The Systems I Wish I'd Had and When

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

Not Your Mama's Executioner (not verified)
This is a good topic. Here's

This is a good topic.

Here's my pics for best:

Atari 2600 - just stupid to miss this era. barnstormer! they still making games for it!!!
Commodore 128 - why settle for a C-64 when you can have CPM and 128 mode? let's not be silly!!
NES - duh. mario, metroid, zelda, etc.
Genesis - O.K., you've played mario, metroid, zelda, time to sample something else (SONIC!)
DOS - doom, baby!
PS2 - so many games, sad some only in Japan
PS3 - still the best console, bar none.

WORSTS:

PONG. Only one game!
Intellivision - stupid controllers
Mac - black and white , no games
3DO or cdI - stupidest consoles EVER
Jaguar - wtf
Gamecube
Wii

I know you guys like Amiga but that system was DOA. The guy with the monochrome PC was better off.

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Online
Joined: 12/31/1969
Response to NYME
Not Your Mama's Executioner wrote:

WORSTS:

PONG. Only one game!
Intellivision - stupid controllers
Mac - black and white , no games
3DO or cdI - stupidest consoles EVER
Jaguar - wtf
Gamecube
Wii

I know you guys like Amiga but that system was DOA. The guy with the monochrome PC was better off.

To be fair, with the home Pong systems, they did feature multiple variations of paddle games. Also, just imagine the novelty of playing ANY videogame on your home TV in 1975. The only thing before that was the Magnavox Odyssey, and that was something of a different experience, plus not really as widely available (the first Pong system from Atari was available through Sears, the largest retailer in the US at the time).

As for the Macintosh, the black and white thing was a concession to resolution over colors. You have to remember that most systems could only display 16 colors on-screen at one time. When it was first released, the Mac was actually extremely impressive. Nevertheless, color was the future, so it was only a matter of time, so I guess on one level I'll give you that one. It also had a few high profile games (and some classic exclusives), though it certainly was never really a games machine.

I can't really argue with the CD-I for a variety of reasons, though it did have a surprisingly deep selection of games and an excellent digital video add-on (which became built-in in later models). The 3DO was actually an excellent system, but again, various factors conspired against it. The Jaguar never really got off the ground because Atari was too financially weakened to make a proper run with it.

The Amiga was not DOA. Until the rise of VGA and Sound Blaster on PC, it was the best home computing experience, bar none. The only area it was a bit weak in was productivity, and even then the gap wasn't necessarily huge during its prime years. You also have to remember that the Amiga was the only computer at that time that, through various hardware add-ons, could emulate the PC and Mac perfectly, and even multi-task both Amiga and PC environments (it even could emulate the C-64). The problem with the Amiga was that it squandered its technological lead and that, combined with poor marketing and distribution (particularly by the late 80s/early 90s), was what really doomed the platform.

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Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
I'm not sure about the

I'm not sure about the Commodore 128 either. Sure it had those modes, but I had a 128 and never used them. I don't think it was something Commodore or the major third-party developers ever really took advantage of. In short, I think you'd be fine with just a stock C-64.

I agree with Bill, too, regarding the Amiga. It seems to me the Amiga 500 was an epic games machine for the era. In my opinion it beats out the NES and even had ports or clones of most of the biggest hits, such as Great Giana Sisters for Mario.

I would agree, though, that anything after the Amiga 500 is probably best spent on a console or PC.

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Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Commodore
Matt Barton wrote:

I'm not sure about the Commodore 128 either. Sure it had those modes, but I had a 128 and never used them. I don't think it was something Commodore or the major third-party developers ever really took advantage of. In short, I think you'd be fine with just a stock C-64.

If you DIDN'T have anything and wanted to get into the C-64 when the C-128 first hit, I think it would make sense. The C-128 did have the advantage of its CP/M mode to run quality productivity software and its own 80 column mode to run its own C-128 productivity software, so it was certainly better in that regard. It also had a better BASIC. Of course, on the downside, few games were C-128 native and/or took advantage of the extra 64K of memory. Overall, with the decline of CP/M by the time the C-128 hit, Commodore might have been better off just doing something like the C-65, though honestly, with the type of support and install base the C-64 had, they should have just milked the stock system for as long as possible rather than trying to keep on splitting ownership, a la the C-16 and Plus/4 platforms.

If Commodore kept it C-64 (with regular case and cost-reduction changes), and kept the 500/2000 going instead of introducing the 600 (again, doing any minor revisions for the former as needed), and then really went balls out with the AGA stuff, meaning better everything and standard hard drives and CD-ROMs, they might have weathered the storm. Instead, much like Atari - who was even worse - they went off into way too many directions.

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Jackie P. Emerson (not verified)
Commodore

Hello, everyone. Old crustacean here.

A lot of people think that Commodore had some kind of technological advantage, but that is not historically accurate. The real reason they were able to dominate is that Jack Tramiel had vertical integration with MOS, who made the microprocessor, thereby able to offer the hardware cheap. The other computers, such as the superior Tandy CoCo, TI-99/8, and the Atari 1200XL computers, could not compete price wise.

After Mr. Tramiel left to join Atari, he again triumphed with a multimedia computer, the ST. This was out before the Amiga and was arguably superior. But it was a moot point anyway, because without the advantage of the vertical integration, it was doomed to failure. At this time IBM had much greater brand power and their PC had open architecture, which allowed third parties to offer competition. That was not the case with Atari or Commodore, who had an exclusive right to make their own machines. This did allow them to offer multimedia (along with Mac) capabilities stock, which would not make sense in the business machines.

This is to say that Commodore in effect cheated, if you want to look at it that way. To say a Commodore 64 is a superior machine to what was available at that time is inaccurate and shows an ignorance of history.

Bill Loguidice
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Computers
Jackie P. Emerson wrote:

Hello, everyone. Old crustacean here.

A lot of people think that Commodore had some kind of technological advantage, but that is not historically accurate. The real reason they were able to dominate is that Jack Tramiel had vertical integration with MOS, who made the microprocessor, thereby able to offer the hardware cheap. The other computers, such as the superior Tandy CoCo, TI-99/8, and the Atari 1200XL computers, could not compete price wise.

After Mr. Tramiel left to join Atari, he again triumphed with a multimedia computer, the ST. This was out before the Amiga and was arguably superior. But it was a moot point anyway, because without the advantage of the vertical integration, it was doomed to failure. At this time IBM had much greater brand power and their PC had open architecture, which allowed third parties to offer competition. That was not the case with Atari or Commodore, who had an exclusive right to make their own machines. This did allow them to offer multimedia (along with Mac) capabilities stock, which would not make sense in the business machines.

This is to say that Commodore in effect cheated, if you want to look at it that way. To say a Commodore 64 is a superior machine to what was available at that time is inaccurate and shows an ignorance of history.

Wow, Jackie, where to begin. No one was saying the C-64 was superior to anything at the time. We were referring to the Amiga. Yes, part of the reason why the C-64 "won" the low end market battle was the control over production Commodore had, but that was not all of the reason. To be fair, in addition to the low cost it was also sufficiently technologically competitive to every other computer on the market at the time. While other computers could beat it in one or two other areas, few were as competitive taken as a whole. Price advantage alone would not have been enough to win the day.

Just to further clarify your points, to say that the CoCo was superior (it had far inferior audio-visuals), the TI-99/8 was superior (that was never released, you're referring to the TI-99/4a, which succeeded the TI-99/4; the 4a had far less memory and weaker overall audio-visuals), or the Atari 1200XL was superior (a model in the Atari 8-bit series that Atari quickly replaced with the 600XL and 800XL, which themselves were later replaced), is again, more personal opinion than factual. Of those, only the Atari 8-bit series could be argued to have better graphics (more colors to choose from) and sound (extra channel) in theory, but in practice it had other limitations (too lengthy to go into the full list of pros and cons), particularly memory, that was only rectified when it was too late.

Also, in what ways would you consider the ST superior to the Amiga? Did it have better graphics? No. Did it have better sound? No. Did it have a better processor? No. Sure, it had that MIDI port, but was that really a valuable differentiator? The ST was typically cheaper, so certainly that could be a plus in the ST's favor over the Amiga, but in just about every other way, the Amiga triumphs from a technical standpoint.

So, to be fair, Jackie, I'm not sure which side of the commentary the ignorance is on. Perhaps your memory is a bit rusty?

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Jackie P. Emerson (not verified)
Check Your Sources
Bill Loguidice wrote:
Jackie P. Emerson wrote:

Hello, everyone. Old crustacean here.

A lot of people think that Commodore had some kind of technological advantage, but that is not historically accurate. The real reason they were able to dominate is that Jack Tramiel had vertical integration with MOS, who made the microprocessor, thereby able to offer the hardware cheap. The other computers, such as the superior Tandy CoCo, TI-99/8, and the Atari 1200XL computers, could not compete price wise.

After Mr. Tramiel left to join Atari, he again triumphed with a multimedia computer, the ST. This was out before the Amiga and was arguably superior. But it was a moot point anyway, because without the advantage of the vertical integration, it was doomed to failure. At this time IBM had much greater brand power and their PC had open architecture, which allowed third parties to offer competition. That was not the case with Atari or Commodore, who had an exclusive right to make their own machines. This did allow them to offer multimedia (along with Mac) capabilities stock, which would not make sense in the business machines.

This is to say that Commodore in effect cheated, if you want to look at it that way. To say a Commodore 64 is a superior machine to what was available at that time is inaccurate and shows an ignorance of history.

Wow, Jackie, where to begin. No one was saying the C-64 was superior to anything at the time. We were referring to the Amiga. Yes, part of the reason why the C-64 "won" the low end market battle was the control over production Commodore had, but that was not all of the reason. To be fair, in addition to the low cost it was also sufficiently technologically competitive to every other computer on the market at the time. While other computers could beat it in one or two other areas, few were as competitive taken as a whole. Price advantage alone would not have been enough to win the day.

Just to further clarify your points, to say that the CoCo was superior (it had far inferior audio-visuals), the TI-99/8 was superior (that was never released, you're referring to the TI-99/4a, which succeeded the TI-99/4; the 4a had far less memory and weaker overall audio-visuals), or the Atari 1200XL was superior (a model in the Atari 8-bit series that Atari quickly replaced with the 600XL and 800XL, which themselves were later replaced), is again, more personal opinion than factual. Of those, only the Atari 8-bit series could be argued to have better graphics (more colors to choose from) and sound (extra channel) in theory, but in practice it had other limitations (too lengthy to go into the full list of pros and cons), particularly memory, that was only rectified when it was too late.

Also, in what ways would you consider the ST superior to the Amiga? Did it have better graphics? No. Did it have better sound? No. Did it have a better processor? No. Sure, it had that MIDI port, but was that really a valuable differentiator? The ST was typically cheaper, so certainly that could be a plus in the ST's favor over the Amiga, but in just about every other way, the Amiga triumphs from a technical standpoint.

So, to be fair, Jackie, I'm not sure which side of the commentary the ignorance is on. Perhaps your memory is a bit rusty?

Indeed, where to begin. Mr. Loguidice, I think you should read the post above to see that the entire thread is supposedly about which computers were the best at any given time. That implies in the case of the Commodore 64 that it was better than the other options available at that time. Now whose memory is rusty?

I can assure you the TI-99/8 was released because I have one. I picked it up a big auction many years ago along with plenty of related hardware and software. I did a little research after reading your post and now think I may have a true collectors item on my hands.

I won't argue about whether audio visuals make a system better or not, since there are other considerations and the results and opinions vary. I have an Atari 1200 XL as well, and in my opinion it is superior. The keyboard alone makes it superior to the Commodore and is, in my opinion, the best Atari ever manufactured. I know that you probably think (wrongly) that audio visuals alone make a system better, but you should also consider applications and diversity of software (not just games and business applications).

I did some research on the Atari ST vs. the Amiga and found thousands of opinions. It seems as though both systems have their share of supporters and I saw plenty of good reasons to go with one or the other. In my opinion the MIDI ports trump everything else, since I have always been interested in music and have a full-sized keyboard for the system (and yes, it still works great). Indeed, I actually bought my ST from a music store. I was shopping for a synthesizer keyboard and they made a good case that the ST was ideal for my needs.

Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
No, the Ti-99/8 was never

No, the Ti-99/8 was never released. You have one of the few dozen in collectors' hands, so yes, it's quite valuable.

Indeed audio-visuals alone don't make something the best, but it's a factor. If you want to factor in other things like available software, etc., then indeed, for its era, the C64 would be hard to match.

I agree that specifically the Atari 1200xl has the best Atari keyboard, but it was also the model in the line that was pulled quickest from the market and initially had some compatibility issues with the 400 and 800.

As for the ST vs Amiga thing, there's really no getting around the Amiga's clear overall superiority when you remove emotion. If you focus strictly on musicians, then sure, the ST clearly wins, just like if you focus on videography, the Amiga clearly wins. That's not what we're talking about here though.

As for me "checking my sources" or not knowing, just as an FYI, I own nearly every system ever made from 1972 onward, so have considerable first-hand experience on top of living during the time these machines rose to prominence. I've also researched and have written - and continue to write - extensively about many of these systems. I'm not saying I'm infallible (far from it), I'm merely saying you might want to check your facts before calling me out on mine to save us both some time. Also, a primary focus for me has always been to try to look at videogame and computer systems from as analytical a standpoint as possible, removing as much of the emotion and fanboyism that I can. Clearly, you have an anti-Commodore agenda, which is fine, but it doesn't make for a particularly fruitful discussion of what's best and why. By the way, there is no "right" answer, of course, since, if in your opinion there was a better single system to own if you couldn't own any other, then that's fine, but if you're trying to do it from a factual standpoint, then your arguments fall down...

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Jackie P. Emerson (not verified)
Commodore Bias

Its clear to me that nearly everyone on this Website has a Commodore bias. Claiming you are objective is either dishonest or dumb. If you have to keep going on to people about your objective that's a sign that you aren't. I was thinking of what could be objective in this discussion, it must be if they are still known about today by the general public. A forgettable machine is forgotten. You remember it because you are the minority who had one, but most people did not share that opinion. If you had a TI instead of an Commodore this site would probably be totally different and you'd be just as objective about how superior that was.

I don't see anyone else talking about how great Commodore are, in fact they are usually not even ever mentioned by other sites and history. I dont think Atari, Texas Instruments, or Tandy did all that great either in that respect despite my original post. Looking at it now, those came and went.

Unbiased people will pick the Apple II, IBM PC, and Windows-PC as the best computers, and Atari, Nintendo, Sega, Sony, and now Microsoft are the best consoles. Nowhere would you see a Commodore or Atari machine on the list after the games machine 2600.

You claim you had all those machines, but looking at your picture you seem too young. You couldn't possibly have been you in your thirties back in 1977 when this history was happening. I suggest you listen to an old crustacean. At least try to be consistent, not flipflopping about the importance of audiovisuals and software.

Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Oh boy...
Jackie P. Emerson wrote:

Its clear to me that nearly everyone on this Website has a Commodore bias. Claiming you are objective is either dishonest or dumb. If you have to keep going on to people about your objective that's a sign that you aren't. I was thinking of what could be objective in this discussion, it must be if they are still known about today by the general public. A forgettable machine is forgotten. You remember it because you are the minority who had one, but most people did not share that opinion. If you had a TI instead of an Commodore this site would probably be totally different and you'd be just as objective about how superior that was.

I don't see anyone else talking about how great Commodore are, in fact they are usually not even ever mentioned by other sites and history. I dont think Atari, Texas Instruments, or Tandy did all that great either in that respect despite my original post. Looking at it now, those came and went.

Unbiased people will pick the Apple II, IBM PC, and Windows-PC as the best computers, and Atari, Nintendo, Sega, Sony, and now Microsoft are the best consoles. Nowhere would you see a Commodore or Atari machine on the list after the games machine 2600.

You claim you had all those machines, but looking at your picture you seem too young. You couldn't possibly have been you in your thirties back in 1977 when this history was happening. I suggest you listen to an old crustacean. At least try to be consistent, not flipflopping about the importance of audiovisuals and software.

I'm not sure if you're trolling or just too far out of touch with the overall classic computing and videogame community, but whatever the basis, you're clearly misinformed. First off, there are strong communities for every brand and platform you've mentioned, and many of those qualify as something quite a bit more than flash-in-the-pans. Secondly, the Commodore 64 is the single best selling computer of ALL-TIME, so do you think that maybe - just maybe - there might be a whee bit of interest out there and whee bit of consideration for that to be one of the great computers of its era and still actively supported? Do you have the capacity to comprehend that?

Also, I don't know where you're getting this idea that anyone is making the claim for the greatest single computer of all time. That's a loaded concept. The exercise was what one system (and later on, more specifically what one computer and console) you'd want from a specific era if you were FORCED to choose only one.

For what it's worth, I'm 39, so even though I was a kid in the 70's and 80's, I still actively lived through it all and experienced those systems either directly or through friends. And yes, actively own well over 400 videogame and computer systems from 1972 onward, so I do have more than a little basis for that which I speak. Also, I actually know what's going on with the various computing and videogame communities because I keep up with them, unlike you. Again, we're ALL for spirited debate and discussion here, but you sound foolish trying to call people out when you have no factual foundation for doing so.

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