Alternate Universe Micros...

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alex_farlie
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Alternate Universe Micros...

Postby alex_farlie » Wed Oct 04, 2017 7:49 pm

Okay so this is a long shot,and very "tounge in cheek" but I thought I'd start a thread here on what Micros might exist in alternate universes.

My first thoughts were a range that started with Z80 based machine (the alternate ATOM) that was essentially a Z80, a teletext generator chip, some RAM and a BASIC ROM, used cassettes. The OS only officially had 2 modes (tele)text and lo-grpahics ( nominally 70x70). You could do some clever 'custom' modes if you knew enough Z80 assembler though... There was a rather impressive space invaders produced for this alternate atom.

This was later developed into the Proton, which when you got the Revision B OS Rom (and the Model B add-on hardware) gave you hi-res screen options, (the Revision A. Rom gave you the two "ATOM" modes, "(tele)Text" and Graphics only.). A further development was the Revision C. Proton, which if you also added 'ghost ram' and the disc interface, let you run CP/M with a moderately large workspace. I could see some small firms using a Revision C Proton, with the likes of Wordstar.... (If you are thinking the Revision C proton would be like a CPC6128 running BBC BASIC you wouldn't be far off.. )

The Revision D. Proton, dropped the Atom's teletext mode, and the cassette interface.. It still ran CP/M, and despite a ULA reducing the chip count, it looked dated when it reached the market place.

Later there was the "Charmingly Strange" Quanta, an early 1990's 32bit RISC based micro. This had a nice RISC architecture ( partially inspired by the Z80's internal logic) and came with an enhanced Basic, unheard of sound capability and had 256 color graphics in what seemed more like (for the time) workstation resolution. It also came with a language called SAMPLE 5000,nominally to show of what the sound system was capable of, as well as being a reasonable Forth83 implementation. It wouldn't suprise me if someone had attempted a module tracker program in SAMPLE 5000 comparable with those you had on the Amiga...

The last alternative micro in this range would have been the unreleased Quinta in the late 1990's, which was intended to be more of a media workstation system... It was late to market and never got past the prototype stage...

I don't expect anyone to actually try and build these alternate universe micros, but if emulator writers get bored, I'd love to see someone try and figure out how PLOT might have worked on the lo-graphics mode on the alternate atom. :lol:

And apologies if this is a very very off-topic thread....

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BigEd
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Re: Alternate Universe Micros...

Postby BigEd » Thu Oct 05, 2017 8:13 am

We had a conversation on these lines over on g+:
https://plus.google.com/+IsaacKuo/posts/iSkMtKJfYCv

I very much like the idea of Logo having been the standard included language, instead of Basic. And, perhaps, the 6809 could have had a better run in home computers.

alex_farlie
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Re: Alternate Universe Micros...

Postby alex_farlie » Thu Oct 05, 2017 9:29 am

BigEd wrote:We had a conversation on these lines over on g+:
https://plus.google.com/+IsaacKuo/posts/iSkMtKJfYCv

I very much like the idea of Logo having been the standard included language, instead of Basic. And, perhaps, the 6809 could have had a better run in home computers.


Hmm...

Would micros of the early 80's had enough power to run full LOGO implementations?

The natural alternate language for programmers would have been FORTH.

paulb
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Re: Alternate Universe Micros...

Postby paulb » Thu Oct 05, 2017 11:01 am

The interesting thing about this universe and Acorn's own activities in it is that there are actually plenty of "alternative" microcomputers in Acorn's portfolio.

I cannot remember the source for this right now, but an apparent condition connected to offering Acorn the BBC contract based on the 6502-based Proton was that Acorn would commit to offer the Z80 second processor in a timely fashion and thus meet the supposed demand for CP/M compatibility. Had that demand been greater, maybe there would have been a lot more Z80-based models from Acorn. Instead, I think that the Acorn Business Computer 100-series models were the last Z80 models considered, and they never made it to market.

Indeed, it can be interesting to look at Acorn's brochures to find exotic and rare/unreleased models. I'd never seen the Acorn C Series until recently, which seems to be a derivative of the Communicator. If things had gone differently or happened with slightly different timing, Acorn could have been more prolific users of various CPU architectures: NatSemi 32xxx, Intel 80x86, WDC 65xxx, perhaps even the Zilog Z8xxx or Motorola 680x0, particularly the latter if Acorn had acquired Torch and brought Torch's Unix workstations to market under the Acorn brand.

Without their own RISC architecture, Acorn might have used MIPS, although that might not have allowed them to pitch the resulting products at such relatively low prices to the home and education markets, which was possible with the Archimedes. I remember that Clive Grace in A&B Computing spent some column inches writing about the threat of MIPS to Acorn's workstation plans, which was probably a bit beyond most of the readership's area of experience or interest.

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1024MAK
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Re: Alternate Universe Micros...

Postby 1024MAK » Thu Oct 05, 2017 3:22 pm

alex_farlie wrote:This had a nice RISC architecture ( partially inspired by the Z80's internal logic)...
where RISC means Rich Instruction Set CPU :mrgreen:

Maybe including the features of the Zilog Z80000, but running faster?

Mark
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alex_farlie
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Re: Alternate Universe Micros...

Postby alex_farlie » Thu Oct 05, 2017 3:54 pm

alex_farlie wrote:Okay so this is a long shot,and very "tounge in cheek" but I thought I'd start a thread here on what Micros might exist in alternate universes.

My first thoughts were a range that started with Z80 based machine (the alternate ATOM) that was essentially a Z80, a teletext generator chip, some RAM and a BASIC ROM, used cassettes. The OS only officially had 2 modes (tele)text and lo-grpahics ( nominally 70x70). You could do some clever 'custom' modes if you knew enough Z80 assembler though... There was a rather impressive space invaders produced for this alternate atom.
..


"Alternate universe system - Our Universe system system

Atom - Atom
Proton Rev A -
Proton Rev B - BBC Micro Model A/B
Proton Rev C - BBC Micro Model B+ or B+ with third party shadow RAM extension... Z80 second processor for CP/M. Also Amstrad CPC 6128)
Proton Rev D... Master Compact, but the single chip ULA is from the electron..

Unnammed workstation- A3xx/|4xx/R5xx series....

Quanta - A3000
Quanta Plus A30xx series

All subsequent models went back to the PC workstation case format...
Quanta III - A5000
Quanta IV - Risc PC

Quinta/PentaQuant workstation - Risc PC2/Phoebe, some later Amigas..."

I've also managed to find a comment on the alternate Atom/Proton Rev A graphics support... :lol:

"... Of course anyone that wanted to do serious graphics upgraded the hardware to the B spec fairly quickly... given the 70x70 limit, which was weirdly programmed internally and could only do 1 foreground color per 3 pixels verticaly, and of course changing the nominal PAPER color, changed the background color of the whole screen:(... Still you could still do DRAW and MOVE and PLOT albiet only to a 70x70 screen. Enough for really simple stuff but not suited to hires.. Of course if you knew assembler and were prepared to poke screen memory directly with certain codes you could have multi-colour "lines" albiet at the expense of not being able to have distinct two foreground colours without a 2 "pixel"-paper gap between them. That said I think some REALLY clever programs used an even clever trick to get around that limitation. ... "
Last edited by 1024MAK on Thu Oct 05, 2017 4:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Edited closing quote tag

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kieranhj
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Re: Alternate Universe Micros...

Postby kieranhj » Thu Oct 05, 2017 4:13 pm

Completely off-topic for this off-topic post (!!) but there are examples of fantasy computers being made as emulators, eg. https://www.lexaloffle.com/pico-8.php.

crj
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Re: Alternate Universe Micros...

Postby crj » Thu Oct 05, 2017 4:47 pm

paulb wrote:I'd never seen the Acorn C Series until recently

!

That one is news to me, and I thought my knowledge of exotic Acorn kit was compendious. Did they ever really exist beyond prototype or even camera mock-up stage?

paulb
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Re: Alternate Universe Micros...

Postby paulb » Thu Oct 05, 2017 4:55 pm

alex_farlie wrote:Proton Rev C - BBC Micro Model B+ or B+ with third party shadow RAM extension... Z80 second processor for CP/M. Also Amstrad CPC 6128)


One has to wonder what might have happened if Acorn and Amstrad had collaborated at different points in time. Having read "The Amstrad Story", referenced on Stardot a while ago, it seems like the technical people at Amstrad were rather stretched and their department not properly dimensioned for what Amstrad needed to do.

alex_farlie wrote:Proton Rev D... Master Compact, but the single chip ULA is from the electron..


Somewhat like the Communicator, then, which has the case of the Compact but incorporates the Electron ULA. Looking into how that supports Teletext (using a more recent chipset than the other machines) as well as the ULA was rather interesting.

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1024MAK
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Re: Alternate Universe Micros...

Postby 1024MAK » Thu Oct 05, 2017 4:55 pm

In the semi-real world, some mock-ups of computers were made of painted wood....

Mark
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alex_farlie
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Re: Alternate Universe Micros...

Postby alex_farlie » Thu Oct 05, 2017 5:59 pm

1024MAK wrote:
alex_farlie wrote:This had a nice RISC architecture ( partially inspired by the Z80's internal logic)...
where RISC means Rich Instruction Set CPU :mrgreen:

Maybe including the features of the Zilog Z80000, but running faster?

Mark


Maybe... Do you have an instruction set documentation for that chip?

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1024MAK
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Re: Alternate Universe Micros...

Postby 1024MAK » Thu Oct 05, 2017 6:08 pm

What you want could well be in this 348 page document. I've not read it yet!

Mark
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crj
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Re: Alternate Universe Micros...

Postby crj » Thu Oct 05, 2017 8:03 pm

1024MAK wrote:In the semi-real world, some mock-ups of computers were made of painted wood....

As were the cases of many prototypes.

I have a relative who worked for one of the major electronics companies, and I remember playing on one such prototype in the early eighties.


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