Author Topic: How come British Computer developers did not embrace Sprite features?  (Read 5464 times)

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Offline Puresox

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Not sure what was the best area to put this question, so here it is , for good or ill. Question being why was the British Computer scene not embracing Sprite capabilities into their machines? The US home computers Atari 800(late 70's), Commodore 64(82) had Sprite capabilities and scrolling. Not sure about the Apple 2 and Tandy machines , TI99 etc...


Is this purely an issue to these companies buying power  compared to Sinclair, Acorn,Tangerine and Amstrads , smaller markets and cash flow(And Connections).
Seems strange that at least the Amstrad being 84' machine would not have considered it . Had costs not come down suffice? Or is it more complex an issue?
 .

Offline dragon

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I think is a simple question about gate array/ula/asic technology.

All briths computers in the begginig depended of the ula ferranti space aviable. As they not search the technology outside u.k.

Others manufacturers. As commodore uses a tecnology from eeuu or japan in case of sega and nintendo consoles.

Simply their technology is more advanced that the ferranti at the time.

Advanced in the sense they have more space aviable in the chip to fit more things.

Offline Docent

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Not sure what was the best area to put this question, so here it is , for good or ill. Question being why was the British Computer scene not embracing Sprite capabilities into their machines? The US home computers Atari 800(late 70's), Commodore 64(82) had Sprite capabilities and scrolling. Not sure about the Apple 2 and Tandy machines , TI99 etc...


Is this purely an issue to these companies buying power  compared to Sinclair, Acorn,Tangerine and Amstrads , smaller markets and cash flow(And Connections).
Seems strange that at least the Amstrad being 84' machine would not have considered it . Had costs not come down suffice? Or is it more complex an issue?
 .

It was much cheaper to use off-shelf components and budget was the major constrain.
 I'd also bet on lack of knowledge and technology to design and build such specialized chips - at that time most chips were designed in US and Japan, with production shifting to Far East.

Offline AMSDOS

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Probably because Mr. Sugar wanted to embrace an all-round computer, to handle serious applications as well as the games.
I don't know what would of happened if Amstrad had adopted Hardware Sprites, a C64 for example has 64k, but around 39k is usable, a CPC has 43k (tape based system) or 42k (when disc is introduced), so perhaps Hardware Sprites might of had a compromise on memory back then, which looks bad if you're trying to attract a serious users market as well as a gamers market. The CPC Plusses have Hardware Sprites though, but I've also read that there's a limitation on it.


There is an argument to say why didn't Amstrad get the Firmware right the first time? With clever use of it you can create Sprite like images & it works quite well for @Morri game "Coolbox".
I started using this approach for my game "Get The Cash" and it was fine in the early versions of the game I wrote in CPC BASIC 3, but when I started making the game more complicated, it wasn't challenging enough and needed something faster, so I went to Sean McManus' Easi-Sprite Driver, which made a huge difference. You can compare how the game differs by downloading the attached file in Reply #5 with the file in Reply #6.
 
In hindsight Hardware coding simply cannot be altered, so there is good examples of Firmware along with bad examples. My game shows that depending on what I wanted to do, the firmware was adequate enough for it, but when I wanted to complicate the process, it needed a software solution rather than a Hardware one. But once the Hardware coding was out there, it's difficult to simply update without causing problems.
The Firmware found in BASIC 1.1 adds onto what BASIC 1.0 has, but when the update was done in Firmware 1.1, some problems emerged for some early 464 programs.  This program I wrote, which does a Test on TXT RD CHAR reveals TXT RD CHAR operates slightly differently on a 464 from 6128, so in some of those early games which use TXT RD CHAR, there are problems and programs have to be modified so they can work on all computers, depending on what needs to be done to satisfy this depends on the game. I think some games are more complicated to resolve than others, depends on what the game does, the Dambuster game which was harder with BASIC 1.1 (because all the bombs were destroying the Dam Wall), was somewhat easy to resolve with some IF statements.
So in a similar fashion, the CPC Plus adds-onto what the earlier CPCs have, by then all the machines add-onto the later Firmware, the Hardware Sprites no-doubt is seperate from the Firmware, but because it's Hardware like the firmware, limitations came out of it, which makes it difficult to simply replace I presume.
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Offline andycadley

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Atari and Commodore were building games consoles which sort of morphed into Computers as that market seemed to be an expanding one whereas the console market was struggling (and would eventually collapse taking many down with it). In Commodore's case, it proved a wise decision allowing them to survive where Atari fell due in part to the lack of success of their home computers and in part to the still heavy dependence on the collapsed console market.

Over in the UK, consoles weren't really a thing until the NES, so we weren't really designing arcade-style chipsets, instead our home computers were all based around much more general purpose hardware.

Offline Puresox

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Good overall picture of the situation. Not that I grasped all of it. I conclude that the US market ,pretty much all had there eyes focused on Console being a driving factor, probably at the end of the 70's feelings were starting to sway toward personal home computers (Apple driven?) Atari and Commodore spotted a market for the Masses and focused on all round machine(But heavily games biased due to the energy focused on console stuff) . The US had a lot more access to Computer focused industry ,  Silicone valley, Chips and tech.
 UK obviously everything on lesser scale, but still genius's at the helm to be able to Produced all round machines that ticked boxes , for learning , functionality ,packages for many  uses.

Offline Puresox

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Futher question...?


What dictated the colour palette,  Was the  Spectrums grubby, dirty, colours(IMO) picked by someone? LIkewise the C64's Wishy, washy. Pallette was that a considered choice or part of just how things worked?To be fair the C64 could pull off some nice looking stuff. But on the whole ,pretty, Bleached.
 And the Amstrad's forte ,the stunning and opulent ,choice of colours . Was this a master stroke . Or just a fortunate situation?

Offline reidrac

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Both Atari 800 and C64 were 6502 based machines. I wonder if that was just a coincidence.

Re: palettes, this Wikipedia page has a good explanation and compares different palettes of the time: List of 8-bit computer hardware palettes - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Offline Bryce

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Well the 6502 had hardware support for sprites. The Z80 didn't. The BBC, a very british computer, also used the 6502.

Bryce.

Offline dragon

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Well techically amstrad used 6502 at least a few months.

Offline pelrun

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Well the 6502 had hardware support for sprites. The Z80 didn't. The BBC, a very british computer, also used the 6502.


As far as I know that's not at all true. Sprite support has always been supplied by external (to the CPU) hardware; it was just far more prevalent on 6502 systems (maybe because the 6502 wasn't quite as powerful.)

Offline arnoldemu

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Futher question...?


What dictated the colour palette,  Was the  Spectrums grubby, dirty, colours(IMO) picked by someone? LIkewise the C64's Wishy, washy. Pallette was that a considered choice or part of just how things worked?To be fair the C64 could pull off some nice looking stuff. But on the whole ,pretty, Bleached.
 And the Amstrad's forte ,the stunning and opulent ,choice of colours . Was this a master stroke . Or just a fortunate situation?

C64 was chosen.
All you ever wanted to know about the colors of the commodore 64

Speccy and CPC are a product of how it was designed.

Speccy's is ON/OFF with a brightness adjustment.

CPC's is 3 levels of on. (none, "half" and full).

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Offline arnoldemu

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Not sure what was the best area to put this question, so here it is , for good or ill. Question being why was the British Computer scene not embracing Sprite capabilities into their machines?
I think it depends on the market they wanted to go for.

Sprite capabilities on the c64 is done as part of a custom chipset which is much more expensive to make.

The CPC's and Speccy's custom bits were much less complex and therefore much cheaper to implement.
CPC used other off the shelf chips which was cheaper because it was already done.

TI, MSX and others used the VDP which had sprites. Amstrad chose not to use it.
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Offline arnoldemu

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Well the 6502 had hardware support for sprites. The Z80 didn't. The BBC, a very british computer, also used the 6502.

Bryce.
???? No. The choice of CPU doesn't determine if sprites are used or not.

It was down to how much it cost to make the video chip.
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Offline arnoldemu

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As far as I know that's not at all true. Sprite support has always been supplied by external (to the CPU) hardware; it was just far more prevalent on 6502 systems (maybe because the 6502 wasn't quite as powerful.)
I disagree. I expect it's the same. Don't forget MSX, Spectravideo, Einstein and others that had VDPs which have sprites.

And the 6502 is comparable to the z80 in terms of power.

Don't compare Mhz. Z80 takes at least 4 cycles for a NOP, 6502 takes a different amount, so you really need to compare real speeds rather than compare Mhz.
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Offline Bryce

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I'm no CPU architecture expert, nor do I know the 6502 very well, but I was always believed that the 6502 had features specifically for sprite handling, which the Z80 didn't, but I may be completely wrong. From a hardware point of view I actually grew up with the 6800 and then later the Z80.

Bryce.

Offline MaV

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The second pictures on this site shows a Commodore VIC-II die:
MayhemUK Commodore 64 archive
Areas B, E, F, G, H, L, and partly areas I and J are for sprites which is quite a lot of the die area in a time where manufacturing a chip was extremely expensive. Commodore bought MOS and renamed it Commodore Semiconductor Group (CSG), so chip development took place in-house and therefore had the tools to customise their designs and produce cheaper than elsewhere. That gave Commodore somewhat of an edge.

I don't know much about Atari, but they had three custom made chips inside, so they may have been in a likewise situation. The sprite generator seemed a lot less complex than the VIC-II's.


How many video chips with sprite generation were common (and therefore relatively cheap) in the 80s? The 6845 was well-known, as the BBC computers and the IBM PC had it.
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Offline Bryce

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The 6845 was made for business computer monitors and was already available in huge quantities back then (due to it being used in so many PC systems), so it would have been a safe and cheap bet for Amstrad.

Bryce.

Offline reidrac

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How many video chips with sprite generation were common (and therefore relatively cheap) in the 80s? The 6845 was well-known, as the BBC computers and the IBM PC had it.

The MSX and the Coleco used the TI TMS9918, and both were Z80 based.

I guess that if the CPC had used something like this, it would have been a very different machine as the TMS9918 is responsible of the MSX and ColecoVision palette (15 colours + transparent).
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Offline MaV

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The MSX and the Coleco used the TI TMS9918, and both were Z80 based.

I guess that if the CPC had used something like this, it would have been a very different machine as the TMS9918 is responsible of the MSX and ColecoVision palette (15 colours + transparent).
A very different machine indeed. We'd be stuck at 256x192 resolution with the 15+1 colours, and no scrolling registers (possible with tricks).

Here's a list of home computers and their video hardware:
List of home computers by video hardware - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The second to last column shows their respective sprites capabilities. Unfortunately they lumped the CPC and CPC+ together, so the data is questionable. Nevertheless, it's easily visible that the 8 bit home computers mostly did not have hardware sprites.
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Offline pelrun

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Don't compare Mhz. Z80 takes at least 4 cycles for a NOP, 6502 takes a different amount, so you really need to compare real speeds rather than compare Mhz.


I wasn't comparing clock speeds. I was thinking about the small number of registers available on the 6502, although that's offset by the increased number of indirection operators.

Offline TFM

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Well, the CPU is one thing, sprites are a completely other thing. No CPU deals with sprites, for them you need additional chips.

During the 80ies is was simply a question of costs. Usually the lazy hardware guys left it to the coders to compensate the lack of hardware features. Best example: the 8. bit - better to say the missing 8. bit at the CPC's printer port. They sacrificed it for saving the cost of one route on the PCB, so software need to tell the printer "switch 8. bit on / off".

These are all consumer computers, they got made to be sold. Sorry, but that's it.  :-X
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Offline andycadley

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I wasn't comparing clock speeds. I was thinking about the small number of registers available on the 6502, although that's offset by the increased number of indirection operators.
The 6502 design is all about the Zero Page, which gives very fast access to a small amount of memory and used effectively it is like having a large bunch of registers. As a result the 6502 is typically faster even when clocked lower. The Z80 tends to win out in cases where its more "heavyweight" instructions, like block operations and 16-bit math, come into play. Having separate IO space also means you can potentially access a larger amount of RAM without paging since you don't need to memory map hardware devices - although most Z80 machines, including the CPC, do tend to memory map at least some hardware (the video memory) since there is a more restricted set of instructions for working with IO space (and IO space is often only partially decoded to keep hardware cheap)

Offline dragon

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Well, the CPU is one thing, sprites are a completely other thing. No CPU deals with sprites, for them you need additional chips.

During the 80ies is was simply a question of costs. Usually the lazy hardware guys left it to the coders to compensate the lack of hardware features. Best example: the 8. bit - better to say the missing 8. bit at the CPC's printer port. They sacrificed it for saving the cost of one route on the PCB, so software need to tell the printer "switch 8. bit on / off".

These are all consumer computers, they got made to be sold. Sorry, but that's it.  :-X

But in case of amstrad i not sure is cause 100% of cost. Ferranti ula was very bad in terms of lifetime. The need use a hot plate  with a little desing.

More logic gates means,more hot. This can be a problem to the fiability if the ic.


And add alan sugar search made the cpc in a few months

I think probably they want hardware sprites in ant
« Last Edit: 00:16, 14 July 16 by dragon »

Offline Docent

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I wasn't comparing clock speeds. I was thinking about the small number of registers available on the 6502, although that's offset by the increased number of indirection operators.

Small number of registers on 6502 doesn't matter because it has the zero page addressing mode, which basically gives you 256 pseudo registers with very fast access to work with. Have a look at this example of loading memory content at 0xa0 into A register for both 6502 and z80:
lda $a0 - takes 2 bytes and 3 cycles
ld a,(#a0) - takes 3 bytes and 13 cycles

While the clock speed of z80 in Amstrad is ~4 times higher than 6502 in C64, C64 will still execute this instruction faster than CPC.
The main difference is the lack of 16bit registers in 6502 - z80 has also better support for 16bit operations and 16bit stack that can be anywhere in the address space. Z80 also has more advanced instructions like ldir, cpir etc.