Apple II vs C64 (was Re: Ping: Clockmeister (an no-one else))
- From: Cameron Kaiser <ckaiser@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: 23 Oct 2005 08:13:01 -0500
Subject line changed for clarity, references intact.
a2user@xxxxxxxxxxxxx (a2user) writes:
>Hmmm....when I compare the graphics screens of Flight Simulator II or
>Neuromancer or hundreds of other common software titles between the C=64
>and the Apple //e and //c, I don't see a whole lot of difference. So
>graphics wise and color wise, the C=64 was barely the graphics/color
>powerhouse you seem to think it was.
Growing up, I learned how to program on the Apple II before programming on
the C64 (we had Apples in school).
Bear in mind I still enjoy Apple II programming, and I have two IIgs systems
myself (my preferred one is a ROM 03 with an internal HD in a Woz case).
In GR, you get 16 colours, but only at 40x40 (or more if you turn the
bottom lines off).
In HGR, you get 8 colours, but at 280x193 (with the bottom window off),
and older models only had six. Also, you may get colour issues plotting
pixels together, although I have to admit that Woz's strategy was clever
(plot green next to purple and you get a big white pixel instead due to
how the composite signal is encoded).
Yes, there is double hi-res, but only on the IIe/B, IIc and IIgs, so its
applications were comparatively less and the resolution 140x192x16.
Admittedly, the colours were better, and the 560x192 monochrome was divine.
On the other hand, the C64 has 320x200x16 graphics. You do have an 8x8
colour limitation (one colour pair per 8x8 cell), but you can pick any
of the colours for the pair. You can increase this to four per 8x8 cell
in 160x200 multicolour mode, which was very common, and a trick that I
have not seen on the Apple II is to track the raster and load in new
colour data as it moves down the screen to bash even this restriction.
You can also interlace new colours this way. This was not used a great
deal in commercial software, but it's popular in demos.
With the increase in palette alone, I find it hard to believe that you don't
see a difference, particularly in title screens, but this could be simply
our respective biases.
Furthermore, C64 sprite support really is unmatched by the Apple II. Shape
tables are slower and taint the background. VIC-II sprites can carry their
own colours, exist in multicolour mode, support hardware scaling, have
variable priorities and change instantaneously just with a single POKE
changing their shape data. And the sprites don't care what kind of screen
they're overlaid on -- they can be overlaid on text if you like. Despite the
optimized code for them, shape tables are sluggish by comparison.
>Soundwise, yes the Commodore 64 had the SID chip and it was much better
>the built in sound features of the 8 bit Apple II line.
>Slap in one of the many sound cards that were available for the open
>architecture Apple II line, and the C=64's built in sound capabilities
>advantage were somewhat negated.
But even the Mockingboard didn't have massive commercial support because
the install base was comparatively few. None of my friends growing up who
had Apple IIs and played games on them had a sound card. We can argue
about the sound quality, but it didn't really matter when the sound cards
just didn't have the presence in the market their boosters were hoping for.
As far as "open architecture," one of the things I wished the C64 had was
true slots. On the other hand, I don't think you can get more open than
things like the C64 Programmer's Reference Guide, where every memory location
was described, every Kernal call had an entry, every custom IC had a pinout,
and there were even bus diagrams. It's just a shame that the ports were
>And what was with those dog slow floppy disk drives for the C=64?
>Oh yeah, you needed one of those fastload cartridges plugged into the only
>expansion slot into the Commodore 64 computer to speed them up.
Guilty as charged, although our drives do have their own CPUs in them and
most commercial-quality games had their own fastloaders in software
facilitated by reprogramming the disk drive. Some software could use it as
>The Tramiel's drove the video game industry and the low end home computing
>industry into the dirt by the time 1983/1984 rolled around by low balling
>everyone by selling shoddy, cheaply designed computers and undercutting
>the price of the computers they even made themselves. Then the Tramiel's
>set out to destroy Atari after almost destroying Commodore. In the end,
>they both went belly up.
This is a perspective I agree with, and disagree with. While Jack Tramiel was
a money-grubbing so-and-so, and no one will disagree with that (least of all
him, I suspect), I think calling the C64 cheaply designed is a pretty cheap
shot, for lack of a better expression. Cheaply *produced*, yeah, I think
that's fair (we took three defective units back, one after the other), but the
rich complexity and comtemporary feature parity of the C64's custom chips
alone should demonstrate that its engineering was most certainly not. If you
want a cheap design, go look at a ZX-81: that's a marvel of low-cost
engineering that sold like hotcakes. Commodore's manufacturing and QA were
where the money was pinched, not the machine design itself.
As for Atari, I do agree that Jack screwed them over but good. But that's
Cameron Kaiser * ckaiser@xxxxxxxxxxxx * posting with a Commodore 128
personal page: http://www.armory.com/%7Espectre/
** Computer Workshops: games, productivity software and more for C64/128! **
** http://www.armory.com/%7Espectre/cwi/ **
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