What could Atari have done better with the ST?

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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by troed »

joska wrote:
Mindthreat wrote:Or how awesome it was for a program not to work because it required 1 of 3 different display outputs.
I think you're exaggerating this a bit.
I don't understand the "three different" part. Either it's color (can either be a monitor or through RF, low and medium resolution) or it's mono (requires mono monitor back then, SM124, SM144 etc)

That's two. What did I miss?

(I survived all my ST years with a 14" color TV connected via RF. The later years I did have an SM124 which I coded on, which nicely switched automatically to the TV when I started the program)

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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by AtariZoll »

This reminds me on former member at Atariage, who called self "TheAtariKing" :D

Talking about my Atari years and used display: Had new 37 cm (we are in Eu, so no inches :D ) TV with composite input. But was not satisfied with colored vertical lines (see my S-video page) , so I added RGB input to that small TV - it became something like SC1224 . I added even support for 60 Hz vertical refresh. Later I bought used SM124. Was no need for some quick switch between, simply because I did not change much usage.
Knew some people near to me who started with monochrome for CAD and programming purposes.
We talking about times when some 386SX based PC with color VGA cost about 5000 DEM .
Famous Schrodinger's cat hypothetical experiment says that cat is dead or alive until we open box and see condition of poor animal, which deserved better logic. Cat is always in some certain state - regardless from is observer able or not to see what the state is.
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by Ragstaff »

There was hardly any (was there any?!) software that required hi-res. Everything could be run in medium res, so all you needed was a colour TV or monitor. Hi-res was a beautiful luxury though, very easy on the eyes, crisp quality, and you had double the vertical resolution, so more text or whatever would fit on one screen without scrolling down.

Also, the icons had to be as big as they were at low res, otherwise you wouldn't be able to read them. For browsing folders I always switched to list view anyway.
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by joska »

Ragstaff wrote:There was hardly any (was there any?!) software that required hi-res.
There was definitely software that required hi-res, like Calamus. And a lot of software that worked in hi-res but really needed hi-res to be usable. But as I said, I used a 14" TV for years without problems. Did all my schoolwork with 1ST Word and Protext, even wrote a 6502-assembler in STOS for a school project :D Compared to the PC's at school my ST was a dream to use. Fast, reliable, good software and about 100000000 times better for playing games.
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by qq1975b »

joska wrote: I think you're exaggerating this a bit. I managed quite well for years with only a 14" TV with SCART input. It took me four years before I bought my first SM124. Most programs - including the "serious" ones - worked just fine in med-res.

The monochrome mode was a selling point for Atari. It was something that only "serious" and expensive PC's and Macs has had until then. In 1985 there was no way to get equal display quality on a colour monitor for a reasonable price.
AtariZoll wrote: For instance, the monitor case. How Atari should solve sharp, non-flickering resolution of 640x400 px monitor without it cost a fortune in 1985 ?
If it would support color modes, then it will be: very expensive, cost more than 2 monitors what were released then. + high-res mode would be not so sharp on color CRT with color masks. What Atari did was actually very good and solution for everyone: who wanted only to play games and maybe little programming could go without buying any monitor. Who wanted serious work bought mono monitor. And people with money bought color monitor (too) .
I would say that it was really good policy/design .:
Ok on business and professional world. At home (common 12-15 y.o. users without knowledge on computing and not as skilled as some people here :wink: ...) there were monochrome preference pressure from parents (homework) and colour/TV preference pressure from children (games) :lol: but as you say, with a limitation on the Atari ST final price and trying to target all kind of users, Atari probably did it right: home->TV/SC1224, professional-> SM124 (but I insist I felt deceived at that time because I wanted the colour monitor and not the "boring" SM124 :lol: :lol: )
AtariZoll wrote: Talking about my Atari years and used display: Had new 37 cm (we are in Eu, so no inches :D ) TV with composite input. But was not satisfied with colored vertical lines (see my S-video page) , so I added RGB input to that small TV - it became something like SC1224 . I added even support for 60 Hz vertical refresh. Later I bought used SM124. Was no need for some quick switch between, simply because I did not change much usage.
Knew some people near to me who started with monochrome for CAD and programming purposes.
We talking about times when some 386SX based PC with color VGA cost about 5000 DEM .
I was probably playing Starglider on my SM124... :? :lol:

Only one final question, please: Would the following have been done in not an expensive way?

These are the Atari ST refresh rates:

ST High ST Low/Medium
Vertical refresh rate 72 Hz 50 or 60 Hz
Horizontal refresh rate 31.5 Khz 15.75 Khz

Add ST High compatible also with 50-60Hz ( switch? autodetect? easiest way):

ST High "1" ST Low/Medium/ST High "2"
Vertical refresh rate 72 Hz 50 or 60 Hz
Horizontal refresh rate 31.5 Khz 15.75 Khz
Monitor SM124 SC1224/TV

If the answer is "NO!!!" ...forget it :lol: but if it is "maybe" ( display chip design?)... Could this be added to the "wishes list"? :p

joska wrote: The problem was ofcourse that things never really got improved after the ST. Sure, the STE was slightly better, the TT was faster, the Falcon had more colours etc but basically it was the same thing. Both hardware and OS evolved very little. The ST was fast and userfriendly compared to PC's in 1985, but when the Falcon came in 1991 it really didn't offer anything anymore.
Apple as an example of survival...but probably this should be another thread...
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by AtariZoll »

You can not display 400 non interlaced lines on PAL or NTSC monitor - what SC1224 is basically, considering refresh rates and horizontal freq.
Need multisync monitor, as is pointed already. And that cost a fortune in 1985.
Simple calculation says that hi-res needs : even without borders, so with 400 lines you need 20 KHz horizontal rate. But that filckers too much for serious usage. 70 Hz is what is accepted as minimum for comfortable work, what causes not headache, eye problems. Adding some border area to it, what is a must, because analogue allows not accurate positioning we are at 31 Khz .
I tried monoemulator for color monitors in interlaced mode - to get 400 lines, but that was flickering horror and total useless.
Famous Schrodinger's cat hypothetical experiment says that cat is dead or alive until we open box and see condition of poor animal, which deserved better logic. Cat is always in some certain state - regardless from is observer able or not to see what the state is.
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by shoggoth »

calimero wrote:
Mindthreat wrote:For me, I think it was mostly TOS feeling so uninviting and the overall slowness of it as a whole. It's supposed to be a fast machine but it didn't come across that way, at all.
Mac was even slower! NVDI and other screen speed booster make ST really fast; especial if you compare it to other 68000 ~8MHz machines. So Atari could make graphics routines in assembler from day one, that would be nice speed boost :D but that would delay ST even further.
It was a space issue. Atari *did* implement most of the critical drawing code in assembly language, even self-modifying code to gain some speed at lower cost (space). What's needed is unrolling and lookup tables, and this is something NVDI can afford to do quite easily. Just as many games could have been faster on 1 meg machines, GEM/VDI could have been a lot faster if it was allowed to use more memory.
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by joska »

qq1975b wrote:Add ST High compatible also with 50-60Hz ( switch? autodetect? easiest way):
It could have been solved rather easily with interlace. Display quality would be poor, but it's not completely unusable.
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by qq1975b »

@AtariZoll Thanks for the explanation :)
joska wrote:
qq1975b wrote:Add ST High compatible also with 50-60Hz ( switch? autodetect? easiest way):
It could have been solved rather easily with interlace. Display quality would be poor, but it's not completely unusable.
So, could this Hi Res interlaced mode have been added easily or maybe was it expensive (chip cost/design cost/whatever)?
Hi Res on Amiga (640x512) doesn't look terrible on TV/1084S but sure worse than the ST High on the SM124). Or...Would the 640x400 res look really terrible with interlace?

If it wouldn't be terrible quality and not expensive, plain users could have had an SC1224/TV for low-mid res & hi interlaced res and "pro" users could get the SM124 for a more professional and higher image quality. More features and flexibilty at similar cost.
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by qq1975b »

shoggoth wrote:
calimero wrote:
Mindthreat wrote:For me, I think it was mostly TOS feeling so uninviting and the overall slowness of it as a whole. It's supposed to be a fast machine but it didn't come across that way, at all.
Mac was even slower! NVDI and other screen speed booster make ST really fast; especial if you compare it to other 68000 ~8MHz machines. So Atari could make graphics routines in assembler from day one, that would be nice speed boost :D but that would delay ST even further.
It was a space issue. Atari *did* implement most of the critical drawing code in assembly language, even self-modifying code to gain some speed at lower cost (space). What's needed is unrolling and lookup tables, and this is something NVDI can afford to do quite easily. Just as many games could have been faster on 1 meg machines, GEM/VDI could have been a lot faster if it was allowed to use more memory.

How much memory use would it be needed? the ST was born with 256KB (?) but little later evolved to 512KB, that it could be considered the "standard" on ST. So, maybe GEM/VDI on TOS 1.04 and 1.06 could be allowed to use more memory? I mean could Atari have optimized "memory cost" vs speed on TOS 1.4+ (all ST were 512KB+ machines)?
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by calimero »

shoggoth wrote:It was a space issue. Atari *did* implement most of the critical drawing code in assembly language, even self-modifying code to gain some speed at lower cost (space). What's needed is unrolling and lookup tables, and this is something NVDI can afford to do quite easily. Just as many games could have been faster on 1 meg machines, GEM/VDI could have been a lot faster if it was allowed to use more memory.
Thanks for clarification! I always though that software screen accelerators replace TOS drawing routines with assembler optimised ones.

@qq1975b later there were bunch of third party accelerators: http://www.atari-forum.com/viewtopic.ph ... p9#p274727
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by AtariZoll »

Amiga had special anti-flicker HW for those interlaced modes. That was intended mostly for some video work - like adding subtitles for VHS, making some simple commercials. If you need CAD, drawing blueprints, schematics, you need sharp lines, and that needs true hi-res, not interlaced haze :D
Famous Schrodinger's cat hypothetical experiment says that cat is dead or alive until we open box and see condition of poor animal, which deserved better logic. Cat is always in some certain state - regardless from is observer able or not to see what the state is.
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by joska »

qq1975b wrote:So, could this Hi Res interlaced mode have been added easily or maybe was it expensive (chip cost/design cost/whatever)?
Hi Res on Amiga (640x512) doesn't look terrible on TV/1084S but sure worse than the ST High on the SM124). Or...Would the 640x400 res look really terrible with interlace?
The result would be the same as on the Amiga. As AtariZoll said, Amiga interlace mode was not really meant to be used when working with the Amiga, but to be compatible with standard PAL and NTSC video (which is interlaced) for video titling etc.

All TV's use interlace. When the ST displays a scanline, the TV will display one half of the scanline on odd frames, and the other half on even frames. If you switch between two framebuffers (or in the case of the STE - set the shifter to skip every other line and change the video base address by one scanline each VBL) you effectively get the same result as on an Amiga (except overscan).

But interlace is not suited for GUIs. It works well with movies, because there are very few high-contrasts and horisontal lines in movies ;) The GUI on the other hand is full of them, and this is where you really notice flicker.
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by qq1975b »

@AtariZoll @joska Thanks! understood :). It was not easy (or maybe it was expensive) to add flickerfixer HW solution, extra HiRes TV compatible mode and it was not the intend of the ST to work with movies...it was more focused to musicians, CAD, etc.
calimero wrote: @qq1975b later there were bunch of third party accelerators: http://www.atari-forum.com/viewtopic.ph ... p9#p274727
Free? if not it was an extra cost...
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by shoggoth »

calimero wrote:Thanks for clarification! I always though that software screen accelerators replace TOS drawing routines with assembler optimised ones.
They do. But assembly code != fast. It can be, but it can also mean small, or it has no real meaning at all, except that it's written in assembly language.
qq1975b wrote:How much memory use would it be needed? the ST was born with 256KB (?) but little later evolved to 512KB, that it could be considered the "standard" on ST. So, maybe GEM/VDI on TOS 1.04 and 1.06 could be allowed to use more memory? I mean could Atari have optimized "memory cost" vs speed on TOS 1.4+ (all ST were 512KB+ machines)?
Difficult to say, really. I do believe Atari could have improved VDI performance quite a bit; perhaps not with TOS 1.0, but certainly with later revisions. They should definitely have done so before going >= 8bpp (TOS3/4) imo.
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by AtariZoll »

Screen drawing is done in asm at TOS 1.00 already. But that means not that it was fastest possible code. Tables are one of things which can improve speed a lot in some cases. But all it needs more research to know exactly where was TOS code not that fast as could be. And not much useful knowledge today in fact. In any case, in compare to Amiga Desktop and disk speeds ST is cheetah .
Famous Schrodinger's cat hypothetical experiment says that cat is dead or alive until we open box and see condition of poor animal, which deserved better logic. Cat is always in some certain state - regardless from is observer able or not to see what the state is.
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by calimero »

qq1975b wrote:
calimero wrote: @qq1975b later there were bunch of third party accelerators: http://www.atari-forum.com/viewtopic.ph ... p9#p274727
Free? if not it was an extra cost...
:)

and what about using extra memory on PC?
if you want to use more than 1MB you need HIMEM.SYS?
oh, wait! You NEED TO BUY (and later to upgrade at extra cost) ENTIRE OS!!! :D

but I do agree that Atari should make (or buy and than give for free) some screen accelerator.
e.g. Apple was really good in incorporating third party software (or extensions) into Mac OS (but they also sold new versions of OS).
AtariZoll wrote: But all it needs more research to know exactly where was TOS code not that fast as could be. And not much useful knowledge today in fact.
I think it is already make by Andreas Kromke and brother Behne with MagiC and NVDI!
They did wonderful speed boost to old Atari ST.

btw
can somebody explain how you can speed up VDI by using tables?
exxos wrote:So basically what people want, is a Amiga :lol: :lol:
it would be interesting to ask Amiga user what improvements they would like on Amiga 1000 or 500 ;)
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by Atari74user »

exxos wrote:So basically what people want, is a Amiga :lol: :lol:
Hahah, I was waiting for that! Alas no, the Atari ST holds the nostalgia for me!
Ragstaff wrote:There was hardly any (was there any?!) software that required hi-res
Quite a few actually. To name a few:
- DA's Vektor Pro
- DA's Layout
- Calamus
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by exxos »

calimero wrote:
exxos wrote:So basically what people want, is a Amiga :lol: :lol:
it would be interesting to ask Amiga user what improvements they would like on Amiga 1000 or 500 ;)
Apparently they want midi ports, a cartridge slot,normal disk drives, decent dtp software and some kind of OS built in.
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by Frank B »

exxos wrote:
calimero wrote:
exxos wrote:So basically what people want, is a Amiga :lol: :lol:
it would be interesting to ask Amiga user what improvements they would like on Amiga 1000 or 500 ;)
Apparently they want midi ports, a cartridge slot,normal disk drives, decent dtp software and some kind of OS built in.
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by DarkLord »

Atari74user wrote:
exxos wrote:So basically what people want, is a Amiga :lol: :lol:
Hahah, I was waiting for that! Alas no, the Atari ST holds the nostalgia for me!
Ragstaff wrote:There was hardly any (was there any?!) software that required hi-res
Quite a few actually. To name a few:
- DA's Vektor Pro
- DA's Layout
- Calamus
- Papyrus
- Galactic Digit
- Steinberg Avalon
- Everything by Electronic Cow
And actually a *lot* of hi-res games! :)

http://www.atari-forum.com/viewtopic.php?t=4791

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/96042- ... try1833084
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by Atari74user »

I slept on all of those games that could be used in Hi-Res, only discovered that about a year ago! :cheers:
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by Retrogamer_ST »

Ragstaff wrote:There was hardly any (was there any?!) software that required hi-res.
"Mono emulator" was widley used and just about every PD library had one of those emulators that let you run hi res appz on a colour screen.

The result was anything but good when the screen became a mess and you got a slow computer. But in emergency cases the mono emulator could be good to use when you didn't owned a high res monitor.

Not even Cubase could be used in other resolution then high.
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by shoggoth »

calimero wrote:btw
can somebody explain how you can speed up VDI by using tables?
Lookup tables and unrolling. Applies to any code; Google is your friend.
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Re: What could Atari have done better with the ST?

Post by Ragstaff »

Atari74user wrote:
I slept on all of those games that could be used in Hi-Res, only discovered that about a year ago! :cheers:
Those are "mono compatible" games, not mono-only games.
I maintain that for most users a colour monitor was enough. In the whole library of ST software there wasn't much that required monochrome, and the real professional software that did was for people who could easily afford a monochrome monitor. Iirc none of that software like Calamus was very cheap at the time
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