Thursday, January 21, 2010

The cool wall

Computers and Consoles
Seriously UncoolUncoolCoolSub-Zero

Tatung Einstine
Amiga CDTV
New Brain
Vic 20
Oric / Atmos
Philips CDi
IBM 360
BBC Micro
Amstrad GX4000
Amstrad PCW
Sinclair Zx80
Altair 8800
Nintendo Virtual Boy
Dragon 32/64
Philips Videopac
Elan Enterprise
PC 200
Sun Ultra
Sun Sparc
Mattell Aquarius
Cambridge Z88

FM Towns
Commodore 116
Atari 400/800/1200xl/130XE/65XE
Amiga CD32
Amiga 2000
Amiga 4000
Atari 2800
Atari ST
Spectrum 16k/+2/128
Commodore 128 / 128D
SAM Coupé
Commodore Pet
Atari Jaguar
Sega Saturn
Nintendo Game Cube
Atari Lynx
Sinclair ZX81
Acorn Electron
Acorn Atom
Amstrad CPC
Sinclair QL
Playstation 3
Gameboy Advance
Dec Vax
NeoGeo Pocket
Commodore 64sx
Nintendo Nes
Sega Master System

Atari 2600
Amiga 1000
Amiga 3000
Amstrad 6128 Plus
PC Engine
Thinking Machine
Nintendo DS
SGI Workstations

Magnavox Odyssey
Sinclair Spectrum 48k/+3
Commodore 64
Apple II+
Amiga 500
Amiga 1200

A little while back the members of our team during a week of coffee breaks came up with the following cool wall. It was a hard fought list with many arguments about the virtue of each machine, but in the end we had our definitive list of old machines. Fans of TopGear will know all about the cool wall, and know it's nothing to do with how good anything is - just that it's cool or not. So heres our list... let battle commence!

Now remember... it's how COOL they were, not how useful, or powerful. The Plus/4 is a great little machine, but I'm not gonna pretend its cool. Also machines like the Amiga 4000 were awesome! But too expensive to be cool. So there you go - thats the rules.


Bebbers said...

The VIC-20 is seriously uncool? Being Commodore's first colour computer, launched in Japan first and pre-dates the Sinclair ZX81? Don't think so. Get that bad-boy over to the Sub-zero wall right away, and move the Commodore 64 back one to just cool.

Mike said...

LOL - sorry. Vic20 is def uncool. Not enough RAM to do anything useful, tiny screen and all the rest. The C64 on the other hand... best selling machine ever, with some amazing arcade quality stuff - and a sound chip that was SO cool, it's still being used by bands today!

Sorry - no contest :P

Bebbers said...

So, you agree that it isn't seriuosly uncool then? Surely it's gotta be better than some of the machines which you've placed in the same category? The ROM software was also good, no? It also sold a few million machines world wide. Move it up, damn it.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, you guys totally lost touch with coolness :P

C64 is way too mainstream to be anything really cool. Who cares about the SID and what not? Mainstream is never THAT cool.

Apple II+ in subzero as well? Come on! That machine has UNCOOL written all over it. Unless you are into spreadsheets :P

Also C16 in "seriously uncool" is not doing the coolness of this machine justice.
Take "Winter Events" by Udo Gertz. How COOL is that for starters (no pun intended)?

Atari ST is definitely misplaced as well. Sure, it was something like the NERD-AMIGA but check out the French ST demo scene and you know how COOL the ST is.

Amstrad CPC 6128 Plus is a nice machine but came out way too late. Plus, there are only a very very few games out actually making use of it capabilities.

Also give NES and Sega Master System some credit. Lots of excellent games.

You know what... You should make a BIG poll for the machines and let us decide what's cool and what's not!

Bebbers said...

I agree on the poll, top five machines in order of coolness, and another list in order of uncoolness (again, five machines), but it'd need a lot of people to respond for it to be balanced. I still can't accept the very good and highly under-rated VIC-20 being in the same category as the almost-useless ZX80 when they were launched in the same year. The VIC was a machine that could grow with you (more RAM, monitor, disk drive etc...) whereas the ZX80 could definitely not and was virtually condemned a year after its' launch. Just my opinion.

Anyways, for the record, my top five sub-zero in order would be:

VIC-20 (ideal starter machine, lots of nice games, cartridge software, real keyboard, upgradable), C128D-Cr (fixed VIC-II, old SID, built-in drive, nice keyboard, C64 compatible), Amiga A500 (powerful, affordable, great graphics and superb games), Sinclair Spectrum 128+ (not an Amstrad, cool games), and finally ZX81 (in truth, utter rubbish, but so much so that it was good!).

My seriously uncool (or whatever) list, in order, would be:

Sinclair ZX80 (only integer BASIC, couldn't process an instruction *and* display the screen, flimbsy, almost unusable), Altiar 8800 (What was it?), Acorn Electron (the one that the posh kids owned to impress their teachers), IBM PC (Nuff said), and finally Amstrad CPC (or Crap Colour Computer).

The ones that just miss out are the 80xx series PETs (you know, the ones with the casing designed by Porche - how cool is that?) and the Texas TI99/4a (Yes, over-engineered, but looked superb with it's futuristic silver and black).

The debate continues...

Mike said...

The Vic20 was never that cool to begin with, and when the C64 came out it jumped to seriously uncool right away! It was LESS than a baby C64. Sorry.. def seriously uncool there.

At the time, the cool thing to have was a spectrum OR a C64. If you had anything else, it was uncool. I had a plus/4 for a few years, and I always wanted a C64, it was so much better in "almost" everyway.

The Apple II was just plain cool. The apps and games were a little pants, but it looked and felt great. And when you walked in to a room full of them, it was very cool.

LOL - C16 is actually beyond seriously uncool! Its such a bastardised version of the plus4, that it's silly! And with the Plus4 being so uncool to start with, why would ANYONE have a C16?.. SOOOO uncool. Not a bad machine.. but very uncool.

If you had an ST, you secretly wanted an Amiga. It was better in EVERY way. I used both, ST was clunky, horrible hardware, horrible OS, horrible colours. You only got one if you were into music coz it had a "free" midi port built in. The Amiga was seriously sexy, and the ST was just the competition. How the hell did Commodore manage to screw that SO badly!!

Yep. Amstrad 6128 Plus was far too late, but it was a cool little machine based on the console (which was also far too late). This is one of the border case. Its not "uncool", and it's no cool. But its more cool than uncool.

8bit Sega/Nintendo systems were (over here at anyrate), just not worth it. Home computers were where it was at. Everyone actually tried to tinker with the computer, and those that had consoles were just toying with technology. At that time.. computers were way cooler than consoles.

I love the 128, but no one wanted to know when it came out. There were compatability issues, and it was too expensive - not to mention NO software for the 128 part. Great machine, but uncool.

If you don't know what a machine is, everyone listed is a link - click it :)

BBC was uncool the one the "posh" kids got. The Electorn was the one parents got kids if they were "Normal" but wanted them to actually "learn" stuff. making it slightly cooler than a BBC - but still not a patch on the specy or C64 which is what everyone actually wanted!

As hard as it is to beleive, we had around 40-50 folk debate this over a week or so...

Remember its not how "good" a machine is or how powerful it was, but how desirable it was. How much everyone really wanted that one instead of the one they had. This makes the Vic20, Zx81 and 128+ a bit pooh. no one every wanted them. The "real" life of them was tiny - I still can't get over how BAD the vic screen was....

Anonymous said...

also consider that "island monkeys" (no offense, call me Kraut ;) ) really have a different view on everything. Beans and toast is NOT gourmet cuisine :P

Some of the machines listed were almost non-existent in continental Europe. In some markets Speccies just couldn't cut it at all. Take Germany for instance. If you got a Speccy here people actually felt more sorry for you than for the Schneider (Amstrad) CPC owners (which actually is not that bad a machine. Usually got crappy Specturm ports but the French demos kick ass). Whereas the C16 was somewhat popular here. Afterall, it was the first ALDI computer ever.

And why is the C116 cooler than the C16? The chiclet keyboard is a major pain in the butt. Though, I admit, the C116's retro chic factor beats C16 anytime NOWADAYS.

Actually, many ppl wanted an Atari ST because it had a useable PC emulator/add-on card available. This combo was quite popular. And you already mentioned the MIDI interface. Plus, the excellent black and white monitor.

Furthermore, the original Playstation should be in the subzero category, too. Some of the titles are still amazing these days. And I think more ppl wanted that one than stuff that's in subzero.

Also there actually was a LOT of cool stuff out for the ZX81. It had been used for the weirdest things and even if it's so limited it's still cool in a way.

To sum it up... I guess we all have our own views on coolness. My cool wall would definitely look a lot different. In fact, I actually wanted a plus/4 because it was cool (LOTS of colors and nice BASIC to do graphics with... none of which the C64 had).

Mike said...

Well, this is very much a UK "cool wall". While we had a couple of folk from outside, most of us are from around these parts so..

The C116 feels "dinky" and "cute", while the C16 was just a big blob. Great basic etc., but has always felt a bit pooh. A friend of mine had this machine and it was okay, but on upgrading to a C64 you just felt he had a better machine. They just aren't cool.

LOL - sorry... mono monitors are never cool, not unless its used as a green screen one while hacking something. The ST was a fun machine, but everything felt a little tacky compared to the Amiga - thats just the way it is. :)

Yeah... struggled with the Playstation. It was a fab little machine, I loved it to bits! I almost wore out my RidgeRacer disk, but the lack of filtering and perspective correction on texturing meant it just didn't "look" nice. On top of this you just couldn't ignore how much BIGGER the PS2 was in popularity. So it's another border case... a little more than cool, but def not subzero. Ps2 might actually be above sub-zero...

ZX81 was a great little machine. I loved mine. It brought me into programming, and it was cheap as chips. But the keyboard and wobbly ram pack together with the horrible tap loading killed it dead. def not cool...

Yes, everyones cool wall would differ. Theres a few here I don't really agree with - I loved the PC Engine, and the "GT" (hand held one) was amazing for its time. But like I said, this was a group effort so :)

I actually think the NeoGeo should be SubZero because it was quite literally an arcade machine in your house. Great controllers and amazing games -everyone wanted one. But the price.. man.. that was just too much for the rest of the guys so its slid down a little into just "cool".

Bebbers said...

I think you hit the nail right on the head there Mike: I owned a C64 and wanted a VIC-20, because I thought it was a great machine. I didn't really appreciate other technology, such as the Speccy, until Windows 95 came along, but mostly I wanted to go back to my Commodore days because things seemed to be moving entirely in the wrong direction, especially in terms of performance. Faster processors didn't seem to offer the benefits that you'd expect, and there were a whole load of compatibility and reliability problems with the world of Windows that didn't seem to exist back in the day. This was because generally your computer would work almost from the moment you switched the power on. Windows offered a whole new world of problems after it was supposed to be up and running even more troublesome than ?TAPE LOADING ERROR or the equivilent (even though I found a way to virtually elemenate it without buying a disk drive).

Andy v v c said...

I had an ST. Awesome machine...hated the Amiga 500. Until i played "SuperCars 2" on a mates Amiga...christ! The intro alone made me wet my pants!! That drum solo, and the guitars... at that very moment in (1991?) i resolved to buy an A500. Less than a month later, for 80 quid, i had bought a second hand Amiga and i never looked back.
The A500 needs a coloumn of it's own on the right-side, perhaps labelled: "Seriously GodLike"

Im now waiting for a cool-wall of 16bit videogames houses...THAT will cause this blog to melt with the sheer volume of people who post up opinions! BitMap Brothers, Psygnosis, FTL, that other three-letter company...DTP? DNA? DNF? It's on the tip of my tongue... ;o)

Jay said...

I realise this isn't the best place to ask but I'll be darned if I could find your email address on here anywhere!
I saw the images you uploaded to flickr from Body Harvest a while ago, they're great :) It's still one of my favorite games and I was wondering if you had any other media/information about the game that you might be able to supply me with? Maybe you know whether the debug menu in the game can be activated? I haven't yet found a way to do that. Anyhoo, I'll check back here or you can email me at
Thanks for your time, Jay.

Anonymous said...

What about the Oric/Atmos? Why is it so uncool? :P

Mike said...

Coz no one had them! The only "cool" thing about the Oric was you could type "ZAP" in a shop and have it play a sound. It was just a little dull.

snap2grid said...

The whole cool/uncool thing is really going back to the mid-eighties computer club that we went to. The Oric, for whatever reason, was never even going to approach being cool. Just didn't work out like that. The BBC was what snobs and schools bought. But the absolute coolest machine was the Amiga 500. After I got one, the numbers of "friends" turning up on my doorstep multiplied enormously. One nearly had a seizure when he thought it was a C128 at first and then the realisation struck!

cyborgjeff said...

Two times DS in the same columns ;)
well for me PS3 could receive same position as Xbox ;)

tahrey said...

Hmm, I'd take Supercars 1 on the ST over SC2 on the Amiga any day. The intro was the best part of the latter, it was basically a thin layer of bling over a worse game. And it only had that one piece of music vs several in the original! Feh.

But anyway, we knew we had the less cool machine, didn't care, it was cheaper, it still had 95%-plus of the big releases until the PC took over and ruined everything for everybody, had a good community etc, and it was used for more than just games (please no pointing out how the miggy could still do 16 colours in medium-rez ;). Plus an internal PSU and a faster floppy drive, things which pay for themselves in spades.

And of course one of them got used for making rather simplistic rave records, the other got used for making... everything else ;)

Anyway, not here to debate that one, the places of the two of them are rather accurate and pleasingly central. What I want to know is...

Where is the Game Gear?

Honestly. What a cock-up to miss that out :D

The Gameboy gets to sit in the fridge, but if the Lynx is uncool the GG should get to be at least "cool". It had Sonic the freaking Hedgehog as a launch title for crying out loud, and a good proportion of everything that appeared on both the Master System (a lot of which were at least as good as NES titles) AND Megadrive... You just couldn't beat a two player game of Micro Machines for portable computer fun in the early-mid 90s. Chunky, but cool-as.

And no Amiga 600. I expect it belongs in a small oven constructed off to the left hand side of the wall proper, having recently acquired one cheap off eBay (I did it for the included CM8833, stash of re-usable DSDDs and atari-compatible mouse/joystick, please don't judge me) and found it to be very much Commodore's red-haired stepchild. Still, it plays all the A500 titles I've yet tried just fine, and even shows some potential as a living-room word processor (interlaced mode works much nicer on an LCD TV than a CRT)... It deserves some kind of entry even if it's a nasty one!

Cheers :p

tahrey said...

BTW GEM/TOS may be a clunky system, but I'll tell you this much: having a naff built-in OS is a hundred times better than having to boot a hopelessly cryptic DOS-a-like or the just-as-ugly (though admittedly much more sophisticated) Workbench from floppy every. single. time. if you didn't have a hard disk (which, at the time, was a hugely expensive add-on), as well as giving up all that space to the system on every boot disk, having - like you might with an MSDOS system - to make some difficult choices about which base-level system commands and utilities to save and which to scrap when space got tight.

And it's a thousand times better than how screwed you find yourself if all your disks with it on get corrupted and you have to go scrabbling around trying to cadge a working version off a friend just in order to copy a work file from disk A to disk B, or format a disk to use for game save files...

128k of ROM trumps 800k of disk every time in these circumstances, even if it's just a fallback you can use should your copy of NeoDesk get corrupted.

(It's not like the miggy was short of alternative window managers anyway ;-)

And that green background colour.... mmm, it's like getting a tan off a nuclear reactor? How is that not cool? :D
(*quickly hides all evidence of one of the most popular things to chuck in an Auto folder being the tiny CTLPANEL.ACC and its config file that changed the default colours* ...Really, why did they go for primary green with a full 512-colour RGB palette to choose from?)

Seikaiwa said...

It's like when people grow up, they lose all sense of what's cool.

I think someone famous wrote something like this in a book. And how true it is!

How can anyone think that C16, Plus/4 (epecially considering that people here are supposed to be making Xeo3 for it, or at least were five years ago) or ANY Amiga (except perhaps the A600 and CD32) is "uncool"?

What are they then, "warm"?

All AGA Amigas are definitely HOT in their sexiness, so maybe "cool" isn't the word. But how can people not appreciate what Amiga 4000 could do, for example? I never understood the A4000-hate.

It is good-looking, sleek, even beautiful. It has the AGA chip (which is already enough to earn it a deserved place in the heaven of computer history), it's expendable, supports all kinds of cool graphics cards, has a separate, very usable keyboard - with lesser Amigas, you had to hunch over the keyboard and stay there, you couldn't relax and take the keyboard on your lap!

Furthermore, it supports the best OSes that have ever been created on this planet publicly (at least after Atlantis), except possibly "AmigaOS 4" - I wouldn't know, never used that one.

Amiga 4000 was certainly the best, most fun, most capable (in certain terms) computer that I have ever owned, and I think I will always miss it dearly (the poor thing died).

For you to take great computers that have brought the kind of magical joy that can't be matched by ANYTHING today, and just shove them into some kind of arbitrary "uncool" category certainly tells more about your lack of common sense that has been replaced by a huge black hole of ignorance, than about the computers themselves.

And how could anyone say something can be too mainstream to be cool? Well, I don't know about the terminology, but not to appreciate something EXCELLENT just because it's "mainstream", is just stupid, and very egotistical. Who cares whether something is liked or hated by people?

And plenty of people care what the SID can do, so much so, that it is still used as synthesizers (many people have multiple SID chips that they can use simultaneously for music creation and other aural pleasure and entertainment stuff). How is that NOT cool?? A chip designed in the early 80s is actively used for creativity in 2013!

I don't think you CAN get cooler than that.

Maybe if you discard the idiotic MAINSTREAM terminology ("cool), and simply consider which computers were GOOD, usable, had exciting and inspiring software and great games and neat hardware expansions and could emulate other systems with perfect precision, you might have a very different kind of list.

What other computer could take an equivalent, modern computer, and emulate it FASTER than the actual thing? When you used Shapeshifter with Picasso graphics-card to play those glorious 256-color Mac-ports of wonderful PC games (DOTT, TSOMI I and II, Legend of Kyrandia, Alone in the Dark) that often had IMPROVEMENTS over the PC versions (higher resolution graphics, proper MIDI music sounds and all, everything working perfectly on the Amiga 4000), WHILE you were still using Amiga software on the other side to chat, download files, and do a plethora of other things, you HAD to be pretty impressed back in the day.

Seikaiwa said...

Photoshop existed for Amiga 4000 in the form of using the Mac version using Shapeshifter - same could be said about a lot of great software.

The Amiga 4000 was the MOST AMAZING THING I had ever had the GREAT PLEASURE and JOY to use, and you dare to call it "uncool"!

No offense, but HOW stupid do you have to be to do that? That's like insulting Bruce Lee for being too mainstream to be any good in martial arts, or insulting Mozart as a bad composer, because he was too popular.

It doesn't make any sense!

Atari ST, btw, is seriously uncool a computer. Lousy sound chip, horrible graphics capabilities (ever compared games side to side with the Amiga versions? The ST version almost always has a lower resolution, lower framerate, worse scrolling, less colors, and oftentimes uglier sprites and less of them!), awful architecture, and a LAME operating system. How could ANY HUMAN BEING in their senses ever appreciate that piece of turd over Amiga, ANY Amiga? It shouldn't even be possible!

Sure, it's a "quicky novelty", or "a freaky retro hardware", but don't go calling it "cool" or capable, because even compared to the 8-bit computers, it LOSES in many ways!

Even the C64 beats Atari ST in smooth scrolling and I shouldn't have to even mention the SID, which is a fully qualified, original and unique-sounding SYNTHESIZER, not just a crappy, bleepy sound chip of the seventies, like its competitors had.

The C64 beat up all its competition in the same way that Amiga 4000 did its. Don't go insulting the winners, it just makes you seem like you are only expressing your bitterness, because you chose the wrong side of the fence and don't want to admit your mistake.

The other computers didn't have a chance - they might just as well have not existed. C64 and Amiga 4000 was all you really needed, nothing else could bring you true satisfaction, because they were inferior machines with inferior software and inferior hardware.

Plus/4 and C16 are very cool computers, but they weren't supported much. That's not their fault! I admit that the technical solutions in those machines were mind-staggeringly weird - why take away sprites, and why insert such a lousy sound chip, etc..

But the number of colours and other stuff compensated, and at the same time, it did have its handful of classics that I have not yet seen on other platforms, like Jet Brix, Berks and Mr. Puniverse. C16's version of Formula One is also definitely the best.

If you must, call Atari 800 uncool (though I like it), call Atari ST uncool, and I would go as far as to let you call Amiga CD32 or Amiga 600 uncool (because as decisions and as crippled machines, that's what they were - although the architecture and the basic hardware below the surface was still very "cool" indeed), but don't go calling C64 or Amiga 4000 'uncool', unless you want to just express your stupidity to the world!

I hope I have made my point.

Anonymous said...

C64 was the best selling ever.... Rrrrrriiiiiiigggggghhhhhttttt......

Matt Davies said...

I think the Gameboy Advance was very cool. I had an early dev kit (circuit board, with SNES controller) and developed an "OS" for it to handle DMA, and IRQs. Also had the insanely cool CPU ARM7. Also the GPU and audio systems were fun to program for. Everything about this kit from a programmers point of view was cool for me.