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Thread: Any "Ultimate Game Consoles Guide"?

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by gamevet View Post
    Yeah, there were companies that tried to get into the videogame market, including Coleco and their version of a pong machine.
    And they did, many selling quite well against atari's pong...

    BUT that market got tired out and died rather quickly after '77... unfortunately too many were pushing pong clones/varients (most of Coleco's Tellstar line) and too few of other games. Coleco had Tank (and the Tellstar Arcade), but that was obscured by many others.

    HOWEVER, none of that has anything to do with blocking NMOS chips, and looking at that video again: even in the context Nolan describes it, it's pretty clear he's talking about CUSTOM NMOS ICs, NOT CPUs being manufactured.
    And even that is rather unclear in terms of long-term significance. (hardware capability, marketing, price point, and software were critical)
    I posted a thread regarding this on atariage, but I haven't gotten a proper answer yet.

    As for the Astrocade, yes, I'd imagine it was rather expensive by comparison (especially back in '77, but should have gotten much more competitive as RAM prices fell), though the Intellivision was in that same price range (not sure about the Odyssey 2), so that would have been a factor, but so would software support and marketing. The intellivision was expensive, but gained significant ground as competition on the Atari dominated market, though not nearly as rapidly as Coleco had in the short time the CV was on the market. And from what I understand, the Astrocade (Bally Computer System, etc) was initially only available by mail order and had some other management problems.
    In hindsight, the Astrocade may have been better off positioned more as a full-blown computer with built-in keyboard. (as it was, it sort of did that, but rather awkwardly and without the full built-in keyboard -even a membrane one like the 400 or O2)
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    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    Dude it’s the bios that marries the 16 bit and the 8 bit that makes it 24 bit. If SNK released their double speed bios revision SNK would have had the world’s first 48 bit machine, IDK how you keep ignoring this.
    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    the PCE, that system has no extra silicone for music, how many resources are used to make music and it has less sprites than the MD on screen at once but a larger sprite area?

  2. #17
    End of line.. Hero of Algol gamevet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post

    HOWEVER, none of that has anything to do with blocking NMOS chips, and looking at that video again: even in the context Nolan describes it, it's pretty clear he's talking about CUSTOM NMOS ICs, NOT CPUs being manufactured.
    And even that is rather unclear in terms of long-term significance. (hardware capability, marketing, price point, and software were critical)
    I posted a thread regarding this on atariage, but I haven't gotten a proper answer yet.
    It was a blocking strategy to keep those manufacturers busy with his designs. In the end it did pay off, as the Astrocade (among others) was delayed because of manufacturing problems.

    http://www.gamasutra.com/view/featur...a_.php?print=1


    Quote Originally Posted by Gamasutra
    Bushnell also continued to fight with Warner over R&D, especially his plan to tie up all the N-Channel chip fabricators with alternative Atari designs, so no competitors could get their products manufactured. They also argued over the premium prices Atari put on pinball machines.

    History would prove Bushnell correct on all accounts except for the fate of the VCS, and this became his Achilles heel to his superiors. In November 1978, Bushnell laid his feelings bare about the fate of the VCS during a meeting at Warner headquarters in New York City. Atari had manufactured 800,000 units for 1978, but many remained unsold. liv It looked like dire straits for all involved, including Bushnell and Manny Gerard.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bally_Astrocade


    Quote Originally Posted by wiki
    Originally referred to as the Bally Home Library Computer, it was released in 1977 but available only through mail order. Delays in the production meant none of the units actually shipped until 1978.
    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89
    As for the Astrocade, yes, I'd imagine it was rather expensive by comparison (especially back in '77, but should have gotten much more competitive as RAM prices fell), though the Intellivision was in that same price range (not sure about the Odyssey 2), so that would have been a factor, but so would software support and marketing. The intellivision was expensive, but gained significant ground as competition on the Atari dominated market, though not nearly as rapidly as Coleco had in the short time the CV was on the market. And from what I understand, the Astrocade (Bally Computer System, etc) was initially only available by mail order and had some other management problems.
    In hindsight, the Astrocade may have been better off positioned more as a full-blown computer with built-in keyboard. (as it was, it sort of did that, but rather awkwardly and without the full built-in keyboard -even a membrane one like the 400 or O2)
    The Astrocade was sold in computer stores and did not get into toy stores until much later. The price was $300 at launch, which was absurd if you look at how much that would be today. Considering that minimum wage was less than $3 an hour, and even if you had a job that payed twice that, it would take almost 1/3 of your monthly wages to buy one. Even when the PS3 launched at $600, it would have only required a week's worth of wages for someone earning twice the minumum wage.

    RAM prices were a very small part of why the system was so expensive. Compared to the VCS, the Astrocade had at least twice the amount of parts and a more expensive/advanced CPU.
    Last edited by gamevet; 09-23-2010 at 10:42 PM.
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  3. #18
    Hero of Algol kool kitty89's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gamevet View Post
    It was a blocking strategy to keep those manufacturers busy with his designs. In the end it did pay off, as the Astrocade (among others) was delayed because of manufacturing problems.
    Nowhere in there does it indicate that the Astrocade's problems were related to NMOS manufacturer abilities. Albeit if that WAS the case, it certainly could have contributed to higher component costs with less cost-effective alternatives.

    Regardless, it wouldn't have blocked companies from using MOS's CPUs, let alone various other low-cost CPUs. (like the Z80, some Intel Microcontrollers, etc)

    The Astrocade was sold in computer stores and did not get into toy stores until much later. The price was $300 at launch, which was absurd if you look at how much that would be today.
    Yes, $100 more than the VCS's suggested retail price in 1977, but the form factor was still wrong for a computer and the marketing/software was off.
    The Intellivision was still $300 in 1980, and that's not even considering the computers. (even the baseline consumer oriented Atari 400 was well over $500 when the Intellivision came on the scene -and that was selling at far tighter margins than most contemporaries -albeit nothing like Commodore and TI pushed in '83)

    So yes, very expensive, which is why I cited price point as a primary factor...
    But in terms of a Z80 based computer with 4 kB that you could connect to your TV, that was a very good price for the time. (albeit due to the feature set and 2bpp display, you would be stuck with far less than 4 kB to really work with -compared to computers with 1bpp and text/character modes -in that respect it was ahead of its time -you had some later designs that use all bitmap displays or close to it -like the CPC, Spectrum, ST, Amiga, etc)

    But yes, expensive for a dedicated game system: almost as much as the 3DO in relative terms, and more than the Saturn's May launch price (even the Japanese price), and of course the PS3. (and with the PS3, the 20 gig model was in the same price range as the Saturn in early 1995 -actually a bit cheaper, but in both cases too high for the general market -even the PSX's price was too high to really hit it off until late 1996/97)

    RAM prices were a very small part of why the system was so expensive. Compared to the VCS, the Astrocade had at least twice the amount of parts and a more expensive/advanced CPU.
    Really??? 4 kB in 1977? Was it DRAM or SRAM? If SRAM, that would likely have been more than 1/2 the cost (or more than that even -probably more than 1/2 the retail price, let alone manufacturing cost), if DRAM it would be more like 1/10 the overall cost, though the additional components needed for DRAM would mitigate that to some extent. (ie larger board, though using the Z80 would help somewhat with its built-in DRAM refresh -you still needed the DRAM controller and interface circuitry) Given some contemporaries used SRAM (early model PETs did iirc) that would be a real possibility.

    The size of the PCB and the number of components (and related costs) would obviously be factors, but the CPU not so much.
    The Z80 had the advantage of 8080 compatibility, but had some considerable disadvantages to the 6502 architecture, especially clock per clock (hence why the NES/5200/7800 have roughly the same CPU resouce of the Z80s in the CV/SG-1000/MSX/SMS in spite of being 2x the speed)

    Of course that's compared to the full 6502, not the 28-pin 6507. (which cut cost due to the smaller package that left many of the internal lines disconnected -including several address and interrupt pins) So the 6507 ended up closer to $5 when it was new vs closer to $20 for the 6502 and fairly similar for the Z80. (so FAR cheaper than the older 8080 or powerful 6800 which were closer to $100 from what I've seen) But the VCS's CPU is almost certainly more powerful than the Astrocade's or TRS-80's in general terms. (of course, it has a ton of overhead managing the display due to how "dumb" TIA is so to speak -vs a full bitmap display on the Astrocade or character modes on others, or any other full VDG -in the A8/5200's case CTIA/GTIA was fairly "dumb" too albeit a bit faster and more flexible, but you had ANTIC to manage it rather than relying on CPU resouce)

    Granted, there were a variety of other CPUs around at the time, and several in the lower-end category including some microcontrollers. (not always cheaper per se, but in the case of something like the 8048 MCU it included ROM, RAM, and I/O all together, so the BIOS was on-chip and it displaced the need for a support chip like RIOT in the 2600)


    It seems more like the 2600 really hit off as I said: it had the right compromise of power and cost (at the expense of being tough to program), the right timing, and good marketing.
    Maybe the blocking strategy prevented competition from pushing that too, but I sort of doubt it.

    Any idea what the Odyssey 2 cost? (in that case they definitely could have kept a competitive machine and cut it down a good bit more -ie no keyboard and dropping some other features) Otherwise it was similarly consolidated as the VCS, albeit using Intel chips rather than MOS chsips and the custom TIA. (so depending on the deal they got from Intel, the pricing might not have been as attractive and the graphics chip was a bit more advanced)

    To give an idea of the component count: http://www.coprolite.com/odyssey2/o2mb.jpg
    Last edited by kool kitty89; 09-24-2010 at 04:44 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    Dude it’s the bios that marries the 16 bit and the 8 bit that makes it 24 bit. If SNK released their double speed bios revision SNK would have had the world’s first 48 bit machine, IDK how you keep ignoring this.
    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    the PCE, that system has no extra silicone for music, how many resources are used to make music and it has less sprites than the MD on screen at once but a larger sprite area?

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    'Lo all, just came across the thread after Kool Kitty mentioned about it over at AA. Thought I'd hope on and help out.

    For those not familiar with me, besides working in the industry as a writer and programmer, I'm also a professional industry historian and run an archive.

    Quote Originally Posted by gamevet View Post
    You're telling the wrong person about the history of Atari. Hell, I grew up with the industry and witnessed how it grew first hand, from Kee Games Tank in the early 70's, to the infamous Space Invaders hitting bowling alleys and bars. Yeah, my family bought an Atari VCS in 1977 and we had a pong clone that ran off of batteries as well.
    Same here. I still remember when much of coin was in the mid 70's still used the older EM based cabinet designs. I always thought those had a lot more character.

    I highly suggest you read the book, because a lot of what you're saying has been covered in it.
    Kent's book is a frustrating collection of great quotes and poorly fact checked information. Getting things wrong like claiming Atari Consumer and Coin were in connected buildings for instance. They weren't even on the same block.


    And Computer Space was based on the computer game Space War, created by a group of MIT students.
    Spacewar! (with the exclamation point), not Space War. And it was loosly based, as Ted's work on computer space was original and not done as a direct copy. Inspired by would be a more accurate term.

    Dabney and Bushnells game was based around that program and became the game Atari is famous for.
    No, Computer Space was pre-Atari. PONG is what Atari became famous for. Computer Space was done during their Ampex days and sold to Nutting Associates.

    Bushnell may have been the sideshow salesman that ran the show of Atari, but everyone knows who created and built the hardware. The book has interviews with everyone involved in the history of Atari
    Not even close to that. Key people like Ted Dabney are missing.

    and you'll really find that it doesn't kiss Bushnell's ass or anyone else's in the industry.
    If it takes his "info" at face value (which it often does in the book), it's kissing ass or very close to it.

    It covers the Time Warner years,
    Warner Communications. Time Warner came later.

    the people behind the decisions to purchase Atari and even how Bushnell couldn't afford to mass produce the VCS and how that ended up being the reason for Time Warner buying it from him.
    Warner Communications, and it's inaccurate. The VCS was delayed because of the settlement with Magnavox, otherwise it could have been pushed for production in '76.

    It covers the Tramiel years as well and how they ran thier business at Commodore.
    Lot of inaccuracies in there as well.

    The book may have questionable parts, but it's seems to cover its bases quite well, much better than Game Over.
    Game Over is just a Nintendo history book, I don't recall it presenting it self as anything else.

  5. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by gamevet View Post
    No, but everyone knew about the Atari VCS, as well as the Channel-F, Magnavox Odyssee and Astrocade, but those other attempts were thought of as expensive one trick (pong like) machines.
    That's just silly, in no way is/was the Astrocade or even the Channel-F like a dedicated pong machine.

    The way it was explained in the book: Bushnell asked Alcorn how he could build one device (that was used in Pong) and using Alcorn's instructions Bushnell built a small circuit to do the function. So, Bushnell did have his creative input and ideas implemented into the design of the game.
    Nope, you're confusing that with Computer Space, which was the game Nolan did a few circuits on (and Ted doing the majoirty). Al did the complete design of the PONG pcb himself, and his fact has more than stated how he had to ignore Nolan's pie in the sky wants.

    You'd be amazed just how much is covered in it. Yeah, I remember something about Tramiels fears, but his reasons behind pushing the Atari ST have never been presented to the public.
    Sure they were, in multiple interviews and press coverage at the time. As he himself stated, his reason for coming out of "retirment" in March of '84 was because of fear of the Japanese entering the US computing market. He felt nobody else at the time would be able to continue to keep them out of the US market, something he had been proud of doing since Commodore's calculator days.

    Many believe it had to do with being pushed out of the company he'd founded, Commodore. And the book goes into great detail on why he was forced out of Commodore, has a brief history of where his life started and all the actions of Atari that led to the downward spiral.
    Which it gets a lot wrong on as well. Leonard for example was not working at Commodore, there were no plans for it and he had not finished his PHD yet. In fact it wasn't until just after he was done that in July his father asked him to join him at Atari Corp.

    Yeah, there were companies that tried to get into the videogame market, including Coleco and their version of a pong machine.
    What do you mean "tried"? Coleco was one of the main US competitors next to Atari and Magnavox.

    Likewise, saying "there were companies that tried" makes it sound like there were a few other consoles on the market. Between 1975 and 1979 there were over 380 individual consoles PONG consoles on the world wide market. A great deal of which were in the US.

    You asked about the Atari ST, not Atari as a whole. Yeah, it is covered in the book as well. It covers the different models of Atari computers and the competitors Atari faced.
    And what he stated was why he did the ST, which was why he got back in to Computers and did the Atari Consumer purchase.

  6. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by martyg View Post



    Kent's book is a frustrating collection of great quotes and poorly fact checked information. Getting things wrong like claiming Atari Consumer and Coin were in connected buildings for instance. They weren't even on the same block.
    I don't expect any book to be 100% accurate, but can you think of a better, or more accurate book out there?



    Spacewar! (with the exclamation point), not Space War. And it was loosly based, as Ted's work on computer space was original and not done as a direct copy. Inspired by would be a more accurate term.
    You don't see a lot of simularities between the two titles?


    No, Computer Space was pre-Atari. PONG is what Atari became famous for. Computer Space was done during their Ampex days and sold to Nutting Associates.
    I stand corrected on that one, but you have to admit it was the starting point for what would become Atari.


    Not even close to that. Key people like Ted Dabney are missing.
    I get the impression that Dabney wants nothing to do with talking about his days at Atari. Why do you think Kent couldn't get direct quotes from him?

    Have you read the interview with Dabney in issue 200 of Edge Magazine? A lot of what is covered in that interview seems to be pretty close to what was in the book, except for who's daughters bedroom was actually converted.


    If it takes his "info" at face value (which it often does in the book), it's kissing ass or very close to it.
    There's still a ton of information (and quotes) coming from Alcorn.


    Warner Communications. Time Warner came later.
    Sorry, my company does a lot of work for Time Warner, so I often call Warner Communications by its current name.


    Warner Communications, and it's inaccurate. The VCS was delayed because of the settlement with Magnavox, otherwise it could have been pushed for production in '76.
    I'm not quite sure on this one. I do know that Bushnell couldn't get the funding to push the VCS, so he looked at other options.


    Game Over is just a Nintendo history book, I don't recall it presenting it self as anything else.
    I pretty much said that, did I not?


    Quote Originally Posted by martyg View Post
    That's just silly, in no way is/was the Astrocade or even the Channel-F like a dedicated pong machine.
    I never implied that the Channel-F or Astrocade were like dedicated pong machines, I was talking more along the line of machines made by Coleco and Sears. I even posted a link to an old Sear's Wishbook that had their own dedicated machines, right next to their version (Telegames) of the VCS.
    Last edited by gamevet; 10-03-2010 at 04:04 AM.
    A Black Falcon: no, computer games and video games are NOT the same thing. Video games are on consoles, computer games are on PC. The two kinds of games are different, and have significantly different design styles, distribution methods, and game genre selections. Computer gaming and console (video) gaming are NOT the same thing."



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    Quote Originally Posted by gamevet View Post
    I don't expect any book to be 100% accurate, but can you think of a better, or more accurate book out there?
    There's actually a number of them including High Score, and Vintage Games come to mind. And it's not about expecting it to be 100% accurate, it's that it has so much inaccuracy.


    You don't see a lot of simularities between the two titles?
    Verbatim Ted told me theirs was inspired by Spacewar!, not a direct copy. Nolan took him to a lab one time to show him it, and the game was designed loosely on his memory of some of the game. Likewise of course, there is no actual code in Computer Space - it's a TTL logic based state machine as all the early video coins were. Galaxy Game is a different story, that's an actual mini running Spacewar! code.



    I stand corrected on that one, but you have to admit it was the starting point for what would become Atari.
    Was not commenting on that.

    I get the impression that there is still some bad blood between Bushnell and Dabney.
    Maybe it's that for a lot of years (and that's Ted's fault) the only info people had on Ted was through Nolan - most of which was made up. Or that he's currently upset Nolan is still up to his old self.

    Why do you think Kent couldn't get direct quotes from Dabney?
    Because he didn't try tracking him down hard enough. We found him several years ago and have been interviewing him ever since. He's also since come on to AtariAge, and there will be a podcost interview with him put up next week.

    I'm not quite sure on this one.
    Verbatim from the settlement. I also have copies of most of the court testimony and such, picked them up from Ralph Baer who in turn picked them up from the storage locker they were sitting in Chicago in since the 70's.

    I do know that Bushnell couldn't get the funding to push the VCS, so he looked at other options.
    More myth spinning. You know it because you talked to Nolan and the others, or because you read it or saw it in a video somewhere? Atari was toeing the line of bankruptcy for most of the early 70's (that included going through layoffs). They needed investors to stabalize things, started looking for them and couldn't get one that was a right fit. Warner came knocking looking to buy it outright, turned on to the opportunity by a VC firm who had previously invested in both companies.

  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by martyg View Post
    There's actually a number of them including High Score, and Vintage Games come to mind. And it's not about expecting it to be 100% accurate, it's that it has so much inaccuracy.
    I have High Score. It says pretty much the same thing about Pong, as Kent's book does.

    So the book has some inaccuracy, does that make it not worthy of reading? Is Jack Tramiel really a good guy, and the book is so wrong about his underhanded tactics?

    Is Zap! The Rise and Fall of Atari any less inaccurate?



    Verbatim Ted told me theirs was inspired by Spacewar!, not a direct copy. Nolan took him to a lab one time to show him it, and the game was designed loosely on his memory of some of the game. Likewise of course, there is no actual code in Computer Space - it's a TTL logic based state machine as all the early video coins were. Galaxy Game is a different story, that's an actual mini running Spacewar! code.

    A quote from Kent's book: "As an undergraduate, Bushnell had only limited access to the computer lab. He was determined to explore, however, and eventually befriended some of the teaching assistants. In the end, Bushnell would become a regular, spending many late nights in the lab. He learned to program in FORTRAN and Gotran, two of the ealiest computer languages."

    "Bushell also learned about computer games. His favorite was Spacewar, Steve Russell's pioneering two-man combat game. Bushnell played it incessantly."

    "He also created some games of his own. Naturally charismatic, Bushnell talked senior students into helping him. He made computerized Tic Tac Toe and 3-D Tic Tac Toe. But his best creation was a game called Fox and Geese."

    "Through the students at the University of Utah teamed up to write seven computer games, Spacewar remained Bushnell's favorite. He continued his late-night Spacewar sessions all the way through school. By the time he graduated in 1968, he had commited the game and its many nuances to memory."

    "Bushnell saw himself as a stifled entrepreneur. He had ideas, talent, and ambition. Looking back on "both" of his educations, he decided to combine engineering and arcade games. In his typically strong entrepreneurial fashion, he turn his daughters bedroom (or was it Dabney's?) into a workshop. For the next few months, two years old Britta Bushnell slept in the living room while her father made a coin-operated version of Steve Russell's computer game, Spacewar."


    Maybe because he didn't try tracking him down hard enough. We found him several years ago and have been interviewing him ever since. He's also since come on to AtariAge, and there will be a podcost interview with him put up next week.
    Kook Kitty 89 pointed us to one such instance. I thought a lot of what was being discussed was rather petty. I'd join the Atariage forum, or read more there, but I find it to be almost too fanatical.


    Verbatim from the settlement. I also have copies of most of the court testimony and such, picked them up from Ralph Baer who in turn picked them up from the storage locker they were sitting in Chicago in since the 70's.
    Being that it was public record, anyone willing to take the time, should be able to get access to the court records.


    More myth spinning. You know it because you talked to Nolan and the others, or because you read it or saw it in a video somewhere? Atari was toeing the line of bankruptcy for most of the early 70's (that included going through layoffs). They needed investors to stabalize things, started looking for them and couldn't get one that was a right fit. Warner came knocking looking to buy it outright, turned on to the opportunity by a VC firm who had previously invested in both companies.
    Of course I haven't talked to Nolan. But, just about every source that talks about Warner Communications buying Atari, says the same thing. How is what is covered in Kent's book any more wrong than what was in Game Over?
    Last edited by gamevet; 10-03-2010 at 01:42 PM.
    A Black Falcon: no, computer games and video games are NOT the same thing. Video games are on consoles, computer games are on PC. The two kinds of games are different, and have significantly different design styles, distribution methods, and game genre selections. Computer gaming and console (video) gaming are NOT the same thing."



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    Quote Originally Posted by gamevet View Post
    So the book has some inaccuracy, does that make it not worthy of reading? Is Jack Tramiel really a good guy, and the book is so wrong about his underhanded tactics?
    It makes it not as worthy of a reference source. Didn't say not to read it.

    And yes, Jack is accused of doing a lot of things during the Atari Corp. years that just aren't the case when researched with actual internal documents, emails, logs, etc.

    "Through the students at the University of Utah teamed up to write seven computer games, Spacewar remained Bushnell's favorite. He continued his late-night Spacewar sessions all the way through school. By the time he graduated in 1968, he had commited the game and it many nuances to memory."
    I'm not sure what that's meant to imply. Once again, Ted did the bulk of the circuitry on Computer Space. Computer Space is not programmed, it's done via discrete logic. Additionaly per Ted:

    "We didn't have any "specs". All we had was a "concept" that was formed as we talked."

    "We were not doing a clone of Space War. We didn't have a computer with a million bits of memory. We just wanted to shot down a flying saucer with a spaceship. We didn't "map out" anything. Stuff evolved as we were doing it."

    "Space War was the inspiration, not the goal."


    "Bushnell saw himself as a stifled entrepreneur. He had ideas, talen, and ambition. Looking back on "both" of his educations, he decided to combine engineering and arcade games. In his typically strong entrepreneurial fashion, he turn his daughters bedroom (or was it Dabney's?) into a workshop. For the next few months, two years old Britta Bushnell slept in the living room while her father made a coin-operated version of Steve Russell's computer game, Spacewar."
    1) That's Kent making that leap of logic for that final statement, not a direct quote. That's a problem he does in the rest of the book as well. Likewise it's also based on some of Nolan's missinformation as previously stated.

    2) It was at Ted's house and Ted's daughter's bedroom as previously mentioned.

    3) Once again, it was influenced by Spacewar!, not a direct copy or clone. Nolan took Ted to see the game at Stanford once. Ted was not impressed, they did not try to reduplicate it as mentioned above. They were working with completely different technology as well.

    Kook Kitty 89 pointed us to one such instance. I thought a lot of what was being discussed was rather petty. I'd join the Atariage forum, or read more there, but I find it to be almost too fanatical.
    Sorry it's beneath you, but as a professional historian accuracy and the need for it comes with the territory.

    Being that it was public record, anyone willing to take the time, should be able to get access to the court records.
    Not sure what that's meant to imply either. Likewise no, Atari's settlement was done out of court. Only the results of suits against the several other companies involved would be available. And even then that doesn't ensure everything was kept as some things can get pulled or withdrawn for various reasons. When we paid for the federal court documents regarding the Atari Corp./Amiga lawsuits, there were many referred documents missing or stated as kept private.


    Of course I haven't talked to Nolan. But, just about every source that talks about Warner Communications buying Atari, says the same thing.
    Which means what for what I said? Absolutely nothing, as most sources usually requote each other or previous writings (since those are the available sources), and requote Nolan spins. Most previous "sources" also incorrectly go by RJ Mical's BS about the Amiga/Atari Corp. fiasco. Or incorrectly state that the 7800 was "dusted off" in response to the NES. Or things like all of Atari's engineering talent were gone by the early 80's.

    Revenues from PONG had not dried up as Kent claims, they were just getting going. Atari was just releasing it's own non-Sears branded one in '76 and that year was the height of the PONG craze. Sales jumped from $39 million in 1975 to $120 Million in 1977 (yet they still only had $40 million in profits in '77 and far less the previous years). Money was not needed for finishing the VCS, it was needed for the company in general due to the missmanagement of finances. Nolan continuously brought in management people that made horrible decisions and kept them on the brink of bankruptcy form '73-'76. I've talked to Joe Decuir and the other designers, it was done and could have been pushed to market in Fall of '76. The proof of concept unit (with the wire wrapped TIA and Tank for it's game) was done by the end of '75 just as the Sears was finishing up it's first Christmas season selling PONG's. That's when development moved out of Cyan to the new Consumer department and Miner came on board to turn the TIA in to an IC.

    How is what is covered in Kent's book any more wrong than what was in Game Over?
    I think that's been well mentioned already, it just seems you don't want to believe it and would rather go in circles. I'm not here to change Gamevet's opinions, I'm here to discuss facts. Well researched and crosschecked facts received from direct interviews, engineering logs, internal documents, etc., etc. Fact checking that results in a vetting of info. Fact checking Kent didn't do because a) He wasn't capable or well versed in the older material (he was simply a journalist covering the then current industry at the time), and b) his resources went to gathering up the interviews and such for the *wide* range of topics and periods covered in the book. He took much of what people told him at face value. Likewise Kent, when I talked to him about the errors, said he knows but can't do anything about it because he doesn't own the book rights anymore. He has also moved on from doing video game coverage and isn't interested any more.
    Last edited by martyg; 10-03-2010 at 01:30 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by martyg View Post


    Revenues from PONG had not dried up as Kent claims, they were just getting going. Atari was just releasing it's own non-Sears branded one in '76 and that year was the height of the PONG craze. Sales jumped from $39 million in 1975 to $120 Million in 1977 (yet they still only had $40 million in profits in '77 and far less the previous years). Money was not needed for finishing the VCS, it was needed for the company in general due to the missmanagement of finances.
    If you don't have the money to operate your company, you sure aren't going to have it to manufacture and distribute hardware either.




    I think that's been well mentioned already, it just seems you don't want to believe it and would rather go in circles. I'm not here to change Gamevet's opinions, I'm here to discuss facts. Well researched and crosschecked facts received from direct interviews, engineering logs, internal documents, etc., etc. Fact checking that results in a vetting of info. Fact checking Kent didn't do because a) He wasn't capable or well versed in the older material (he was simply a journalist covering the then current industry at the time), and b) his resources went to gathering up the interviews and such for the *wide* range of topics and periods covered in the book. He took much of what people told him at face value. Likewise Kent, when I talked to him about the errors, said he knows but can't do anything about it because he doesn't own the book rights anymore. He has also moved on from doing video game coverage and isn't interested any more.
    Inaccuracies and all, I still believe it's the best book to read for an overview of the industry as a whole. If someone wants the ultimate history of Atari, then they might as well hang around Atariage and the other fan-based websites to learn about every nuance of the company history. If they want an entertaining read, with a whole lot of inside stories, Kent's book will do just fine.

    Honestly, is it Kents fault that Alcorn and Bushnell couldn't give him a 100% accurate story, or reference material like Zap! couldn't get it right either?
    Last edited by gamevet; 10-03-2010 at 04:02 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by martyg View Post
    It makes it not as worthy of a reference source. Didn't say not to read it.

    And yes, Jack is accused of doing a lot of things during the Atari Corp. years that just aren't the case when researched with actual internal documents, emails, logs, etc.
    I think Gamevet was mainly referring to his Commodore years: especially the context of acquiring MOS Technologies and the price war with TI supposedly dropping the C64 to *less than legal* prices. (some claims to the C64 actually being sold at a loss in the US in '83)

    But then there's the claims that the ST was stolen technology which seems very unlikely given the overall design (especially given the state of its development at TTL and how rushed and off-the-shelf oriented it was -with the GLU, MMU, and SHIFTER being pretty much the only custom hardware), but the Amiga contract certainly gave grounds for a counter suit.

    "We didn't have any "specs". All we had was a "concept" that was formed as we talked."

    "We were not doing a clone of Space War. We didn't have a computer with a million bits of memory. We just wanted to shot down a flying saucer with a spaceship. We didn't "map out" anything. Stuff evolved as we were doing it."

    "Space War was the inspiration, not the goal."
    Yeah, and if you look at the game, the similarities are pretty vague, even in general gameplay from a user perspective, let alone on a technological level.
    Spacewar! was closer to Asteriods in many respects.

    Or things like all of Atari's engineering talent were gone by the early 80's.
    That did happen after Warner's break-up/sale of Atari Inc though, right? Th coin-op developers being pulled off to Atari Games with Warner and the Atari Inc consumer staff getting horribly confused in the poorly timed and poorly managed transition due to Warner's actions. (and not just losing staff but also having some technology/documents "walk off") And of course there were the general lawsuits against Atari Inc by wronged former staff. And Atari Corp lost pretty much all the Atari Consumer software development staff, right? (and then the contention over the 7800)

    Granted some of that would have likely happened due to Tramiel's plans either way, but the transition could have been FAR smoother from Atari inc to TTL/Atari Corp had Warner planned it well in advance and allowed Morgan to adjust things accordingly.
    If nothing else, Tramile would almost certainly have wanted the advanced technology personnel, several other key engineers, and a significant number of the programmers. He may not have been interested in games himself, but it was clear that the game industry would be a critical source of revenue for Atari and that Tramiel exploited that, so it's not even clear that they'd have cut most of the entertainment division.
    But if nothing else, the advanced technology division had fully prototyped chipsets that would kick the ST's (or RBP rather) ass when the ST was still being designed. (and quite possibly rival the Amiga if not exceed it in some areas)

    Revenues from PONG had not dried up as Kent claims, they were just getting going. Atari was just releasing it's own non-Sears branded one in '76 and that year was the height of the PONG craze. Sales jumped from $39 million in 1975 to $120 Million in 1977 (yet they still only had $40 million in profits in '77 and far less the previous years). Money was not needed for finishing the VCS, it was needed for the company in general due to the missmanagement of finances. Nolan continuously brought in management people that made horrible decisions and kept them on the brink of bankruptcy form '73-'76. I've talked to Joe Decuir and the other designers, it was done and could have been pushed to market in Fall of '76. The proof of concept unit (with the wire wrapped TIA and Tank for it's game) was done by the end of '75 just as the Sears was finishing up it's first Christmas season selling PONG's. That's when development moved out of Cyan to the new Consumer department and Miner came on board to turn the TIA in to an IC.
    Still, without the funding from Warner, the VCS wouldn't have been able to launch like it did, or at very least you had the expanded marketing/distribution network of Warner.

    The shift in management was most critical and even if Kassar didn't really know the business well, he was at least a fairly capable manager compared to what Atari Inc had been screwing up with.
    That was the primary factor: had Atari Inc been reasonably well managed on a business level up to 1976, they very well may have never sold to Warner.

    Likewise Kent, when I talked to him about the errors, said he knows but can't do anything about it because he doesn't own the book rights anymore. He has also moved on from doing video game coverage and isn't interested any more.
    Do you know if the current owner of the rights is interested in an updated/revised version?



    Oh, and on the general topic: how do books like The Rise and Fall of Commodore and The Home Computer Wars fair in terms of accuracy?


    And in the book you and Curt are writing: will you be covering Atari Europe as well? For the Atari Corp years it would obviously be a massive hole to leave out, so more or less given, but there's a lot of interesting stuff that's sort of opened-ended regarding the VCS and A8 on the European market in the Warner years. (especially the context of why Atari failed to establish a niche in the 8-bit computer market like Commodore did -that came up recently too in a rather convoluted thread ) In particular it seems that Atari didn't have a very good grasp on what the European (especially UK) market demands were while Commodore learned rather quickly after introducing the VIC 20 along with the fact that all products could have been cost-cut for the many regions where RF shielding was unnecessary -ie not forced multi-board designs with heavy aluminum castings. (there was also comments brought up of Atari actively discouraging 3rd party development for the A8 -Lucasfilm was referenced specifically) It's this thread actually: http://sega-16.com/forum/showthread.php?t=13468&page=10 though it's a bit of a mess to read though so you probably shouldn't bother.

    I assume the computers in general (in all regions) will be covered as well as the game systems. But one reason I ask is due to a general lack of UK/EU perspective in the articles on Atarimuseum, especially for anything pre-ST. (and there's plenty of descriptions of how Atari went in the wrong direction with the 1200XL for the US market, but not for the European market -where cartridge and disk based media were seen as extravagant and where the low-end dominated and where home programming was a more significant feature -built-in BASIC and plenty of programming documentation was critical with a precedent set by Sinclair and fairly quickly adopted by Commodore)



    Quote Originally Posted by gamevet View Post
    Kook Kitty 89 pointed us to one such instance. I thought a lot of what was being discussed was rather petty. I'd join the Atariage forum, or read more there, but I find it to be almost too fanatical.
    Most of the fanatic stuff was from the ignorant Bushnell fans making idiots out of themselves. Eventually it got to a reasonable discussion tough, especially after Dabney showed up.

    Curt Vendel and Wgungfu (Marty G) are the ones to pay attention to on the topic... and they'd already addressed almost all of that in other forums on the site, but the 2600 fans in particular are often clustered to that forum (while the main topics were on the computer, gaming general, 5200, 7800, or Jaguar forums).

    I already pointed out some good points to start reading to cut out the excess when I posted this:
    http://sega-16.com/forum/showthread.php?t=11394

    But now there's also a dedicated chat thread for Dabney: http://www.atariage.com/forums/topic...es-ted-dabney/
    Last edited by kool kitty89; 10-07-2010 at 06:54 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    Dude it’s the bios that marries the 16 bit and the 8 bit that makes it 24 bit. If SNK released their double speed bios revision SNK would have had the world’s first 48 bit machine, IDK how you keep ignoring this.
    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    the PCE, that system has no extra silicone for music, how many resources are used to make music and it has less sprites than the MD on screen at once but a larger sprite area?

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    I've alread read the Dabney thread. You know what was funny, his comments about Showbiz Pizza were spot-on with what I'd read in another book or magazine; I believe it was his interview in issue 200 of Edge Magazine.


    I plan on listening to the podcast interview real soon.
    A Black Falcon: no, computer games and video games are NOT the same thing. Video games are on consoles, computer games are on PC. The two kinds of games are different, and have significantly different design styles, distribution methods, and game genre selections. Computer gaming and console (video) gaming are NOT the same thing."



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    Quote Originally Posted by martyg View Post
    Sure they were, in multiple interviews and press coverage at the time. As he himself stated, his reason for coming out of "retirment" in March of '84 was because of fear of the Japanese entering the US computing market. He felt nobody else at the time would be able to continue to keep them out of the US market, something he had been proud of doing since Commodore's calculator days.
    Yes, though as it turned out: the C64 and proliferation of IBM/clones pretty much took care of that too in the US. (albeit the Japanese did take over the video game industry -something the C64 indirectly contributed to ironically enough)
    But thinking on it more: the ST had a very significant role in keeping the Japanese out of Europe more or less, especially prior to the Amiga falling to a more moderate price. (the arrival of the MSX2 would probably have been the most significant in the low/mid-range market, otherwise most Japanese computers were too expensive, not really better than what was already there of later anyway -the PC8801 and PC9800 dominating the Japanese market in particular would be fairly poor candidates with the 8801 blocked by the C64, Spectrum, CPC, and MSX while the PC9800 was too expensive and unattractive like the IBM compatibles of the time -the X68000 was hardly cheap either and didn't arrive until '87)

    Tramiel also publicly explained (in brief) his incentives for leaving CBM here towards the end:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NImJFV3wH88


    It's interesting that they mention the 130ST like that: I'd gotten the impression that that was abandoned once it was realized that the OS wouldn't fit into 128k unless they ended up confusing the 260 and 130 ST or if 128k was expected to be enough if TOS was in ROM rather than on disk.
    6 days older than SEGA Genesis
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    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    Dude it’s the bios that marries the 16 bit and the 8 bit that makes it 24 bit. If SNK released their double speed bios revision SNK would have had the world’s first 48 bit machine, IDK how you keep ignoring this.
    Quote Originally Posted by evilevoix View Post
    the PCE, that system has no extra silicone for music, how many resources are used to make music and it has less sprites than the MD on screen at once but a larger sprite area?

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    Quote Originally Posted by gamevet View Post
    If you don't have the money to operate your company, you sure aren't going to have it to manufacture and distribute hardware either.
    Contradictory and incorrect. It was already doing that via the consoles it was already OEM'ing for Sears, and by '76 it's own PONG line it was just launching. Likewise at that time, console industry sales were only during Fall/Christmas time. The 2600 could have been ready to launch for Chistmas '76. It was already prototyped (including a wirewrap of TIA) by the beginning of '76 and moved over from Cyan to the Consumer Division for VLSI design transfer by Jay Miner (with Joe Decuir moving with it from Cyan to apprentice under Jay). The reason for the delay was the Magnavox settlement (which the pending Warner deal was also the reason for them settling with Magnavox instead of continuing through in court). The reason for the selling of the company was for overal financial problems that plagued them since '73, none of which impeded them from entering the consumer market in the first place nor continuing to release new products in it. There's not room for negotiation on that, those are the facts.


    Inaccuracies and all, I still believe it's the best book to read for an overview of the industry as a whole. If someone wants the ultimate history of Atari, then they might as well hang around Atariage and the other fan-based websites to learn about every nuance of the company history. If they want an entertaining read, with a whole lot of inside stories, Kent's book will do just fine.
    I like the book, it's just a frustrating read because of the inaccuracies. And then as a professional historian it's even more frustrating to see people regurgitate those inaccuracies as fact.

    Honestly, is it Kents fault that Alcorn and Bushnell couldn't give him a 100% accurate story, or reference material like Zap! couldn't get it right either?
    Who said the errors lie just with Alcorn and Bushnell, or just with the Atari material? A lot of the errors lie with Kent, including facts and figures and also failure to crossreference and crosscheck material in general. When I talked with him, it seemed most of his time was spent flying all over or calling all over to interview people and he seemed upset he wasn't getting credit for the amount of time and money he spent doing all that vs. the plethora of errors in the book. I told him the two don't have to be mutually exclusive, we all appreciate the time and money spent and the big job he bit off for himself doing the book. But that the fact checking (of his material and others) was lacking and very frustrating, to which he replied there's nothing he can do about it anymore because the company owns the book.


    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    That did happen after Warner's break-up/sale of Atari Inc though, right? Th coin-op developers being pulled off to Atari Games with Warner and the Atari Inc consumer staff getting horribly confused in the poorly timed and poorly managed transition due to Warner's actions.
    Yes and no. A number of engineers and very talented people were kept by Tramiel, plus he brought in his own groups of engineers and staff from Commodore.


    And Atari Corp lost pretty much all the Atari Consumer software development staff, right? (and then the contention over the 7800)
    Game staff, yes. From the Atari computer division, no. There was a shifting of their positions, but there were a lot of former Atari Inc. people under Tramiel in that time period as well.

    If nothing else, Tramile would almost certainly have wanted the advanced technology personnel, several other key engineers, and a significant number of the programmers.
    A number of the people from the advanced technologies areas (those that hadn't already left before the takeover, or let go during the process) tried to tell him about some of the advanced projects. He wasn't interested at the time, they already had RBP specced out and laid out and were ready to go to wirewrapping in the beginning of August. So in his mind, the "next generation" was already planned out. And they were already planning out the next line of 8-bits during that July (the internal emails have a full line of them already defined). Which is impressive, because it shows a lot of work was done in the April through July period.

    He may not have been interested in games himself, but it was clear that the game industry would be a critical source of revenue for Atari and that Tramiel exploited that, so it's not even clear that they'd have cut most of the entertainment division.
    As his quotes stated during the takeover, he fully intended to keep the games portion of Atari Consumer going for exactly that reason.

    But if nothing else, the advanced technology division had fully prototyped chipsets that would kick the ST's (or RBP rather) ass when the ST was still being designed. (and quite possibly rival the Amiga if not exceed it in some areas)
    Yes, very true.

    Still, without the funding from Warner, the VCS wouldn't have been able to launch like it did, or at very least you had the expanded marketing/distribution network of Warner.
    Certainly Warner brought considerable marketing resources to the table. It was Warner that was chiefly responsible for the growth of the company and putting in to play a lot of innovative cross-market branding that's common in the industry now. But don't confuse the byproduct of a deal with something that was not intended or needed. Remember that Nolan was initially looking purely for investors and didn't want to sell the company. And none of what was presented to investors or even to Warner was based on needing an influx for the 2600. It was for the company in general (coin, and the fledgling Consumer Division). Coin was still the major direction of the company and the major earner at the time of all these talks in '75 and '76.


    That was the primary factor: had Atari Inc been reasonably well managed on a business level up to 1976, they very well may have never sold to Warner.
    That's the issue. Atari was a "startup" from '72 to '76 and run as such. That's Nolan's strength as a manager, and why he's had so many companies over his career. Unfortunately, that's also why he's had so many companies - they all eventually fail to make that transition from "startup" to "corporation" and peter out (look at uWink for the latest example). Atari succeeded because Warner intervened and put in it's own staff. Unfortunately by the early 80's Warner also wound up providing corporate greed as well, which caused the eventual implosion of Atari.

    Do you know if the current owner of the rights is interested in an updated/revised version?
    No idea, probably not.

    Oh, and on the general topic: how do books like The Rise and Fall of Commodore and The Home Computer Wars fair in terms of accuracy?
    Haven't read Home Computer Wars yet. Rise and Fall is a great book, Brian did an awesome job and is continually revising it as well (he's working on the 3rd revision right now). I actually contributed a bunch of the Commodore/Atari Corp. transition material with Curt.

    And in the book you and Curt are writing: will you be covering Atari Europe as well?

    Planning on it. There's three books: 1) Atari Inc. 1972-1984. 2) Atari Corporation 1984-1996. 3) A history of the video game industry in general from the late 60's through '84 from the coin perspective. A lot of people don't realize that through to the crash, the entire video industry took it's cues from and was lead by coin (That changed after the crash when the consumer video industry took over from '86 onwards). And coin had a very established market and ways of doing things that went through an interesting transitory period during that late 60's through '84 time period.
    Last edited by martyg; 10-09-2010 at 01:39 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kool kitty89 View Post
    HOWEVER, none of that has anything to do with blocking NMOS chips, and looking at that video again: even in the context Nolan describes it, it's pretty clear he's talking about CUSTOM NMOS ICs, NOT CPUs being manufactured.
    Quote Originally Posted by gamevet View Post
    It was a blocking strategy to keep those manufacturers busy with his designs. In the end it did pay off, as the Astrocade (among others) was delayed because of manufacturing problems.
    Sorry, but Kitty is correct. Nolan was talking about in relation to custom chips, and even then he was bs'ing - there was no blocking or blocking strategy. I just talked to Steve Bristow and got a verbatim answer. If anyone isn't familiar with him - he started with Nolan and Ted during the Ampex days, worked with them at Nutting, moved over to Atari in '73, was the man responsible (along with Joe Keenan) for Kee Games and it's successes, and was "back" at Atari as lead engineer by '75 when the two "merged". This is what he had to say about the claim (and yes, I pointed him to a copy of the video on youtube as well):

    "Nolan is waxing philosophical. My recollection is that the primary reason for multisourcing the 2600 was a bit more mundane. A - get more capacity B - play one vendor off of another for better price C - provide insurance in case any one vendor had a problem and could not deliver. If there was an over riding global view, I do not remember hearing it from Nolan. Obviously Atari did not lock up the capacity to the extent that RCA, Magnavox, and Fairchild could not get parts. TI and GI were selling to all comers and had capacity. Again, sounds like a good retrospective plan. I also do not recall that any tweaks were done just to keep the design changing. I did run the IC design function as part of my job at one point and the work we were doing was more focused on delivering new product and improvements to improve yield for the existing designs. The priority was new product, not just tweaking a design to do ???? "

    I.E. it's Nolan trying to claim a plan in retrospective ("waxing philosophical"), when there was no such thing going on at the time. More of the usual rewriting history on his part for the benefit of his PR.

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