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The 20 largest home computers – ranked! | Game

20. Dragon 32 (1982)

Manufactured by Swansea-based Dragon Data (an offshoot of the traditional toy company, Mettoy), this 32k machine featured an advanced Motorola MC6809E central processor, decent keyboard and excellent analog joypads. However, the eccentric graphics hardware gave each game a bright green tint, and its most iconic game character was a brilliant schoolboy named Cuthbert. Admittedly, I put the kite on the list instead of another great Swansea-produced machine, the Sam Coupe, because I designed two hit games for the system: Impossiball and Utopia. Despite this, Dragon Data went live in 1


19. Atari ST (1985)

The first home computer to have a color-graphics user interface and powered by a 16-bit Motorola 68000 processor, with 512 kB of RAM, the Atari ST seemed like the future … until the Commodore Amiga arrived two months later. A legendary digital music machine, thanks to the built-in Midi interface, Atari fought to compete as a gaming platform. I know: I bought one.

18. Acorn Electron (1983)

Designed to compete with the ZX Spectrum, Electron was a budget version of the BBC Micro, using the same Synertek 6502A processor and operating system and similar BASIC languages. It was initially well supported with games, many of them converted from Beeb, but it was expensive to produce and too sensible to really bother the puckish Speccy.

17. Sinclair ZX81 (1981)

Sinclair ZX81
BASIC start for UK programmers … Sinclair ZX81.
Photo: PhotoDreams / Alamy

The follow-up to the ZX80 brought home computers to Britain’s major street stores, making this inexpensive, rugged machine even more accessible to the masses. Many veterans in the gaming industry began typing BASIC programs into the touch-based keyboard. Titles like 3D Monster Maze and Mazogs were a revelation.

16. Texas Instruments TI-99 / 4A (1981)

With its 16-bit processor, 16 KB of RAM and advanced TMS9918 video display chip (later used in Sega Mega Drive), the TI-99 / 4A was one of the most powerful machines available at the time. Initially priced at a costly price of $ 525, a vicious price war with the Vic 20 brought it to $ 100, and it sold well for a while, but Texas Instruments’ decision to completely control software development for the machine limited its appeal as a gaming platform.

15. Altair 8800 (1975)

Vintage Computers at the Computer History Museum, Mountain View A vintage MITS Altair 8800 microcomputer from 1970, taken May 21, 2009. (Photo by Mark Madeo / Future via Getty Images)
Gateway to the future … Altair 8800. Photo: Future Publishing / Future / Getty Images

Altair was available by mail order for only $ 400 (a fraction of the cost of commercial computers at the time) and built around the 2MHz Intel 8080 CPU, effectively starting the home microcomputer industry. Originally only programmable through a series of RAM switches on the front, it was hardly a mass market product, but it got a lot of young nerds to code (most famously Bill Gates and Paul Allen), and it was easy to add a terminal and monitor. game development.

Amstrad CPC 464 (1984)

Amstrad was unfairly regarded as the well-run computer of the 1980s and was hailed on arrival thanks to impressive specifications and integrated design, which included the keyboard and cassette tape in a stylish device. With excellent graphics and sound, it was a good game horse, and many users loved its outsider status in the middle of the Spectrum v C64 playground war.

Sharp X68000 (1987)

An important Japanese personal computer in the late 1980s, the X68000 featured a 16-bit Motorola 68000 processor, such as the Atari ST and Amiga, but with additional graphics performance including support for hardware sprites and hardware scrolling, providing near-perfect coin conversions classics like R-Type and Final Fight. Basically an arcade machine disguised as a PC.

12. Apple Macintosh (1984-)

Apple Macintosh from 1984.
Blooming indie scene … 1984 Apple Macintosh. Photo: Tribune Content Agency / Alamy

There has always been a game development scene on Apple Macintosh computers, although it remained relatively small thanks to the dominance of the IBM PC, and the fact that the original Mac 128k computer had a monochrome screen. It was on Mac though that we first played the hugely popular adventure title Myst, and where Halo developer Bungie started with Marathon and Myth. The computer also saw a thriving indie scene through the 1980s and 90s.

11. MSX (1983)

Designed by Microsoft Japan, the MSX was not a computer, but rather a hardware standard – the VHS video for computers – supported by a number of manufacturers, including Sony and Toshiba. Using the same Z80 processor and Texas Instruments TMS9918 video chip as the Sega Master system, it was an excellent gaming platform – and the MSX2 was known to host the original Metal Gear title.

10. Tandy TRS-80 (1977)

Text favorite ... Tandy TRS-80 model 100,
Text favorite … Tandy TRS-80 model 100, Photo: Nicole Lacourse / Guardian News & Media Archive

Originally paired with a monochrome screen (basically a cheap black and white TV) and a standard cassette deck, the TRS-80 was nicknamed the Trash-80 by fans of Apple II and Commodore PET. But it was affordable and widely available in the United States from the ubiquitous RadioShack stores, leading to a healthy software development scene. Text-based experiences flourished, including Zork and the first titles from genre legend Scott Adams.

9. Commodore Vic-20 (1981)

Sold as “the friendly computer”, the Vic-20 was designed for availability, with a low price ($ 300), colorful graphics, a ROM cassette port and lots of accessories. After the more business-oriented Commodore PET, it was one of the first home computers to truly recognize the importance of gaming in marketing, and despite its toughest 5KB memory saw as many titles as Sword of Fargoal and Attack of the Mutant Camels.

8. PC-88 (1981)

The dominant Japanese personal computer of the 1980s faced stiff competition from the Sharp X1 and Fujitsu FM7, but maintained its leading position through a series of increasingly powerful models. PC-88 boasts games from all the major arcade and console developers, including Sega, Namco, Square, Hudson and even Nintendo, which released the little-known Super Mario Bros. Special to the machine.

7. Atari 800 (1979)

Launched alongside the technically inferior Atari 400, the 800 was a true gaming computer with specially designed co-processors to handle graphics and sound and four joystick ports, allowing for multiplayer titles such as MULE, Airline and Dandy. Atari was also able to call its own team of experienced developers for classic titles Star Raiders and Missile Command, as well as a community of bedroom coders via the Atari Program Exchange (APX) initiative, essentially creating its own formative indie scene.

6. BBC Micro (1981)

British primary school children learn math on a BBC Micro.
British primary school children learn math on a BBC Micro. Photo: ITV / Rex features

If you went to school in the UK in the 1980s, you would instantly recognize the BBC Micro, the 32k computer designed by Acorn and the BBC Computer Literacy Project to bring programming back to normal. It was a serious, expensive machine, but ubiquitous in the classroom provided a gateway to game development for wannabe whiz kids, and will always be familiar to Elite, Repton and Granny’s Garden.

5. Apple II (1977)

shoot up an Apple IIE 1983 model.
Attracted by a growing generation of encoders … fired an Apple IIE 1983 model. Photo: Zuma Wire Service / Alamy

While the UK had the BBC Micro, the US had the Apple II, a serious, highly expandable, multifunctional home computer that was available enough to attract a budding generation of game coders. It was the first large computer to ship with BASIC in ROM, color graphics and up to 48,000 RAM and its successors continued to refine the specifications to maintain its popularity. When it comes to games? Lode Runner, Choplifter, Prince of Persia, Castle Wolfenstein, Ultima, John Madden Football … they all debuted here.

4. ZX Spectrum 48K (1982)

Sinclair ZX Spectrum
People’s Choice … Sinclair ZX Spectrum
Photo: Alamy

People’s Choice, Everyman’s gaming platform, Sinclair’s 48K Spectrum, with rubber keys, strangely colliding graphics and tinny sound were central to the development of the UK gaming industry. From Jet Set Willy and Horace skiing to Knight Lore and Lords of Midnight drew the absolute best from coders, many of whom went on to found the country’s largest studios.

Revolutionary ... Commodore C64.
Revolutionary … Commodore C64. Photo: Interfoto / Alamy

With its huge 64 KB of RAM, vibrant colorful images (including hardware-supported sprites and scrolling) and revolutionary SID sound chip, the C64 was the most powerful and versatile gaming machine of its time. It could handle everything from arcade conversions (Bubble Bobble, Green Beret) to experimental puzzles (Sentinel, Hacker, Frankie Goes to Hollywood) to brilliant multiplayer sports sims (each Epyx Games title), and coders continued to find new depths through their 20 million -seller lifetime.

2. Commodore Amiga (1985)

Rich experiences ... Commodore Amiga 500.
Rich experiences … Commodore Amiga 500. Photo: Felix Choo / Alamy Stock Photo

The last really great gaming computer before the PC and 32-bit gaming consoles dominated, Amiga saw an explosion of creative talent with studios such as Sensible Software, LucasArts, DMA Design, Bitmap Brothers and Psygnosis, creating complex, visually rich adventures and opening up new ones. game design conventions and ideas that stand today. It also inspired a huge demo scene of underground coders and artists, and many are still creating work today.

IBM PC (1981)

IBM developer David Bradley with a 5150 computer and DOS floppy disk.
IBM developer David Bradley with a 5150 computer and DOS floppy disk. Photo: Bob Jordan / AP

The x86-based PC is fighting its way through the countless competitors of the 1980s and is now without a doubt the dominant gaming computer platform. The original IBM 5150 was expensive at $ 1,565, but the open architecture and adoption of MS-DOS allowed several third-party manufacturers to build cheap clones and establish a technological standard. IBM may have lost control of the PC industry many years ago, but the decision to use off-the-shelf components and publish the technical reference manuals behind the technology is why you are playing on a generic PC and not the ZX Spectrum 16GB.

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