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128K when and why?


kheller2
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When did Atari conceive of doing a 128K system? I'm thinking it was in late 84 since they showcased the 130XE in Jan 85 .. which is pretty impressive to get a board design, plastics tooled on a so on in less than 6 months from when JT came onboard (along with all the fallout from that). I'm curious if this was a direct finger flip at the C128 which was in development in 84.

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Probably earlier. I don't have the link but there was a 128K version of the 800XL, recently posted about on this forum.

 

Also supposedly much earlier than seen on mainstream models was development of custom ICs like Freddie, ie developed for 1400XL but not actually seen until late 800XLs.

I think the quick tooling for XE was probably part of the strategy to have a unified corporate look for all the computers since they have that mini ST look.

 

The shame of it all of course is that the 65XEM fell by the wayside. Whether technical issues or just a case of CBD'd it was a tragedy that it never came to market.

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So that translates to Tramiel era though in my mind I would doubt they'd rush to get a 128K machine to market in 4 months. I tend to think it was something locked and loaded already.

 

A quick look sees the C= 128 being first shown at CES in Jan 1985 which means we beat them by a couple of months at least. As to if it was pre-emptive to beat the 128, who knows?

Tramiel left Commodore in Jan 1984, my guess would be that he was around when development started on the 128 and he probably had a good idea of what it's capabilities would be.

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A quick look sees the C= 128 being first shown at CES in Jan 1985 which means we beat them by a couple of months at least. As to if it was pre-emptive to beat the 128, who knows?

128K was just where everyone was going around 1984/5 because it was the next logical progression and the RAM was finally cheap enough for a consumer machine; the Amstrad CPC6128 and Sinclair Spectrum 128 were both later in 1985 and the BBC Master early 1986, which is when the market this side of the puddle could afford it.

 

Tramiel left Commodore in Jan 1984, my guess would be that he was around when development started on the 128 and he probably had a good idea of what it's capabilities would be.

If it were an attempt to one up Commodore in that way i'd expect more of the C128's specs and features to have made it over than just the RAM...?

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At that time and those prices computers were sold to people who didn't know a lot about them (and probably by people who didn't either). In a market like that it might be good to have a product that at least matches the competition in one of the few "measurements" that buyers (and sellers) might consider when deciding what to buy. When your main competition has a 128K machine you want to have one in your lineup, too. (Not that this makes sense but that's how uninformed people bought computers.) Given the relative lack of software requiring 128K I doubt that those 128K benefitted the majority of 130XE buyers.

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At that time and those prices computers were sold to people who didn't know a lot about them (and probably by people who didn't either). In a market like that it might be good to have a product that at least matches the competition in one of the few "measurements" that buyers (and sellers) might consider when deciding what to buy. When your main competition has a 128K machine you want to have one in your lineup, too. (Not that this makes sense but that's how uninformed people bought computers.) Given the relative lack of software requiring 128K I doubt that those 128K benefitted the majority of 130XE buyers.

 

Back in the days, I really wanted to have the 64 KB Ramdisk. I burned through an 1050 because the printing of the club member list would need 45min with the 1050 constantly spinning.

Edited by JoSch
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When I started reading the thread, I misinterpreted

the headline. I thought, why do you need 128k?

(what programs or games need 128k- and - do I

really need it).

 

From the Commodore side of view, I remember

commercials who fight the apple.

I also read a couple of books (memories) of

Commodore guys. None of them mentioned the

8 bit Ataris.

The C128 was a Computer between the generations.

And from the C= side of view,(at that time!),

Atari was a bankruptcy company, with a

megalomaniac boss. They fought at court, because

of the engineers JT brougt to Atari, and some

"special Chipsets" Miner maybe developed during

his time at atari etc... but... what else?

The rival was apple - and the upcomming Ibm.

However... when the Atari ST came, it was a

body blow for Commodore.

I think for both sides, the 8 bit/128k Computer

was just the last logical step, before the

16bit aera came up.

 

Stefan

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Back in the days, I really wanted to have the 64 KB Ramdisk. I burned through an 1050 because the printing of the club member list would need 45min with the 1050 constantly spinning.

 

Sure, I would have loved one, too, and so would many power users (at least those who had not upgraded their earlier machines themselves). I still don't think the majority of buyers really NEEDED those 128K. I think one reason Atari offered it was not to be left behind in the marketplace and it wasn't that complicated. I can't judge whether at that time they still had the manpower to design a more meaningful upgrade (better graphics, sound, whatever) but probably JT didn't aim for that anyway. He was always interested in underselling the competition cheap, and so he needed the old machine as cheap as possible rather than a fancier new machine. Maybe he was wrong as the C128 sold quite well (although it sold at the same time as the ST and Amiga) and probably a better 8-bit couldn't have matched the C128 as it couldn't have touted C64 compatibility....

 

Ma

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Sure, I would have loved one, too, and so would many power users (at least those who had not upgraded their earlier machines themselves). I still don't think the majority of buyers really NEEDED those 128K. I think one reason Atari offered it was not to be left behind in the marketplace and it wasn't that complicated. I can't judge whether at that time they still had the manpower to design a more meaningful upgrade (better graphics, sound, whatever) but probably JT didn't aim for that anyway. He was always interested in underselling the competition cheap, and so he needed the old machine as cheap as possible rather than a fancier new machine. Maybe he was wrong as the C128 sold quite well (although it sold at the same time as the ST and Amiga) and probably a better 8-bit couldn't have matched the C128 as it couldn't have touted C64 compatibility....

 

Ma

 

1.) Your post sounded like, there is NO value in having 128k. That's clearly not true. I'm sure we can savely assume, that most people then had DOS 2.5, they would have at least the RAMDISK out of the box and the RAMDISK driver is loud about being run.

2.) I know no numbers, but having some companies compete in the market of memory extensions, makes me think that, more than a handful of power users did know the value of more memory, even if it's only as a RAMDISK.

3.) You clearly assume to know the motivation of Atari. You can't.

If I would follow your argument that they wouldn't want to be left behind, they would have to have built this three machines in one case chimera. AFAIK, the C128 wasn't that big a success and the C64 remained the cash cow.

Clearly, the 130XE was the better road to go for Atari. You hadn't to change the OS drastically and you only add a handful more chips, remaining 100% compatible to the 800XL and cost efficient.

The C64 mode of the C128 wasn't 100% compatible to the original C64, so IIRC it was a factor in not making the C128 a big success.

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Regarding success storys by the way...

There was one big reason, why C= was

able, to sell the C64 for such a long

period. The tear down of the iron curtain.

What about Atari? Was there a demand for

their 8bits too?

(I only know the "german part" of the

history. C= had a very good reputation

in germany those days, so the east germans

where happy to buy one as soon as it was

available.)

Stefan

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From the random speculation that I have read:

The C128 didn't sell a lot in the US. It sold better over in Europe. The Atari was big in Poland and a few other countries outside the US where it stayed alive for some time.

64 mode on the 128 was only slightly off with compatibility -- probably no more than the 8bit needing a Translator disk.

 

From a marketing point of view, I can see Atari wanting tell sell something newer than just a rehashed 64K 800xl.. and wanting to have two product models. Remember, in the US the 64XE didn't have the ECI port. So if you were new to the Atari 8bit world you could buy the 65XE or spend a bit more and get 128K and expansion.

 

One could also say that the ST's sold better (than the Amiga) for the same reasons the C64 did.. it was cheap.

 

And yes, I too have noticed that most Commodore books do not mention the Atari 8bits.

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Incompatability was a non-event. Where with the XL it might have been near 10% initially with almost all being fixed by Translator, with the 128 it would probably have been under 2 dozen.

 

I don't think it hurt sales at all. What would have helped sales IMO is if they just extended the C64 architecture instead of bringing out yet another one when 8-bit machines were near EOL.

 

My thought process there would be banked Ram similar to 130XE. Crappy old 2.0 Basic, with the better Basic available by special command or startup sequence. CPU turbo mode in the style used by some software built into the OS. What this would have meant would be a machine with compatability issues probably on the order of what XL had but in time software could have been patched to work properly.

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In 1988/89 when I got my 130XE, I used my 128K mainly for ramdisk (Dos 2.5,SuperDos and TurboBasic). Copying a Single Density disc could be done in 1 pass with 128Kb. that was also handy when you had to copy a lot of floppies. And when you played Alternate Reality, the 128K ram was detected and so you didnt have to swap floppys so often.

 

I myselve made some machine language programs that used the extra 64K of the 130Xe. One was the Phantasy Demo. (2 sampled songs use 128KB).

Edited by Stormtrooper of Death
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From the random speculation that I have read:

The C128 didn't sell a lot in the US. It sold better over in Europe. The Atari was big in Poland and a few other countries outside the US where it stayed alive for some time.

64 mode on the 128 was only slightly off with compatibility -- probably no more than the 8bit needing a Translator disk.

 

From a marketing point of view, I can see Atari wanting tell sell something newer than just a rehashed 64K 800xl.. and wanting to have two product models. Remember, in the US the 64XE didn't have the ECI port. So if you were new to the Atari 8bit world you could buy the 65XE or spend a bit more and get 128K and expansion.

 

One could also say that the ST's sold better (than the Amiga) for the same reasons the C64 did.. it was cheap.

 

And yes, I too have noticed that most Commodore books do not mention the Atari 8bits.

 

I can't say the C128 didn't sell at ALL in the US but it wasn't a big seller. Most of the C64 hold-outs stuck with the C64. Most people were jumping on the 16-bitters by '86 or '87. My parents sold their 800 in 85 to get an ST and got me a 130XE around Christmas '87 so I'd quit breaking their ST. Their primary reason for not getting an Amiga wasn't price, it was brand loyalty. Atari was awesome, Commodore was the enemy. The nice hi-rez B&W monitor was great for productivity software as well.

 

I never made much use of the extra 64K beyond use as a RAMdisk. I had like 1 program which took advantage of extended RAM.

Edited by kogden
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The 130XE came out after I developed the 256K RAM upgrade for the 800XL in December 84, but before BYTE published the article in September 85. I designed the upgrade with 32K banks and when the 130XE came out with 16K banks, it was too late to change the BYTE article. In the mean time I redesigned it with 16K banks for the sake of compatibility and wrote a flyer showing new schematics and RAMdisk code. When the BYTE came out folks who wrote me got a flyer in return. I also posted it to BBSs. Here's that flyer:

 

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/122470-ram-upgrade-applications/page-2?do=findComment&comment=1481893

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Most people were jumping on the 16-bitters by '86 or '87. My parents sold their 800 in 85 to get an ST and got me a 130XE around Christmas '87 so I'd quit breaking their ST. Their primary reason for not getting an Amiga wasn't price, it was brand loyalty. Atari was awesome, Commodore was the enemy. The nice hi-rez B&W monitor was great for productivity software as well.

 

This.

 

After being a loyal A8 user from '82 - '86, I took my high school graduation gift money, plus savings, and bought a shiny new 1040ST, SC1224 color monitor and speedy 2400 baud modem in June 1986. I use that thing through 4 years of an undergraduate engineering degree and the next couple years after that. The color monitor was pretty crommulent in medium-res mode; I used it regularly for word processing, terminal emulation and coding (Personal Pascal was a neat language).

 

So yeah, I never had more than 48K in an A8 machine until about 2002 or 2003 when I started collecting XL hardware that I never owned as kid.

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I have found in 35 years of Atari 8-bitting, that the extra memory, while it sounds good, is really not a necessity. I am a believer that upgrading to higher memory is waste of resources. Keep it original, keep it simple. That said I have several upgraded Ataris, none of which justifies the upgrade cost and effort.

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I have found in 35 years of Atari 8-bitting, that the extra memory, while it sounds good, is really not a necessity. I am a believer that upgrading to higher memory is waste of resources. Keep it original, keep it simple. That said I have several upgraded Ataris, none of which justifies the upgrade cost and effort.

 

I make pretty good use of it now with SDX, playing large bankswitched cart dumps, etc. I play with bankswitching code here and there. It's far more useful to me now than it was then.

 

The problem for me was that when I started getting into more than playing cart-based games and got a floppy drive, the 8-bit was basically a fun yet defunct line. Shops no longer carried software. I only figured out how to switch banks because my dad got a box of old ANTIC magazines from some guy at the WAACE AtariFest for $5.

 

The 8-bit scene here didn't last long after the 130XE and the ST were released. Apparently the 8-bit held on much longer over in Europe.

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128K if anything means you can have a Dos with a smaller footprint in main memory.

 

Then you may as well go 320K to have that and a decent sized Ramdisk.

 

Really, no such thing as too much Ram. Give us a 32 Meg A8, we'll soon enough find a way to fill that up too.

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After being a loyal A8 user from '82 - '86, I took my high school graduation gift money, plus savings, and bought a shiny new 1040ST, SC1224 color monitor and speedy 2400 baud modem in June 1986. I use that thing through 4 years of an undergraduate engineering degree and the next couple years after that. The color monitor was pretty crommulent in medium-res mode; I used it regularly for word processing, terminal emulation and coding (Personal Pascal was a neat language).

 

I loved playing with my parents ST's as much as I loved my 8-bit. The ST was a great machine with a great software library even if it was rushed to market and was a more basic design compared to the Amiga. I don't understand the ST hate with a lot of the 8-bit crowd. It spanked early Macs and PC's of the day hands-down and was far cheaper and VERY capable.

 

Had the ST line not stagnated so much before fairly crippled 32-bit offerings were finally released (in severely limited numbers and overpriced) it would have survived long-term. Complacence killed it. Apple machines spanked'em and average PC's were just as fast by the time the TT was available in numbers. The Falcon was basically DOA.

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