C64 vrs Atari 800XL

Anything to do with New Zealand Classic or Vintage Computing not covered in the other forums

C64 vrs Atari 800XL

Postby tezza on Tue Nov 22, 2011 11:57 am

This is related to this C64 vrs Atari 8bit speed thread, but the focus is probably sufficiently different to justifiy a thread of its own.

I didn't get to play with an Atari 8-bit (specifically the Atari 800XL) until I started my collection. I was then able to compare it to the C64. You could argue it's not an entirely fair comparison, as the C64 came out a year earlier and a year was a long time in the early 1980s. However in 1983 the prices were about comparable as both machines were being sold into the same market.

I consider myself reasonably objective here as neither machine holds any nostaligic value to me. I went from System 80 to PC, bypassing the 'home" computer era all together.

I was really impressed with the Atari 800XL, when I finally got to play with it. Compared to the C64, I felt the keyboard was better (much better) and the console was smaller and had a lower profile which was easier for typing. Disk operations were very simple and straightforward, requiring none of the convoluted C64 syntax. The BASIC was more comprehensive on the 800XL than the C64. Graphic capability seemed about the same on both with the games I tried. The C64 won out on sound.

I'm certainly not trying to start a flame war. The C64 was a wonderful machine and had a HUGE impact. It just seems to me though that Atari in the 800XL did have a very marketable machine that (on spec) was very competitive. It seems they were just not agressive enough when taking on Jack Tremiel, possibly because Atari was running out of money. Later C64 pricing may have also been a factor.

Anyone else played with both machines and found a similar comparison?
Tez (Terry Stewart) (Administrator)
Collection: http://www.classic-computers.org.nz/col ... /index.htm
Projects and Articles: http://www.classic-computers.org.nz/blog/index.htm
Twitter: @classiccomputNZ | YouTube: Terry Stewart
Trade Me: tezza5
tezza
Site Admin
 
Posts: 2293
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 1970 12:00 pm
Location: Palmerston North, New Zealand

Re: C64 vrs Atari 800XL

Postby lizardb0y on Tue Nov 22, 2011 12:44 pm

If you're not trying to start a flamewar, you're going a funny way about it!

What I find most impressive is that there doesn't seem to be a lot of functional difference between the Atari 800 (1979) and Atari 800XL (1983) which really shows how impressive the original Atari 8 bits were.

Commodore BASIC V2 was a shocker. Legend has it that Jack Tramiel bought a perpetual, royalty-free, license for an early version of Microsoft BASIC for the PET for between $10-30,000 USD. By using the same early BASIC with no graphics or sound commands they could avoid paying royalties, and cheerfully did so for years. Atari BASIC was better, but still a bit lacking. While Atari BASIC had command for simple plotting and drawing, it still didn't have BASIC support for sprites. I'd call BASIC a win for Atari.

Like you I prefer the 800XL keyboard as well, and the styling is a vast improvement over the C64 breadbin. According to Brian Bagnall the C64 was never intended to re-use the VIC-20 case; some engineers demo'd an engineering prototype (not a full computer) in a case they happened to have lying around and they were told to ship it as-is. They had to design the entire C64 main board around the limitations of the VIC-20 case. Atari wins for styling as well.

Commodore SID sound is legendary for a reason - the SID was designed as a chip suitable for an analog synthesiser, not a home computer. The SID even has analog in and loopback, un-used in the C64 but explored by many hobbyists and musicians since. Atari had the Pokey, which was pretty good for the time, but was little more than a three-channel square wave generator, compared to the multi-waveform capability of the SID. A clear C64 win for sound.

The C64 had maximum 16 colours, and something over 100 sprites. The 800XL had a 256 colour palette and could draw up to 15 of those colours at a time, depending on mode. The Atari had a 320×192 high-resolution mode in 1 colour - with the pixels being a different shade of the background colour. The C64 could do a 320x200 high resolution mode with ZX Spectrum style colour attributes :) In contrast, the Atari could pull off some cool non-standard graphics modes. Speaking entirely subjectively, in practice I found similar graphics effects on both platforms, though the Atari could do some nice still image effects due to it's larger palette and non-standard modes. I'd call a draw on this one, possibly with a slight edge to the Atari.

Given the better BASIC, better build quality and subjectively nicer graphic capabilities I'd call a win for the Atari except for audio use. As a chip-tunes synth nothing beats the C64, and never will.
Last edited by lizardb0y on Tue Nov 22, 2011 1:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
lizardb0y / Andrew
Just another 8-bit hustler

blog: http://www.vintage8bit.com
twitter: @vintage8bit
google+: http://gplus.to/lizardb0y
trademe: andrew9 - over 500 positive trades.
lizardb0y
 
Posts: 549
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2008 8:50 am
Location: Wellington

Re: C64 vrs Atari 800XL

Postby tezza on Tue Nov 22, 2011 12:50 pm

lizardb0y wrote:If you're not trying to start a flamewar, you're going a funny way about it!


I'm just assuming that we've moved beyond the emotive "my (x) is better than your (x)" which pervades the fan-boy zone (past and present).

Of course I could be wrong :)
Tez (Terry Stewart) (Administrator)
Collection: http://www.classic-computers.org.nz/col ... /index.htm
Projects and Articles: http://www.classic-computers.org.nz/blog/index.htm
Twitter: @classiccomputNZ | YouTube: Terry Stewart
Trade Me: tezza5
tezza
Site Admin
 
Posts: 2293
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 1970 12:00 pm
Location: Palmerston North, New Zealand

Re: C64 vrs Atari 800XL

Postby Carcenomy on Tue Nov 22, 2011 5:00 pm

I'll try stay subjective... I grew up with Amigas, and most of my extended family had Commodore 64s among other machines.

BUT, looking at them now... I agree with basically everything you guys have said so far. Even when the Commodore 64 saw it's mid-life refresh as the C64C, although the styling improved the keyboard did not, it remained exactly the same just coloured beige! It's a real mongrel of a thing to type with, the 800XL unit is much more forgiving.

I did actually have a good side-by-side comparison the other day going through some floppies I had for my 64... I found a copy of subLOGIC Flight Simulator 2. Which I also have on cart for my Atari XEGS... now I haven't studied the ANTIC/GTIA combination close enough to know how it stacks on a technical level with VIC-II, but bugger me if the colour on the Commodore version isn't a bit better. Load times from the 1541 aren't so great though ;)

I'm not sure how else to contrast these two... perhaps I'll put it this way. Every C64 I've ever seen looks used... like it's had a good long life and needs some love and attention to restore it to a clean state. My 800XL on the other hand, arrived still in its box, and still had plastic film over its metal surfaces. Go figure? :)
Just the local Commodore hobo and middle-aged PC hoarder.
eisa on Trademe. A lasting reminder of a Compaq fetish when I was younger.
Carcenomy
 
Posts: 764
Joined: Tue Aug 12, 2008 10:59 pm
Location: Invercargill

Re: C64 vrs Atari 800XL

Postby WelshWizard on Tue Nov 22, 2011 6:07 pm

well being the first home computer I ever had which was not home built I started with the Atari 800XL with a 1050 disk drive and a 1010 tape drive, Tape drive is still in its original box, just to darn slow on the load, Once I had hacked the OS chip so it now had three different OS at the flick of a switch , one being a Monitor OS so I could stop a program on the fly and save to disk, the tape only got used once to load a tape program and then stopped and saved to disk , a minute or two is far better than 1/2 to 1 hr to load, when I made the choice of computer I looked at the C64, C16 Commodore plus 4, Dragon , MSX, Amstrad and Atari, went for Atari as it had better looks, better feel on the keyboard, easy access to the cartridge port, was easy to wire up to the TV , Mono monitor or an RGB monitor, I also poked around in the manuals for as much info as possible, Disk drive on the Atari was easy to deal with, C64 , plus 4 and C16 ($^&^**$%#&% is best I could say at the time) Amstrad had some 3" floppy which made it a no no and Dragon was on the way out, so I grabbed an Atari package, much to the ridicule of mates who had the C64, if I wanted music I would play the piano or the guitar, not a computer, and if you were playing most games the music was basic on all of them in those days, However after a few more hacks this time to the 1050 ( added a board that allowed the use of a happy OS , Laser OS , US doubler and standard OS) I distinctly remember the Oohs for the speed of loading d saving files on the Atari floppy, which they mostly considered held more on the Atari disk any way plus the drive was so easy with its commands compared the the long winded C64 system. well after years I have purchased both a C16 and C64 and a C64c. C64 which came with out a power pack remains dead even with a good PSU C64c is still waiting to air out before I try powering it up but I do know the PSU that came with it is dead just hoping the C64c is not also dead. in the mean time been downloading some manuals for the C64 series, first thing on reading is the Commodores seem long winded in the way the do things , this may very well be due to Jack Trammel cheap skating, after all it did not take him long to screw up Atari with cheap builds ( ST and the 130 XE being the prim examples ) while my 800XL keeps chugging along the ST's have had some many repairs I don't think its fair to even call them the same systems I bought in the first place. now becoming even more perverse by buying some commodore Amiga's .

From what I have seen so far is Atari win hands down on styling, hands down on Disk drive, Basic and a few other points Commodore wins on the amount of software and books out there, also on sound, not yet convinced it has better graphics as the Atari was good at being manipulated and have yet to find out about the C64.
WelshWizard
 
Posts: 284
Joined: Fri Sep 09, 2011 11:04 am
Location: West Auckland

Re: C64 vrs Atari 800XL

Postby lizardb0y on Wed Nov 23, 2011 6:06 am

WelshWizard wrote:However after a few more hacks this time to the 1050 ( added a board that allowed the use of a happy OS , Laser OS , US doubler and standard OS) I distinctly remember the Oohs for the speed of loading d saving files on the Atari floppy, which they mostly considered held more on the Atari disk any way plus the drive was so easy with its commands compared the the long winded C64 system.


Oh yeah, I really should have listed floppy drive performance as another comparison point. Clear Atari win there I'm afraid, though I never used any of the C64 turbo disk type software. My ZX81 could load off tape (using a turbo load hack and band-pass filter admittedly) faster than C64s seemed to load off floppy!

WelshWizard wrote: well after years I have purchased both a C16 and C64 and a C64c. C64 which came with out a power pack remains dead even with a good PSU C64c is still waiting to air out before I try powering it up but I do know the PSU that came with it is dead just hoping the C64c is not also dead.


I'd almost put power supply quality into a category of its own for the C64 - they were appalling. Still, it's probably fairer to just lump that in with "build quality" and be done with it ;)

(I must say that I am a big fan of the C64 as well as the Atari. Back in the day I was a Sinclair man - ZX81 then ZX Spectrum - so I'm generally not one to throw stones)
lizardb0y / Andrew
Just another 8-bit hustler

blog: http://www.vintage8bit.com
twitter: @vintage8bit
google+: http://gplus.to/lizardb0y
trademe: andrew9 - over 500 positive trades.
lizardb0y
 
Posts: 549
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2008 8:50 am
Location: Wellington

Re: C64 vrs Atari 800XL

Postby tezza on Wed Nov 23, 2011 12:01 pm

lizardb0y wrote:Oh yeah, I really should have listed floppy drive performance as another comparison point.


Yes, this phenomena (and the reasons why) are well documented. The "zzzzz" time certainly took me by surprise when I first loaded a C64 game off disk. Initially I thought the drive was broken.

Those power packs came in several variations. Was it the large sloping black ones which had the unreliability problem as can be seen tucked behind the monitor here, or the newer grey ones, as seen in this one. Or both?
Tez (Terry Stewart) (Administrator)
Collection: http://www.classic-computers.org.nz/col ... /index.htm
Projects and Articles: http://www.classic-computers.org.nz/blog/index.htm
Twitter: @classiccomputNZ | YouTube: Terry Stewart
Trade Me: tezza5
tezza
Site Admin
 
Posts: 2293
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 1970 12:00 pm
Location: Palmerston North, New Zealand

Re: C64 vrs Atari 800XL

Postby WelshWizard on Wed Nov 23, 2011 12:56 pm

That's a quote from Tezza
"It's also bundled with a 1541-II disk drive. Yes, the rumours are true. Loading from a c-64 disk has to be one of the slowest and most painful waits in microcomputing. It takes me back to the days of waiting for TRS-80 tape software to load at 500 baud! The drive seems pretty reliable though. Its intelligent features are put to good use for converting web-sourced disk images into real disks using a special adaptor connecting it to my PC via the parallel port. The drive is not really as yellowed as it appears in the photo. The flash just seems to bring out that colour. "

This only mirrors the comments I had from the C64 guys when after giving me heaps for getting an Atari A 8 they saw the speed of the A8 loading from just the standard 1050 and then the one which was modded to Warp drive, ( my main love with the computers back then was hacking the hardware to make it better) as for work I used Mini Office on it and by this time I had a 800XL modded with a 80 col display by default, at one time I had about 8 A8's and 4 130XE's now only have the 3 800XL's all Working, and 2 130XE's which have failed due to bad Keyboard matrix traces, been trying to find some for years no joy mainly because the Trammel era machines were rubbish build quality, unlike the 800XL only goes to show a trend he started at Commodore being transferred to Atari when he purchased them after getting turfed of the Commodore board.

However there are things that you could with the C64 read the artical here http://www.nzeldes.com/Miscellany/ImProc.htm I belive he is a Kiwi guy who did it.
WelshWizard
 
Posts: 284
Joined: Fri Sep 09, 2011 11:04 am
Location: West Auckland

Re: C64 vrs Atari 800XL

Postby tezza on Wed Nov 23, 2011 2:16 pm

WelshWizard wrote:... and 2 130XE's which have failed due to bad Keyboard matrix traces, been trying to find some for years no joy mainly because the Trammel era machines were rubbish build quality, unlike the 800XL......

I concur with your views of the 130XE. On my collection page for this model I've written "...It's attractive enough but not as nice to use as the 800XL. It seems cheaper somehow. The keyboard is "mushy" and the case is lighter and feels flimsier."

I certainly prefer the earlier 800Xl.
Tez (Terry Stewart) (Administrator)
Collection: http://www.classic-computers.org.nz/col ... /index.htm
Projects and Articles: http://www.classic-computers.org.nz/blog/index.htm
Twitter: @classiccomputNZ | YouTube: Terry Stewart
Trade Me: tezza5
tezza
Site Admin
 
Posts: 2293
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 1970 12:00 pm
Location: Palmerston North, New Zealand

Re: C64 vrs Atari 800XL

Postby tezza on Wed Nov 23, 2011 2:20 pm

WelshWizard wrote:However there are things that you could with the C64 read the artical here http://www.nzeldes.com/Miscellany/ImProc.htm I belive he is a Kiwi guy who did it.

Ingenious! It's surprising just how inventive people can be when the need takes them.
Tez (Terry Stewart) (Administrator)
Collection: http://www.classic-computers.org.nz/col ... /index.htm
Projects and Articles: http://www.classic-computers.org.nz/blog/index.htm
Twitter: @classiccomputNZ | YouTube: Terry Stewart
Trade Me: tezza5
tezza
Site Admin
 
Posts: 2293
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 1970 12:00 pm
Location: Palmerston North, New Zealand

Re: C64 vrs Atari 800XL

Postby lizardb0y on Wed Nov 23, 2011 2:35 pm

tezza wrote:
WelshWizard wrote:However there are things that you could with the C64 read the artical here http://www.nzeldes.com/Miscellany/ImProc.htm I belive he is a Kiwi guy who did it.

Ingenious! It's surprising just how inventive people can be when the need takes them.

I remember someone visting the Central City Computer Interests Group in Dunedin with a 35mm SLR camera fitted with a DRAM chip that he'd carefully shaved the epoxy off the top. The transistors were sensitive enough to light that it operated as an effective, albeit low resolution digital camera. I have a print out of a photo that he took of me and some mates somewhere that I really should dig out.
lizardb0y / Andrew
Just another 8-bit hustler

blog: http://www.vintage8bit.com
twitter: @vintage8bit
google+: http://gplus.to/lizardb0y
trademe: andrew9 - over 500 positive trades.
lizardb0y
 
Posts: 549
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2008 8:50 am
Location: Wellington

Re: C64 vrs Atari 800XL

Postby Carcenomy on Wed Nov 23, 2011 9:50 pm

Funny you mention that lizardb0y, they were working on something like that at Commodore back in the TOI era, while Peddle was still there... among other excessive technologies that didn't take off for years ;)

There's loads of engineering compromise that went with the C64, the breadbin really is responsible for a lot of them. The 1541 would have been one of the fastest drives available, then someone removed some traces deemed 'unrequired' to make the thing fit that silly old VIC20 style breadbin, and bam... slowest drives available. Although, aren't the 1571s on C128s meant to be quite quick?
Just the local Commodore hobo and middle-aged PC hoarder.
eisa on Trademe. A lasting reminder of a Compaq fetish when I was younger.
Carcenomy
 
Posts: 764
Joined: Tue Aug 12, 2008 10:59 pm
Location: Invercargill

Re: C64 vrs Atari 800XL

Postby matsondawson on Thu Nov 24, 2011 8:22 am

I thought the 1541 issue was....
1/ A bug in the original 6522 meaning the serial part didn't work properly, hence having to bit bash the port
2/ The VIC chip did DMA whilst the drive was bit bashing the port and to make sure the DMA didn't interfere with bit bashing the speed was slowed down so a DMA cycle was shorter than a Drive cycle.
matsondawson
 
Posts: 323
Joined: Mon May 11, 2009 4:34 pm

Re: C64 vrs Atari 800XL

Postby WelshWizard on Mon Nov 28, 2011 5:32 pm

I wonder if there is a reason for the biggest Commodore website being called Lemon :roll:
WelshWizard
 
Posts: 284
Joined: Fri Sep 09, 2011 11:04 am
Location: West Auckland

Re: C64 vrs Atari 800XL

Postby tezza on Mon Nov 28, 2011 8:52 pm

WelshWizard wrote:I wonder if there is a reason for the biggest Commodore website being called Lemon :roll:


Now, now :) For all its penny-pinching design foibles the C64 was a huge success and is one of the iconic classic computers of the early 80s. Its place in history is secure.

Not sure why the site is called Lemon though? Maybe because there is a computer called an Apple somewhere?
Tez (Terry Stewart) (Administrator)
Collection: http://www.classic-computers.org.nz/col ... /index.htm
Projects and Articles: http://www.classic-computers.org.nz/blog/index.htm
Twitter: @classiccomputNZ | YouTube: Terry Stewart
Trade Me: tezza5
tezza
Site Admin
 
Posts: 2293
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 1970 12:00 pm
Location: Palmerston North, New Zealand

Next

Return to General

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests

cron