-bit lines of systems to themselves, creating a disparity for a number of years between first party and third party title quality. Texas Instruments was even worse in this regard. In any case, poor base game playing ability or not, the Apple II was immensely influential to a shockingly high number of even modern day developers and industry insiders, many of whom got their starts on the platform.

Finally, one last thing in the platform's favor was easy expandability. While many of the low cost systems of the day like the C-64 got by on relatively clunky external add-ons, the Apple II line used internal slots and plug-in cards. For all its faults, it was quite flexible. I still marvel at having two Mockingboards in one of my Apple computers that provides 12 channels of sound, among other features! (of course that would cost you a small fortune in the early 80's)

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
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Matt Barton
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Apple II

I have pretty much the same feelings towards the Apple II. The only time I was exposed to them was at school, and that was strictly to play really dumb educational games. Historically, it was a very important system, and so many of the best games (or at least their predecessors) were created for it. This is especially true of adventure games.

I just wonder why the Apple was always so darned expensive. Is it really a question of expensive components, or are they just elitist?

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Seb
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Apple

I probably would've loved the Apple II. It's a great system. Unfortunately it was underfeatured and overpriced compared to the other 8-bit computers.

Matt Barton
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The Vic-20

About the only thing I can remember doing with my dad's Vic-20 was playing games on cartridges. I definitely played my share of Jupiter Lander. However, we soon upgraded to a Commodore 64, and my memories get blurred between the two systems at that point. I seem to remember playing Gorf and some kind of educational game (Microids? Something like that, anyway), but I can't remember if that was on the 64 or the Vic-20.

I've never met anyone who claimed to prefer the Vic-20 to the C-64, though, so I'm guessing it's not that big of a deal that I can't remember it very well. :-)

What I find interesting about the poll is how few people voted for Apple. I guess that makes sense, since the Commodore definitely had a better reputation for arcade-style games (the Apple II ruled in adventure games and educational software). I still contend that the Amiga was the first true multimedia system, even if was underappreciated even by Commodore.

The funny thing is, it seems that many Atari and Tandy owners sound very much like Amigans when they start ranting about how poorly the parent company took care of their beloved systems. The usual story is that these systems were actually far ahead of their time, but bungled management and pisspoor marketing and the like prevented them from achieving dominance. I was really enjoying reading about the Tandy CoCo on Wikipedia--you can tell the pages are written by diehard CoCo heads who still have lots of pride in the system (and nothing but hate for Tandy and RadioShack, who they see as ruining it). I've yet to really seriously study the Atari side of things, but my guess is I'll see the same "the management screwed us" mentality there.

Commodore definitely had smart people pushing units back in the 64 days, but, honestly, it would take a dumbass to screw up as badly as they did with the Amiga. I tend to think that a trained chimp could've achieved market dominance with that system. The fact that so few people have even heard of the system today says a lot about the gravity of the mistakes made by Commodore in marketing it.

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Catatonic
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Joined: 05/20/2006
Commodore

Where I grew up, the schools always had Commodores. Everyone loved the C64's with Carmen Sandiego and that Donald Duck game where you build a playground.

That VIC-20 demo is impressive. My first computer was a VIC-20 and it never managed to accomplish much of anything!

Seb
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Colors, colors

"Seb, because certainly the Atari 8-bits were capable of more on-screen color and shade variations than the Commodore 64"

Yep, they had more shade variations.. but if you wanted 16 colors on-screen at the time on the Atari you were limited to graphic mode 11 at a resolution of 80 x 192. Not exactly the 16 colors in full 320 x 200 the C64 was capable of. The highest resolution on the Atari was 320 x 192 (Mode 8).. with gave you one color. Alternate Reality the City was the only game who really pushed the color capabilities of the machine, but it was a hack more than anything else...

Speaking of Commodore, check out this Vic-20 demo:
http://video.google.co.uk/videoplay?docid=2257185102604066329&q=vic-20

Bill Loguidice
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Atari versus Commodore

It's interesting that you mention color, Seb, because certainly the Atari 8-bits were capable of more on-screen color and shade variations than the Commodore 64, but like many system lines that had a "low end" and a "high end", many games were targeted to the low end, a la Atari 400 and 600XL versus Atari 800 and 800XL. If Atari had stopped the low end systems at the 400 and just made 800-series or better systems, I suspect software would have been far more reflective of the system's full capabilities, which, when optimally used, could exceed nearly any other standard 8-bit's features in regards to visuals and audio.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
[ My collection ]
[ http://www.MythCore.com ]

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Seb
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Even though I'm a huge Atari

Even though I'm a huge Atari fan (especially their 8-bit computers), I have to say Commodore. Atari always was "too little, too late".. the XE line was such a big disappointment. Instead of getting a real upgrade to at least match the C64 in the visual dept (16 colors on-screen would've been nice!), all we got was a bit more ram, and a crappy keyboard... If you were into games, Commodore was it. They also owned the late 80s and early 90s with the Amiga... yep, Commodore.

Bill Loguidice
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Great computer companies

While the list is US-centric, I believe it captures a good spectrum of notable companies. Perhaps including Texas Instruments and Sinclair would have rounded it out further, but nevertheless, save for IBM, each of the listed companies released multiple distinct systems.

I chose Commodore, simply because they were so important to my childhood and the fact that I own every system they released in the US, save for every PET variation (I only have two SuperPET's, one complete). I have a soft spot for all those companies and in fact even like early DOS-like systems, which had variable compatibility. Those systems are actually quite collectible and have the personality that later PC-compatible systems lacked. As for IBM, the original IBM 5150 - the first PC that spawned an entire industry - is highly collectible, sometimes going for a few hundred dollars if it has sufficient original components with it. Eventually I'd like to own one of those, even though I have an IBM transportable, which is rather nifty, as well as several early 80's clones and workalikes.

=================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
[ My collection ]
[ http://www.MythCore.com ]

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