Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by BigEd » Wed Feb 06, 2019 4:55 pm

Sorry, by no-one else I meant other 8-bit computer makers. There were from the outset several second source licensees of the 6502 MPU, set up by MOS as was normal very early on, before the Commodore acquisition. (Although I'm not crystal clear on what rights Atari had, or who made their custom chips. There are schematics of a 6502 implementation from Atari which IIRC has a slightly different decode array.)

I think it's important that both the design time and fabrication time for semi custom is much reduced compared to full custom. The economics of a small run are much better, which helps with the prototyping phase. It would be interesting to have an inside track on the costings and the budget for the various users and vendors around this time. I imagine Amstrad got a pretty good deal. (I worked at Plessey in the mid-late 80s and they had their own gate array offering already. I don't know how place and route were done, but I'm pretty sure the big VAXes were used by that business unit.)

As it happens, injection moulded plastic also has very high setup costs and good economics only for high volumes. It would be interesting to know how this affected the likes of Dragon and Oric.

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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by 1024MAK » Wed Feb 06, 2019 6:02 pm

Apart from Commodore and IBM, were there any other 1980s/1990s computer manufacturers that had their own fabs and the capability to make their own semiconductor ICs? I can’t think of any... (not that i’ve actually gone looking mind...)

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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by Ramtop » Wed Feb 06, 2019 8:26 pm

1024MAK wrote:
Wed Feb 06, 2019 3:14 pm
After MOS Technology were bought by Commdore, most of the 6502 design team left the company. This may explain why no major changes were made to the design.
Yes, that was almost certainly the case. Chuck Peddle remained with Commodore for a while, but pretty much everyone else on the 6502 team left. That was a long-standing curse for Commodore/MOS; they treated their staff so badly that people often quit and left behind chips nobody really understood. Al Charpentier and Bob Yannes, designers of the VIC-II and SID respectively, quit not long after the release of the C64. If I recall correctly the MOS staff were promised a share of company profits, but when sales of the C64 took off and Jack Tramiel realised how much money they would be due he reneged on the deal.

No major revisions of those chips were ever done by MOS, just shrinking the design to more advanced processes and some small additional timing functions on the C128 variant of the VIC-II.

Same thing happened with the Amiga, too. The design team became disillusioned and didn't hang around for long after the A1000 was released. That's a major reason why it took Commodore seven years to produce a significant upgrade to the original Amiga chipset. I don't think the Paula sound chip ever changed at all, except for the physical packaging, over the Amiga's 11-year production life.
1024MAK wrote: Apart from Commodore and IBM, were there any other 1980s/1990s computer manufacturers that had their own fabs and the capability to make their own semiconductor ICs? I can’t think of any... (not that i’ve actually gone looking mind...)
The only one that springs to mind is HP. Commodore actually used HP's fabs to produce the Alice and Lisa custom chips for the A1200/A4000 because by that point the fab processes used by MOS were well out of date and not up to the job.
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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by Andrew_Waite » Wed Feb 06, 2019 10:07 pm

wrote: Apart from Commodore and IBM, were there any other 1980s/1990s computer manufacturers that had their own fabs and the capability to make their own semiconductor ICs?
TI, DEC and HP in the US

Siemens, Thompson in Europe

Samsung, GoldStar in Korea

The MSX consortium : Philips, NEC, Hitachi, Sony, Fujitsu, Mitsubishi, Toshiba and others.

Dragon Data after its takeover by GEC.
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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by daveejhitchins » Wed Feb 06, 2019 10:24 pm

Andrew_Waite wrote:
Wed Feb 06, 2019 10:07 pm
Samsung, GoldStar in Korea
That would be Lucky Goldstar . . . or LG as we know it now :lol:

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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by BigEd » Thu Feb 07, 2019 6:37 am

That's a great list! It would be interesting to know how many of their respective 8 bit micro designs contained custom chips.

For the most part, I would expect the volume not to justify full custom designs - as noted, Commodore was in a special place and had its own decision-making logic.

It's notable that the IBM PC contained no custom silicon: not just because of volume forecasts, but also because of lead time and institutional decision-making inertia. It's one thing if you know you're going to make volumes of millions, but in a new and fast-moving market it's difficult to be sure of that. (Also, in passing, it's interesting that IBM's process for setting prices set the price of the PC much higher than they would have if they'd made better forecasts of volume, and therefore they made much more money.)

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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by Andrew_Waite » Thu Feb 07, 2019 3:42 pm

The fabless business model won out. The disruptive GPU technologies since the late 80s/90s from Nvidea, ATI, Matrox, Hercules, 3DFX, S3 etc. all came from fabless companies. ARM has always been fabless. AMD went fabless when it demerged with GlobalFoundries in 2009. IBM sold its fabs to GlobalFoundries in 2014. Owning your own fabs was eyewateringly expensive and tied you to your latest process node which could be years behind the state of the art. I would think that Commodore experienced this shipping the C64 a year after both the BBC Micro and the lowly ZX81 with much slower CPUs than both machines, before switching to Motorola and Signetics for their 68k parts.
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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by Ramtop » Thu Feb 07, 2019 10:01 pm

Fabless was definitely the right way to go after around 2000, unless you had colossal production volume like Intel. But back in the 80s I don't think fabless was the right model, at least for consumer-focused manufacturers. The costs of maintaining and upgrading a useful fab weren't nearly as high as they would become in the 90s and onward. And owning your own fab conveyed huge time-to-market advantages. Bil Herd, designer of the C128, has talked about how he could request a design change to a chip and MOS would have the updated chip ready in as little as two weeks. With a third party fab that would be more like 2-3 months, even if the customer paid through the nose for a 'hot lot' production.

From what I've read, Commodore could have built a much faster machine than the C64. But Jack Tramiel was mostly interested in mass-market designs that could be built at rock bottom cost. The reason C64 had to make do with a sluggish 1MHz CPU was primarily memory prices. The memory speed needed to be double the CPU clock to provide cycles for the VIC-II, and 2MHz memory was cheap; the same choice was made by Acorn in the Electron. The CPU slows to 1MHz on RAM access so that cheap 2MHz memory can be used, rather than the expensive 4MHz parts in the BBC.

Bill Mensch, who did the layout work on the 6502, has said that MOS had samples of the 6502 running at 5MHz as early as 1975 and they also built a small number of 8MHz chips for a Chess computer. (I've actually taken the 6510 from a C64 and run it at 2.2MHz without problems, so the fab process used for the CPU does not seem to have been a limiting factor)
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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by Andrew_Waite » Fri Feb 08, 2019 6:16 pm

Ramtop wrote:
Thu Feb 07, 2019 10:01 pm
The memory speed needed to be double the CPU clock to provide cycles for the VIC-II, and 2MHz memory was cheap; the same choice was made by Acorn in the Electron. The CPU slows to 1MHz on RAM access so that cheap 2MHz memory can be used, rather than the expensive 4MHz parts in the BBC.
The Electron's memory runs at 4MHz. One nybble every 250ns gives the 2Mbyte/s bandwidth needed by the ULA for the 20kbyte video modes whilst the CPU sits idle.
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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by Ramtop » Sat Feb 09, 2019 5:14 pm

Hmm. That'll teach me to be lazy and read the datasheet rather than getting my scope out. I find it quite amusing Acorn would be shady enough use memory that isn't validated for a 250ns cycle time.
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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by 1024MAK » Sat Feb 09, 2019 6:46 pm

I forget the details, but I suspect Acorn used page mode for the Elk ULA to access the DRAM where they could.

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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by Andrew_Waite » Sat Feb 09, 2019 10:37 pm

Ramtop wrote:
Sat Feb 09, 2019 5:14 pm
Hmm. That'll teach me to be lazy and read the datasheet rather than getting my scope out. I find it quite amusing Acorn would be shady enough use memory that isn't validated for a 250ns cycle time.
The Electron used 150ns DRAMs.

viewtopic.php?t=9400#p109053
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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by Commie_User » Sun Feb 17, 2019 10:51 pm

LGR reviewed the Electron version and found that while Repton built on Boulder Dash, it was too 'evil' to sustain much enthusiasm long term: https://archive.org/details/youtube-IGpwVa9Rgs

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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by Kecske Bak » Sat Mar 02, 2019 6:30 pm

Repton was released in 1985 when a lot of BBC Micro games were still pretty terrible. On the BBC Micro it had full screen scrolling, huge graphics, very nice music and the animation of the main character was particularly well done - most non-ported BBC Micro games back then suffered from "programmer graphics". The fact he did something when idle, the fact that there with little touches like the screen clearing transitions, the rocks changing volume depending on how high they were dropped from, the fact you could turn the music on or sound effects on and off independently) made it stand out quite a bit. Thanks to the influence of Chris Payne at Superior also had one of the most attractive full-screen adverts any Beeb game had had up to then which didn't hurt sales either.

It was a completely creature than Boulderdash (I like both games and play both a lot). It was all about solving the puzzles (the time limits were so generous that they might as well not have been there) and that's what the Repton series really became - a series of puzzle games rather than an arcade games. Some of the puzzles in Repton are as satisfying as a crossword puzzle and I challenge anyone to solve a set of Terje Folmo's screens for Repton 1 and come away without being incredibly impressed at just what kind of puzzles are capable in Repton using the elements provided.

The puzzling element of Repton really suited the BBC audience - both in terms of the kind of people who owned Beebs and people who used Beebs at school. Teachers could give children Repton to play on the grounds of it being "educational". That was noticed at Logotron who came up with the wonderful "XOR" and it's sister "XOR For Schools". By taking out the arcade elements completely you had a pure puzzle game that was miles away from Boulderdash.

Repton spawned a huge number of similar games on the BBC Micro and was one of the few games that made it onto the Archimedes and the PC so it must have had something going for it. My children grew up on the PC Repton games and loved them even though they had plenty of other games they could play they played Repton even when I wasn't around.

When looked at objectively there are a number of flaws with all of the Repton releases (Ripton was written to address some of shortcomings Kenton Price perceived in Repton 1) but they don't really matter, he's part of the heritage of the BBC Micro scene, many of us are fond of him.

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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by vanekp » Sat Mar 02, 2019 10:23 pm

it is even available on Iphone and Android all 3 repton's, Repton2 just came out recently.
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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by geraldholdsworth » Sun Mar 03, 2019 10:45 am

Kecske Bak wrote:
Sat Mar 02, 2019 6:30 pm
My children grew up on the PC Repton games and loved them even though they had plenty of other games they could play they played Repton even when I wasn't around.
I got both my late nephew and my son into Repton, because of the PC versions, and they both designed a few scenarios. You can even play their levels on the new Repton 2 releases.

I'm curious as to what the Speccy owners thought of Repton and Repton 2. Probably not good enough for Superior to release Repton 3 for the Spectrum (it was written, apparently, just not released).

Gerald.
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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by geraldholdsworth » Sun Mar 03, 2019 10:48 am

vanekp wrote:
Sat Mar 02, 2019 10:23 pm
it is even available on Iphone and Android all 3 repton's, Repton2 just came out recently.
There is more to come.
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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by tricky » Sun Mar 03, 2019 6:11 pm

geraldholdsworth wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 10:45 am
...
I'm curious as to what the Speccy owners thought of Repton and Repton 2. Probably not good enough for Superior to release Repton 3 for the Spectrum (it was written, apparently, just not released).

Gerald.
My friend wrote repton 1 and 2 for the spectrum and they were held back for a year until the original author wrote v3. I didn't realise 3 wasn't released.

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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by Kecske Bak » Mon Mar 04, 2019 5:06 pm

geraldholdsworth wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 10:45 am
I'm curious as to what the Speccy owners thought of Repton and Repton 2.
My friend Edward bought Repton Mania for his little brother George and he loved them. The thing I always wondered was what happened to the Amstrad CPC version of Repton 3 (as shown on the cover of Repton 3) - the graphics looked like they were written in Mode 1 on the Amstrad so they were high resolution. I would have loved to see the graphics if nothing else.

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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by geraldholdsworth » Mon Mar 04, 2019 5:11 pm

Kecske Bak wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 5:06 pm
The thing I always wondered was what happened to the Amstrad CPC version of Repton 3
It was never realised. Superior don't have a copy, as I've asked Richard already (and he confirmed that Repton 3 had been written just not released). I then started to look for the author, who I thought was Bill Percy, but Matthew Atkinson's name also kept cropping up...but still, I could not find how to contact Matthew either.

Then I gave up trying.
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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by Pernod » Mon Mar 04, 2019 6:12 pm

geraldholdsworth wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 5:11 pm
I then started to look for the author, who I thought was Bill Percy, but Matthew Atkinson's name also kept cropping up...but still, I could not find how to contact Matthew either.

Then I gave up trying.
I've known Matthew ever since he did Repton 3, so can ask him. He's also in the Acorn FB group.
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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by geraldholdsworth » Mon Mar 04, 2019 8:14 pm

Pernod wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 6:12 pm
I've known Matthew ever since he did Repton 3, so can ask him.
That would be good, thank you.
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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by Pernod » Mon Mar 04, 2019 8:20 pm

He knows nothing of an Amstrad version, though would've expected the Spectrum authors to have been involved. He was offered the C16 conversion but declined due to insufficient memory.
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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by barbarossa69 » Tue Mar 05, 2019 8:48 am

Kecske Bak wrote:
Sat Mar 02, 2019 6:30 pm
Repton was released in 1985 when a lot of BBC Micro games were still pretty terrible. On the BBC Micro it had full screen scrolling, huge graphics, very nice music and the animation of the main character was particularly well done - most non-ported BBC Micro games back then suffered from "programmer graphics". The fact he did something when idle, the fact that there with little touches like the screen clearing transitions, the rocks changing volume depending on how high they were dropped from, the fact you could turn the music on or sound effects on and off independently) made it stand out quite a bit. Thanks to the influence of Chris Payne at Superior also had one of the most attractive full-screen adverts any Beeb game had had up to then which didn't hurt sales either.

It was a completely creature than Boulderdash (I like both games and play both a lot). It was all about solving the puzzles (the time limits were so generous that they might as well not have been there) and that's what the Repton series really became - a series of puzzle games rather than an arcade games. Some of the puzzles in Repton are as satisfying as a crossword puzzle and I challenge anyone to solve a set of Terje Folmo's screens for Repton 1 and come away without being incredibly impressed at just what kind of puzzles are capable in Repton using the elements provided.

The puzzling element of Repton really suited the BBC audience - both in terms of the kind of people who owned Beebs and people who used Beebs at school. Teachers could give children Repton to play on the grounds of it being "educational". That was noticed at Logotron who came up with the wonderful "XOR" and it's sister "XOR For Schools". By taking out the arcade elements completely you had a pure puzzle game that was miles away from Boulderdash.

Repton spawned a huge number of similar games on the BBC Micro and was one of the few games that made it onto the Archimedes and the PC so it must have had something going for it. My children grew up on the PC Repton games and loved them even though they had plenty of other games they could play they played Repton even when I wasn't around.

When looked at objectively there are a number of flaws with all of the Repton releases (Ripton was written to address some of shortcomings Kenton Price perceived in Repton 1) but they don't really matter, he's part of the heritage of the BBC Micro scene, many of us are fond of him.
I'd just like to say that is a great review, it says everything that I feel about Repton but I could never put it into words as succinctly as that. Thank you! :)

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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by geraldholdsworth » Tue Mar 05, 2019 8:52 pm

Pernod wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 8:20 pm
He knows nothing of an Amstrad version, though would've expected the Spectrum authors to have been involved. He was offered the C16 conversion but declined due to insufficient memory.
OK, thank you for asking.

I actually assumed that, because Amstrad took over Sinclair, the Amstrad Repton 3 and Sinclair Repton 3 are the same thing (I think the Spectrum Plus 2, possibly the Plus 3, was out by the time Repton 3 was released).

I think I asked Gil Jaysmith before about Repton 3, a while ago...I'll have to see if I can find what he said (or even if I did mention it to him).
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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by 1024MAK » Wed Mar 06, 2019 3:24 pm

geraldholdsworth wrote:
Tue Mar 05, 2019 8:52 pm
I actually assumed that, because Amstrad took over Sinclair, the Amstrad Repton 3 and Sinclair Repton 3 are the same thing (I think the Spectrum Plus 2, possibly the Plus 3, was out by the time Repton 3 was released).
:?

Amstrad bought Sinclair’s computers operation yes. But the ZX Spectrum+2 (in a grey case and using a 9V PSU) was essentially a ZX Spectrum 128K refactored on a new PCB in a new case with a cassette deck on the end. The ULA in this machine is the same as the ULA in the ZX Spectrum 128K.

The next ZX Spectrum machines from Amstrad (+2A, +2B, +3 and the rare +3B, all in black cases and using a PSU with a DIN plug to connect to the computer) are new hardware designs, but are still (more or less) compatible with the earlier models.

The only compatibility between any of the ZX Spectrum range and the CPC range is they both use a Z80A CPU. The +3 machines have a disk drive and disk drive operating system that can read CPC disks.

Hence why I am confused by your comment...

Unless you mean that for some strange reason, the Spectrum version got called the Amstrad version simply because Amstrad now owned the ZX Spectrum range...

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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by geraldholdsworth » Wed Mar 06, 2019 6:45 pm

1024MAK wrote:
Wed Mar 06, 2019 3:24 pm
Hence why I am confused by your comment...
Dunno...I've managed to confuse myself :lol:
1024MAK wrote:
Wed Mar 06, 2019 3:24 pm
Unless you mean that for some strange reason, the Spectrum version got called the Amstrad version simply because Amstrad now owned the ZX Spectrum range...
Could be. #-o
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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by Kecske Bak » Sat Mar 09, 2019 9:01 am

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1m44vH ... s6V0Fa-A4f
Hopefully this will make it a bit clearer - there was going to be an Amstrad CPC version, programmed in CPC Mode 1, which is analogous to BBC Micro Mode 1, so the graphics would be higher res than the BBC or C64 versions.
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Re: Why was Repton so loved by BBC users yet so disliked by the Commies?

Post by chinnyhill10 » Sat Mar 09, 2019 10:46 am

geraldholdsworth wrote:
Tue Mar 05, 2019 8:52 pm
Pernod wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 8:20 pm
He knows nothing of an Amstrad version, though would've expected the Spectrum authors to have been involved. He was offered the C16 conversion but declined due to insufficient memory.
OK, thank you for asking.

I actually assumed that, because Amstrad took over Sinclair, the Amstrad Repton 3 and Sinclair Repton 3 are the same thing (I think the Spectrum Plus 2, possibly the Plus 3, was out by the time Repton 3 was released).
Please fetch me the smelling salts!

No, while Amstrad purchased the rights to the Sinclair name and their computer range in 1986, the Spectrum is in no way comparable with any other Amstrad machine. The Amstrad range of machines are only compatible within their product lines. Although like the BBC and Archie there are a few compatibilities where it made sense. For example the Spectrum +3, CPC and PCW's with single density drives can all read and write each others discs. But they cannot execute each others code.

Amstrad had the:

Amstrad CPC: Z80 based home computer sold with a green screen or colour monitor with a built in tape deck or floppy disc drive.

Amstrad PCW: Dedicated Z80 CPM based word processor sold in several variations into the late 90's.

Amstrad PC Range: Starting with the PC1512. Shipping initially with DRDOS, MSDOS and GEM through to Windows 95 based systems. 8086 based.

Sinclair Spectrum range: Starting with the grey +2, then the black +2 and +3. The top selling home computer in the UK 1982 to 1990 inclusive. Z80 based.

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