Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

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Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby EmpireAndrew » Mon Sep 26, 2016 2:09 pm

I have a 93 Apple Mac LC III in my collection and while it's 2ish years newer than the TT and maybe 1 year newer than the Falcon, it's interesting to look at its motherboard, general engineering, OS and even price.

When new it had a 25MHz 030, 4MB of RAM, 80MB HDD with a list price of $1,349 excluding a 14" monitor.
It went from 640x480 (thousands of colors) up to 832x624 (256 color or thousands with $100 VRAM upgrade)

The Falcon with a 16MHz 030, 4MB RAM, 65MB HDD listed at $1,299 excluding a monitor.
As we know it did thousands of colors at 640x480 as well.

Now obviously a faster clocked processor and slightly bigger hard drive would be a given for a machine some 18 months newer, but I think it shows how Atari were effectively squeezed out price wise. I myself wanted a Falcon when I initially read it would be £500 and later even £600. But as the price kept climbing and it became apparent you needed a hard drive and monitor, and time ticked on and prices of Macs and PC's dropped, I (rightly imho) wasn't going to gamble such a huge amount of money on the Falcon and I jumped ship.

So the only way to keep me would have been a lower price, but how could they make it cheaper?

The problem, and the point of this post, was due to the way the likes of the LC III were built.
The logic board is tiny. It's smaller than an ST board as everything is highly integrated on just a few custom chips.
Everything that could be surface mount was, making production costs lower.
When I take the lid off the (older) TT it looks positively archaic inside, whereas the Apple looks very modern (yes I know it's newer).

Atari would have needed to move to surface mount (did they on the Falcon?) and TOS 4 with MINT was pretty much a necessity but still behind the Mac OS.

Did they have the money and skills to move the OS forward far enough?
Or do all the integration work needed on the logic board? I suspect not.
Last edited by EmpireAndrew on Mon Sep 26, 2016 2:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby AtariZoll » Mon Sep 26, 2016 2:23 pm

This is interesting. I was sure in 1992 that Falcon must be cheaper in USA - in Germany it was about 2500 DEM with 60 MB 2.5 IDE drive and 4 MB RAM. But to compare prices we should know exact time, so year and month, because prices went down for sure pretty fast. As I remember it was June of 1992.
Bad thing with Falcon was that they announced much lower price, + it delayed on market.
Btw. there was surface mounted chip in STE too. But indeed, more of it would reduce costs. Since Ataris were assembled in Taiwan, it's possible that new technology in assembling, chip manufacturing just delayed.
I think, although it is only speculation that lot of good engineers were simply pulled of Atari in those years.
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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby christos » Mon Sep 26, 2016 2:43 pm

The falcon also has a dsp. However instead of conparing it to a machine two years younger compare it ti the similar speced performa.
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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby lp » Mon Sep 26, 2016 2:46 pm

Certainly Atari made their fair share of mistakes. Like poor marketing and the way they dealt with developers, etc. However, you also had m$ trying to muscle everyone out of the market, not just Atari, with questionable methods. A company like m$ had a lot more money to throw around. It's hard to compete with someone like that. Commodore bit the dust as well, just before Atari if I recall correctly.

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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby EmpireAndrew » Mon Sep 26, 2016 4:46 pm

The DSP in the Falcon is all well and good for things that can be DSP accelerated, but most things can't. It's a nice to have but I'd have traded it for a faster 030 and bus as that would be more useful all the time.

As for comparing it to a machine nearly 2 years younger it's just what I happen to have and was looking inside at the board and was struck by how advanced it was in comparison. And the LC and Performa (I want to say 475 but my memory could be going) were the same machine internally. Apple had horrible model naming and numbering schemes back then that created no end of confusion...
But the LC III I have isn't that much different to the LC II before it in terms of how its built (same case etc) but the LC II (1992) had a 16MHz 030 like the Falcon and it was also on a narrower bus (just like the Falcon). Which is pretty much what I said above in that the later LC III had a faster processor due to it being newer.

Around 1992 I'd say the LC (Low Cost) Mac and the Falcon were very similar in spec and price, but I'm not really talking about spec, just pointing out that you could get a similar spec Mac for Atari money.
But the Mac had a more advanced OS and I assume better integrated board?
Add in the Mac software library and you'd have to be pretty seriously hard core about running TOS to choose the Falcon over an LC.

We know that the early 90s had brought tumbling prices on the Apple and Wintel PCs which clearly would threaten Atari, when the original ST came out with a 6800, 640x400 mono and a GUI and mouse for less than 1/2 the price of the Macintosh along with a cheap laser printing option, it was compelling. But by the very early 90's (TT and Falcon), the price advantage had been reduced to virtually nothing. Could they have made the machine cheaper with more advanced designs? Should they have spent more money on improving the OS instead of splitting the money they had on PC's, Transputers and other distractions? Hindsight is a luxury of course, but it seems to me that by the early 90's anything that competed with Windows or Apple (who were also on the ropes by the mid 90s). Should they not have produced the TT (must've cost serious money to develop) and Falcon and gone for handheld and and consoles sooner? (in the case of the Falcon I feel it was a very bad decision to green light it).

Back in my mid teens I would cheer Atari on and really wanted the likes of the Falcon to succeed, but going back now and looking at the market with a more open mind, and with a better idea about business, and hindsight of course, it's clear to me they were doomed. I knew it the moment I took the lid off the LC, much less booted it up.

Still want a Falcon mind, lol!
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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby lostdragon » Mon Sep 26, 2016 5:27 pm

I'll happily leave the tech talk to you guys, as you know what your talking about, but i do recal UK Press praising some aspects of the hardware, over what Commodore's A1200 offered, ie the DSP and recal some from Thalion (?) saying the A1200 should of had features the Falcon had.

Regarding the higher than expected retail price, only going from UK Press clippings here but:

It seems due to the poor exchange rates between the pound and the dollar by the time the Falcon launched in UK,Atari were 'forced' into slapping an extra £100 on the R.R.P, a move which took the industry by surprise,as they expected Atari to go with the Power Without The Price angle and save money by putting Falcon in the new casing.....


From a gaming point of view and speaking as someone who'd grown up on the VCS, 800XL and STFM, i'd sadly grown used to Atari annoucing hyped up new hardware (CDST, Panther, Amiga-beating STE etc) which either simply never arrived...or when it did actual tech specs were far less than expected (STE..) and i'd long since abandoned the ST for the Megadrive.

The Falcon was featured on Gamesmaster TV show with clips of Imagitec/Mirage's Space Junk and this was going to be only the 1st of many Falcon Specific games, Atari UK were telling us....

It also featured in GMS Magazine (different company producing) in news section, comparing it to the A1200 and that was the last i saw of it in said magazine.

Should Atari of gone console sooner? maybe launched Panther?

Well, without trying to sound up my own behind, having looked into the Panther at length, the proclaimed software development wasn't there, more who worked on it seemed to loathe the hardware than like it and majority feel it would of done nothing to save Atari, damage was already done long before.....

I think the industry had lost faith in Atari by time of the Falcon, the Tramiels were difficult to deal with and industry and Press realationships were on rocky ground....

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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby christos » Mon Sep 26, 2016 5:54 pm

Well, I am watching a video of an lc iii. Seems like the desktop is less responsive than that of the falcon, but that could be subjective.

As for the OS, I am not quite sure that MacOS is more advanced than MultiTOS or Magic but I really don't know much about the operating system of the Mac at that time.

As for the board. I don't know why it's more compacted to that of the Falcon. It could be that the falcon needed to fit inside the ST case so they designed the board that way? It could be that they chose a simpler design for reliability purposes or for whatever reason. I am not sure it matters how compacted a motherboard is but some other more technically mannered people might disagree.

The only area that the mac clearly had an advantage was the available software. Not that there wasn't equally great software that could run on the Falcon, but of course the number of choices were quite limited.

Also you forget that the falcon is not limited to the 256 colours you mention, but you can get 16-bit graphics as well, at a lower res, but they were workable. I don't know if that's true for the Macs.

Last but not least the dsp is pretty useful. Since you didn't have a falcon at the time, I can tell you with absolute certainty that decoding jpeg's with the DSP was great, with the cpu not so much. And that is only a general usage example where the DSP was valuable. It was comparable and even faster than my friends 386DX40 while doing the same task.

I would have loved to be able to have a couple of people, one with a base 1200, a mac and a falcon and set them up to do a comparison.
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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby diamondspringwater » Mon Sep 26, 2016 8:01 pm

I have an LCIII I picked up a few months ago and a Falcon the Falcon boots up faster, loads programs faster and does searches faster on similar programs. I an going ro do a video and put it on YouTube when I get some time. The specs look better for the LCIII but real world performance seems different. It could be that I am just using tos and not mulitos or anything else, but it is alot faster like seconds loading and searches. So I don't think Atari was out of there league.

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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby EmpireAndrew » Tue Sep 27, 2016 11:38 am

The Falcon should boot faster as the OS is in ROM and very small.
The Mac is loading from hard disk and it's loading more stuff up.
I found my TT to be much faster at booting for the same reason (one reason I went with the ST over the Amiga back in the day) but when you get to the desktop it is far more basic.

I'd love to see a video of a comparison between a Falcon and an LC III but that's not going to be an easy thing to do as comparisons across platforms are notoriously difficult to pull off without bias.
Do you have the same version of some app on both platforms? Are you going to test hard disk transfer rates, open and close 1,000 windows, compress files, what?
If you're doing searches, what in? Two different word processors?

That said, it could be considered a fair comparison to do a search in the most popular word processors on each platform as a fair representation of what a typical user on each platform experienced. But you'd have to compare functionality across both too.
Same goes for big spreadsheets etc.

I'd definitely be interested in seeing it!
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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby EmpireAndrew » Tue Sep 27, 2016 11:41 am

@lostdragon, yes I think I had the same experience as you re reading the magazines and being ultimately disappointed with what was released or cancelled, and developer support always seemed poor. You could see that attitude in the game developers on the likes of Bedrooms to Billions documentaries. I think you're right, goodwill towards Atari was long gone.
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1991 Atari TT030, 2/16MB, Int 8GB Gigafile SCSI2CF, TOS 3.06, CaTTamaran Accelerator -> Atari TTM195 19" Mono CRT Monitor
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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby Frank B » Tue Sep 27, 2016 7:09 pm

EmpireAndrew wrote:I'd love to see a video of a comparison between a Falcon and an LC III but that's not going to be an easy thing to do as comparisons across platforms are notoriously difficult to pull off without bias.
Do you have the same version of some app on both platforms? Are you going to test hard disk transfer rates, open and close 1,000 windows, compress files, what?
If you're doing searches, what in? Two different word processors?


Run Magic mac and compare with the same app? :)

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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby calimero » Wed Sep 28, 2016 9:14 pm

christos wrote:I would have loved to be able to have a couple of people, one with a base 1200, a mac and a falcon and set them up to do a comparison.

Try this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCe0I3RJajY :D
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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby wongck » Wed Sep 28, 2016 10:31 pm

EmpireAndrew wrote:The Falcon should boot faster as the OS is in ROM and very small.


Load fasters but compare what the OS can do vs the mac OS.
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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby christos » Thu Sep 29, 2016 6:22 am

calimero wrote:
christos wrote:I would have loved to be able to have a couple of people, one with a base 1200, a mac and a falcon and set them up to do a comparison.

Try this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCe0I3RJajY :D


That''s an IBM PC.
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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby calimero » Thu Sep 29, 2016 11:55 am

christos wrote:
calimero wrote:
christos wrote:I would have loved to be able to have a couple of people, one with a base 1200, a mac and a falcon and set them up to do a comparison.

Try this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCe0I3RJajY :D


That''s an IBM PC.

Yes.

I post it like a joke: we speak about GUI, how fast is it, how neat motherboards are... and meanwhile you have army of users that use PC crapware at same time :D (beside I want to share new video of our Atari fellow from this forum ;))

---

btw I am trying to find youtube video with comparison of Mac Classic and PC 2GHz with Windows. I watched it few years ago but I can not find it. Anyone know for this video?
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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby wongck » Thu Sep 29, 2016 12:09 pm

christos wrote:
calimero wrote:
christos wrote:I would have loved to be able to have a couple of people, one with a base 1200, a mac and a falcon and set them up to do a comparison.

Try this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCe0I3RJajY :D


That''s an IBM PC.

LOL waited 7 mins for the word Atari
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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby SteveBagley » Thu Sep 29, 2016 3:36 pm

wongck wrote:LOL waited 7 mins for the word Atari


My Falcon and MegaSTE are visible before the titles :)

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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby wongck » Thu Sep 29, 2016 10:42 pm

SteveBagley wrote:
wongck wrote:LOL waited 7 mins for the word Atari


My Falcon and MegaSTE are visible before the titles :)

Steve


I meant the video on Youtube. :angel:
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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby calimero » Tue Nov 08, 2016 5:33 am

LC II arriver few days ago but unfortunate it wont show anything on screen (fan works) :(

It works at friends house few months ago...

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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby EmpireAndrew » Tue Nov 08, 2016 1:21 pm

Took me ages to track down that particular Apple monitor. Mine's a little more yellow than that one though!

The LC pizza box case is one of my favorite Mac designs ever.
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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby calimero » Tue Nov 08, 2016 1:33 pm

I am also pleasantly surprised by LC mainboard and with Pizza box design. Very handy / zero screws.

I took battery out and I will look for replacement to see if it will help...
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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby EmpireAndrew » Wed Nov 09, 2016 3:50 pm

It could be a bad capacitor.
Is there a startup "bong" when you turn it on?
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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby calimero » Wed Nov 09, 2016 4:04 pm

What happen when I press switch on back of Mac LC II?
Fan starts, harddisc spinup, but there is no Boing sound and there is no picture on monitor.
Monitor itself work e.g. if I turn max brightnes I can see brown cast on screen so I would say that CRT ray work.

So far I do/try:
1) battery replaced (was only 0,5V)
2) voltage on PSU are ok (less than 0,2V deviation). I meassure while PSU connector was sticked to motherboard.
3) disconnected everything except monitor
4) remove 30pin Ram SIMMs, left only onboard memory
5) there is no visible damage on capacitors

Simptoms remain same, only before battery replacement there was some hissing/wired sounds from speaker. After replacing battery they gone.

Seller told me that last time he power on Mac in May thus year and everything works fine.
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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby EmpireAndrew » Wed Nov 09, 2016 4:56 pm

There is no visible damage to the capacitors on my LC III, but the startup sound is quiet and distorted, this is because they are beginning to fail and are out of tolerence. Yours could be too. Even if not, you should replace them anyway.
Did you also remove any additional video memory? (I don't know if the LC II has that, my LC III does but there is an on-board amount also).
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Re: Were Atari just out of their league in the end?

Postby calimero » Wed Nov 09, 2016 6:16 pm

Ok. Than i will change capacitors.
Do you maybe know where I can find list of all capacitors in Mac LC II?

I did not remove additional video ram since I did not know that there is onboard video ram!
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