AngeldustConsoles & Computers

Consoles & Computers

Having been a games player for many years, I have seen most of them come & go, some were great & some were crap.  Below I have given a run down of the different machines I have played & owned, all with links to more machines from their genre.

 

Mentor TG20 Sport Console:

This is probably the oldest console I have played & was a predecessor to the cartridge based consoles, in competition with the Intellivision from Mattel.

Although this was limited to its built in games it showed impressive variation to the bat & ball themes of its time & provided hours of competitive 2 player fun.

Click here to see more of this type of console

Atari VCS2600 Junior:

Looking very swish by comparison is the VCS series of Atari consoles.  With a new black casing & aluminium nameplate this was positively space age.

With a cartridge based system Atari were the first company to create a successful games market with a wide choice of colour games made available.  Also the progression was made from the old fashioned wheel controller to the much more flexible joystick, giving 8 way directional with the addition of the much loved fire button.

Click here to see more Atari consoles

Sinclair ZX81 Home Computer:

Although the Mentor console was probably the oldest bit of kit I have played on, this was probably the first machine that I came across. 

Running on the long lived ZX80 processor this little home computer only had a 1k memory but still managed to produce a selection of basic games with character based graphics & also allow text based programs.

Click here to see more Sinclair home computers

 

 

Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k Home Computer:

The natural successor to the ZX81 is also the first home computer I owned.  With a comparatively huge memory of 48k, 16 colours & enough power to run higher resolution graphics this is one of the most loved computers to come out of the eighties.

With compatible machines running for another 10 years the library of games was positively huge.  The Spectrum computers had a great basic programming language that encouraged anyone & everyone, including myself, to become bedroom programmers, the most successful of which must be the Darling brothers with the Codemasters label, still going strong today on the modern games consoles.

Click here to see more Sinclair home computers

Commodore 64 Home Computer:

Despite its huge success I have never played on the Commodore 64.  This was in fierce competition with the Spectrum with a bigger memory capacity of 64k & better colour processing capability.  However, the graphics never quite matched that of the Sinclair Spectrum

Click here to see more Commodore home computers

Acorn Electron:

It was about this time that I was also introduced to the Acorn Electron & BBC Micro at my Primary School.  With Acorns production of educational titles these machines managed to infiltrate the Schools system nationwide making them a bit uncool in the games market.

Click here to see more Acorn & BBC home computers

Acorn BBC Master:

With the BBC series of computers Acorn proved their power with the superior BBC Master.  With a flexible graphics engine allowing programmers to pick from a huge selection of resolutions & colours, the BBC showed that it too could become a games machine if you wanted.

The BBC series were also the first home computers to allow networking, rising to the first multiplayer games that on the PC eventually evolved into the MMOG's & MMORPG's  (Massive Multiplayer Online Game / Role Playing Game) that many people play online today.

Click here to see more Acorn & BBC home computers

  

Amstrad CPC464 Home Computer:

Also arriving on the scene with a machine aimed squarely at the gaming market were unlikely candidates Amstrad.  Providing the first one stop solution of a computer with an integral Cassette drive & packaged monitor, the lack of a TV modulator probably meant the Amstrad never achieved the popularity it was capable of.  What was the point of a capable games machine with great graphics & colour when the price of the necessary monitor forced most people into buying the green screen option?

Click here to see more Amstrad home computers

MSX (Various manufacturers):

Around this time another format was also doing the rounds.  I do not know a great deal about the MSX, other than the fact that it was an open source design with machines available from almost every manufacturer.  It was also based on the same ZX80 processor that was widely used in the Sinclair range of computers.  Having seen some of the games that were available I can see why it was not popular in the gaming market.

Click here to see more MSX home computers

 

Sinclair Spectrum Plus & Plus 128k

With the 48k Spectrum starting to show its age Sinclair decided to ditch the Mickey Mouse keyboard & offer something a bit more impressive.  The Spectrum Plus series.  Sticking with the same programming system was key to its success providing a huge back catalogue of games & with the new 128k edition came bigger games without the necessary serial loading method that some programmers had to implement as games got bigger & bigger.  Unfortunately still being cassette based, this meant that loading times had increased to a whopping 15 minutes for the more advanced games on the market.  Also with the 128k version came improved audio capability options that many games started to offer as an added bonus.

Click here to see more Sinclair home computers

      

             

Sinclair Spectrum +2 / +2A / +2B

After the Plus & Plus 128k & the tendency of the keys to fall off whenever the machine received a jolt, it was evident that another facelift was in order, but hang on, doesn't this machine look a bit familiar?  This is because following the limited success of the Amstrad CPC464, Amstrad decided that if they couldn't beat them they would buy them.  Following the buy out of Sinclair home computers by Amstrad, they quickly went about providing a new keyboard with integral Cassette that was noticeably similar to their own range of games machines.  Fortunately they left the TV modulator in place providing the ideal path to gaming bliss.  Unfortunately they got the machines wrong a couple of times making them incompatible with a small number of the existing game titles.  This lead to the progression of the Plus 2 to the identikit versions, the 2A & then the 2B.

Click here to see more Sinclair home computers

 

 

            

Sinclair Spectrum +3

Amstrad then pulled a blinder, realising that with 128k games came 128k loading times the +3 was released along with an integral floppy disc drive.  Unfortunately this was Amstrads own proprietary 3" drive that eventually lost out to the superior 3-1/4 drive utilised by the PC generation, but this was no great loss as the Spectrum was never designed to be compatible with the other systems & probably turned out cheaper with the 3" drive.  This was the natural upgrade for me & I went out & purchased one as soon as I had enough pocket money.  This is probably my all time favourite machine keeping the great programming language of Spectrum basic with all the mod cons of a more powerful machine.

When coupled with the legally questionable Multiface 3 from Romantic Robot there were no limits to what you could do.  The Multiface plugged into the interface port on the rear of the machine & had a single magic red button sticking out the top.  Once this button was pressed the computer would be held in suspended animation & the Multiface menu would take over.  With the Multiface you could then alter the game code to allow all sorts of great options such as infinite lives, manual level selection, screen grabs & best of all, the saving of the computer memory with all its present game code onto disc.  This meant no more loading times (Wahaay!) & with a bit of basic programming knowledge, self compiled discs along with your own customised menus.

 Click here to see more Sinclair home computers

 

 

Atari ST series:

After the success of the 8-bit computers came the natural progression to 16-bit systems.  The jump in performance was phenomenal & after my first encounter with a 520ST/FM I new I had to have on as soon as possible.  I went on to buy a 520ST/E, the newer revised edition complete with an 8-channel stereo sound chip.  After a while I upgraded this to the more powerful 1040ST/E by adding extra memory boards.  Because almost half of the 520's memory was required by the operating system this was like tripling the memory & allowed much more flexibility of games & programming.

The awe these machines held in their day is hard to comprehend for today's' youngsters who have grown up with modern 32 & 64-bit consoles, but this was the first time games had incorporated sampled music & speech.  The more powerful Atari ST's were even used widely by modern musicians including the early Pet Shop Boys.  The other big step was the move of some games to the solid 3D graphics that are now taken for granted in almost every modern game.

Click here to see more home computers from Atari



Commodore Amiga 500:

After the success of the Commodore 64, Commodore were not about to sit back on their laurels & set up in fierce competition with Atari by releasing the Amiga series of computers.  These were arguably more powerful (& more expensive) & achieved huge popularity in the 16-bit gaming market.  Like the ST a variety of options were made available with varying degrees of power to suit every budget.

Click here to see more home computers from Commodore

Acorn Archimedes A3000

While Atari & Commodore were battling it out in the home market, Acorn continued their pace in educational machines with the Archimedes series of computers.  They offered the same jump in performance as the other 16-bit machines but with the addition of probably the first impressive desktop operating system.  Also, being compatible with the older BBC series allowed great mirth when running the older software at new ludicrous speeds.  I spent much of my break time in secondary school playing with the Archimedes and grew quite affectionate of them.

Click here to see more home computers from Acorn

Sega Master System:

The move of Atari to home computing left the console market completely open & in their place came the two new manufacturers Sega & Nintendo.  Unable to get the attention of the existing gamers they concentrated on the new younger generation of gamers who didn't want the complication of computers & were happy to start their gaming evolution on the simpler console machines.

Personally I always thought the consoles to be inferior & childish, avoiding them for many years to come.

Click here to see more consoles from Sega

NES (Nintendo Entertainment System):

With every games machine comes its more expensive competitor.  Nintendo proved that Sega weren't the only ones who could make a games machine & so started the 8-bit console war.

However, the battle may have been more about gaming characters than the capability of the machines.  Sega had unleashed a blistering marketing campaign, with their new mascot Sonic The Hedgehog attracting a huge generation of youngsters.  Nintendo did the same by revamping the old Donkey Kong character into the new colorful plumber everyone has come to know as Mario.  Arguably in his day Sonic probably had the biggest following but its interesting to note that the Mario franchise is still going strong while Sonic has now been relegated to re-issues of his older titles.

Click here to see more consoles from Nintendo

 

Sega Megadrive:

As with the home computer market, the console market was to benefit from the move to 16-bit processor also.  This led to the Sega Megadrive & its competitor the SNES.  These continued to enjoy success in the kiddy market & the mascots grew more & more popular in an unrelenting release of bigger & better sequels.

An interesting fact about the Megadrive is that with the later release of the Mega-CD, it was also the first console to offer CD-ROM based games & therefore CD quality sound.  Unfortunately this may have been too expensive & ahead of its time, leading Sega to experience its slow & painful demise that ultimately ended in closure of their console division, leaving the path open to the big name players we see today.

Click here to see more consoles from Sega

SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System):

Arguably with the 16-bit generation of consoles Nintendo were starting to pull ahead of Sega.

Again this may be attributed to the masterful handling of their Mario franchise.  Being an average Italian plumber allowed Mario to turn his hand to many different things.  For a start, Mario had made the transition to 3D giving a much more lifelike experience & a much greater sense of freedom when playing his games.  Secondly, Mario had also established himself as the master of kart racing, Mario Kart was phenomenally successful & rightly so, giving new console buyers something to wish for in their new machine.

In contrast where was Sonic going?  The sequels were becoming more & more repetitive with the addition of new characters showing the desperation of his creators.  Unfortunately Sonic was just not a game that could move to a 3D environment without losing the appealing gameplay, a fact that was born out when finally on the PS2 an attempt to revive the flagging franchise was made.

Click here to see more consoles from Nintendo

Sony Playstation:

Then came the 32-bit chips.  The Sony Playstation was the most unexpected & successfully marketed machine ever launched at its time & despite Sony having very little gaming experience they did have a lot of cash.  The success is largely due to the fact that Sony were not marketing the Playstation to the younger audience, Sony's marketing men rightly identified the lack of enthusiasm the older gamers had for Sega & Nintendo's consoles & after all, they had a lot more money than the toddlers & didn't rely on someone else buying the console for them.  This combined with the inspiring idea of the machine doubling up as a CD player meant only the strongest of competitors remained in business once the Playstation was launched.

Being an older gamer myself, I hadn't found a machine I was satisfied with since the death of my Atari, but when I saw what the Playstation could do, I knew I was back in action & had to purchase one.

Click here to see more consoles from Sony

 

Nintendo N64:

Seeing what Sony could do, & seeing their competitors dropping like fly's meant Nintendo had to do something special to stay in the game.

Along came the first 64-Bit console, the Nintendo N64.  The N64 achieved great success & people bought them in droves to out snob their Playstation pals, but why did they not overtake Sony's popularity?  Again it came down to marketing.  Sony were targeting a new audience whereas Nintendo didn't have anything new to offer.  Sony operated an open license on game software, allowing a huge selection of games to constantly stream into the market, offering their customers unprecedented choice.  Nintendo however, continued to create games solely in house & this led to a pretty stagnant offering of cutesy platformers, cutesy platformers, & oh, cutesy platformers.

Click here to see more consoles from Nintendo

 

Sony PS2:

Never a company to sit still, Sony had their PS2 on its way & intended to continue the roaring success.  More powerful than the Playstation, the PS2 incorporated the new DVD-ROM technology for extra capacity & it was obvious that this was going to pull in the punters.  Many of the audience bought the PS2 purely because of this & at the time, DVD players were not that much cheaper.  A testament to the importance of this feature was the fact that the DVD sales & rental market tripled in value after the launch of the PS2. The launch achieved sales that were tenfold that of the Playstation & it is now said that 1 in 3 households owns either a Playstation or PS2.  Thanks to Sony's success, the game production market is now bigger than the film industry & also one of Britain's greatest exports.

Click here to see more consoles from Sony

Nintendo Gamecube:

Nintendo continued their defiance in allowing Sony control of the console market by releasing yet another console, the Nintendo Gamecube.  They still had Mario but had caught on to something Sony hadn't, that was party gaming.  With Sony's introduction of the Multi-Tap giving Playstation & PS2 owners the ability to play games with up to eight players simultaneously, party gaming was becoming the norm with many people never playing games without an opponent.  Nintendo's answer to this was to stick 4 controller ports on their machine as opposed to the standard 2 found on their opponents consoles.  However, Nintendo had not incorporated a DVD player & this has continued to support Sony's sales to this day.

Click here to see more consoles from Nintendo

Microsoft X-Box:

Seeing the success their Japanese competitors were having led another giant into action.  Microsoft had long been producing & supporting the PC market so they had the technology, and money was certainly not an issue.  So ahead they went & released the X-box.  Arguably the most powerful console to this day, the X-box is an impressive bit of kit.  Unfortunately software support is not as great as Sony's & this combined with many peoples objection to the business practices of Microsoft means that along with myself, many people will continue to support Sony long into the future,

Click here to see more consoled from Microsoft

X-Box 360

Microsoft X-Box 360:

With the announcement of the PS3 & the apparently long development time, Microsoft then decided to get ahead of Sony by releasing their 'Next Gen' machine over a year in advance.  Why 360?  Cynical speculation says that an     X-box 2 wouldn't sound so good with a PS3 on the way.

With huge power, wireless controllers, High Definition visuals, built in Hard Drives, home networking & the first thriving online gaming community, the X-box 360 is an impressive bit of kit, but with the PS3 more powerful still & incorporating the much denser Blu-Ray High Definition format it may not hold the crown for long.

Click here to see more consoled from Microsoft

 

Playstation PS3

Sony PS3:

Then came the PS3.  With the increased storage capacity of the Blu-Ray drive offering bigger games & the astonishingly powerful performance, the PS3 does everything the X-box 360 does bigger & better. With the capability of playing the new High Definition Blu-Ray films it has been a huge success.

Click here to see more consoles from Sony


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Angeldust - Consoles & Computers