Party poppers that pop in the night

Debunking Happy 30th anniversary to the Apple Mac, Sinclair QL, & Amstrad CPC464!

Fetch the cake and candles dear reader because it’s time for more birthdays and a ridiculously long post title! It seems only fair that your correspondent return the favour and bonus points to anybody who gets the reference.

This year, 2014, is the 30th anniversary of the Apple MacIntosh, the Sinclair QL, and the Amstrad CPC464!

All of these computers were very user friendly, because they were each supplied with versions of the programming language BASIC, which supported their hardware, unlike the Commodore 64.

The author is using the term “user friendly” without really understanding what it means; user friendliness was nothing to do with programming and all about how easy a computer was to use for the layperson so command line environments like DOS and BASIC as used by the QL and Amstrad CPC can’t be described as user friendly.

The Apple MacIntosh was a computer based around the 32 bit 68000 CPU, although it had a 16 bit data bus.

The 68000 is only 32-bit internally so anything using it has to treat it as a 16-bit, there’s a reason the Sega Megadrive has “16-bit” in large friendly letters on the cover and a 68000 inside.

In spite of all its innovations, it was based on the Xerox Star and was also a cut down version of the short lived Apple Lisa, which was even more expensive than the Macintosh.

The Macintosh wasn’t a cut down Lisa, the hardware was designed from scratch by different people and to begin with it was built around the 6809E.

It was supplied with software which included Mac Paint and Mac Write, so users could easily draw pictures and do word processing, which many Commodore 64 owners never did at all, because Commodore didn’t supply a BASIC language or any software with the C64 which enabled them to do these things, then they were brainwashed into just playing games instead.

Note dear reader that the author singles out Commodore despite the facts that A) pretty much everybody else shipped their 8-bit systems without serious software (and in some cases like Atari, without BASIC) as well and B) Commodore were one of the few who actually went on to bundle productivity/utility software with the later models of their machine.

Here’s a video giving an extensive tour of the QL, including the features which put off business users, although it was totally superior to the Commodore 64 in almost every aspect apart from the keyboard and its ability to play music

“Superior” is relative. For things like gaming (which is, let’s be honest, the primary use for pretty much any home computer regardless of what people try to tell themselves when justifying the purchase) the C64 was a far better machine than the QL. For business use it’s a less clear cut matter, but the C64 is far more capable in that realm than the author is either aware of or would like his readers to believe and the same kind of loyal following for productivity that the QL has exists on the C64, mostly in America.

It had two Sinclair microdrives, meaning a fast tape cartridge system, built in, but could have one of the new 3.5 inch disk drives added on, the keyboard was poor quality and flat, which most businesses didn’t like the feel of it at all.

So the sector the QL was aimed at didn’t like it because it wasn’t well designed for that market and home users didn’t like it because it was aimed at business. Should it come as a surprise to anybody that the QL wasn’t successful dear reader?

Microdrives were a mistake generally, they were always unreliable and a clunky solution to the problem that disk drives had already solved.

The Amstrad CPC464 was quite different to the MacIntosh and QL, being similar to the Sinclair Spectrum in many ways, but more powerful.

Saying the Amstrad is “more powerful” than the Spectrum is debatable; there’s a little extra juice under the metaphorical hood  (3.5MHz on the Spectrum compared to 4MHz for the Amstrad CPC) but the screen RAM was over double the size so anything dealing with the display would always be moving more slowly.

And being sort-of-similar to the Spectrum did the Amstrad CPC more harm than good for things like games; programmers working to a tight schedule (which was most of the commercial coders at the time) could simply take the “cheap” route of adding some relatively small modifications to their Spectrum code which got it running on an Amstrad, handing the owners the defecation-covered end of the stick in the process since the results were usually slower and less colourful.

It was praised for having more RAM free to BASIC than the Commodore 64, although it was fitted with no more than 64K.

It only has about 3K more, that’s not a major leap for the two year difference between the machines especially when we consider the 60K free to BASIC on the Plus/4.

And one important thing to note dear reader, the Amstrad CPC, Sinclair QL and Apple Macintosh didn’t remain in their original configuration for more than a couple of years whilst the C64 remained functionally identical for it’s entire lifespan.

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