Comparing Sinclair QL to Commodore 64

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bwinkel67
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Comparing Sinclair QL to Commodore 64

Postby bwinkel67 » Thu Mar 26, 2020 5:55 pm

Uh oh...

No, this isn't meant to start a discussion on which is better (which would be pointless on this forum since I would think I would know the answer) but to better understand the two machines. My ignorance of the C64 leads me to believe it compares more to the Spectrum and that the QL compares more to the Amiga, though the latter was a bit more powerful than the QL.

So I see the C64 supporting many types of software that I don't see on the QL (and with the C64, you generally are talking about the unexpanded 64K model, so half of the QL's memory). One I recently came across that interested me is the Elite game (there is also an implementation on the Spectrum). I found a YouTube video for a QL with Gold Card running a non-working "demo" version of Elite but whoever created this nifty fast clone demo of Elite, why didn't they first create a slower working version for the plain old 128K QL? The video made it seem like you needed the Gold Card to get Elite running. If I hadn't seen the C64 Elite game first I would have thought, wow, this type of software needs the acceleration of a Gold Card but then I recently saw a video (RetroRecipes) of Elite being played on an base C64 which is basically less memory than the QL and slower. The QL demo did fill in the graphics and it was much smoother, but still, why not a slower playable version.

I'm guessing that the lack of these kinds of games on the QL has more to do with the lack of popularity back in the 90's (so sad since I love the QL) and not the ability of the QL (other than perhaps its color ability -- though Elite does't really use many colors).

I also saw an Speccy Emulator on the C64 but I think it is similar to what I'm doing with the ZXSimulator, i.e. it is not really an emulator but just implements the BASIC of the Spectrum which leads me to believe I can update the ZXSimulator eventually to add color and the rest of the Spectrum BASIC (again, running on an unexpanded QL). BTW, it's not because I'm too cheap to by a Gold Card, since I own a Q68, it's just that I want to see stuff like this run on the 128K QL since it can run on a C64 (my hobby I guess :-/).

So what does the C64 offer that might cause the QL with more memory and potentially faster processing, in its unexpanded form, to struggle (if anything) I guess is my question?
Last edited by bwinkel67 on Thu Mar 26, 2020 6:30 pm, edited 5 times in total.


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Re: Comparing Sinclair QL to Commodore 64

Postby bwinkel67 » Thu Mar 26, 2020 6:00 pm

Oh, and btw, yes, Elite was developed by a company and ported to many platforms and they chose to ignore the QL which is a reasonable business decision. But why doesn't a clone of it exists (other than that supposedly weird 3D Wanderer game someone spoke of -- or is that a close clone of it?)

With regard to other vector graphic 3D games, I do own Tankbusters but watching Elite, it doesn't compare with its storyboard of the things that Elite offers.


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Re: Comparing Sinclair QL to Commodore 64

Postby RalfR » Thu Mar 26, 2020 6:32 pm

bwinkel67 wrote:With regard to other vector graphic 3D games, I do own Tankbusters but watching Elite

I find Tankbusters a lot boring, the best of this program is still its copy protection.


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Re: Comparing Sinclair QL to Commodore 64

Postby tofro » Thu Mar 26, 2020 7:20 pm

Probably various reasons:

  1. The QL was only produced for about one year, 1984 to 1985. For the first 3-6 months, it couldn't be considered a stable product, bugged by way to many errors in the ROMs, the hardware and the "kludge". This didn't really make it an attractive platform for game developers, especially not for larger software houses that owned the IPR for the "interesting" games. (Why should they port a game to a platform that was not well received in the market). Psion was the only one of the established software houses producing QL software - The others that produced the small amount of games were free-lancers, small software "houses" (rather lone fighters) that produced small, but sometimes interesting pieces of software. Those guys wouldn't risk being drawn in fornt of a judge for copyright infringement by cloning such software.
  2. The QL was marketed as a business computer at first - not an attractive target either.
  3. Partially due to the above (targetting businesses instead of gamers) , the QL, in typical Sinclair design, lacks a lot in support chips that the C64, for example, had. While the C64 has the VIC chip that offers character-based as well as bit-mapped modes, nearly arbitrary location of video memory, hardware sprites,..., the SID offering three-channel music, and a series of intelligent parallel and serial interface chips, the QL has a CPU (and a mini-CPU that will play single-channel sound if it's not too busy with supporting the serial interfaces and the keyboard). So, it's not particularily easy to produce a good game for the QL, compared to the C64.
  4. The QL is not particularly fast. It runs at twice the CPU clock speed of the ZX Spectrum, but must fetch word-sized bits from memory. Its eight-bit data bus and contended video memory does also not improve that situation. In reality, an unexpanded QL is only maybe 1.x to 2 times faster than a Spectrum, but must fill 32k of video memory to play a game, compared to 7k for a ZX Spectrum screen.
What the QL has instead, is an excellent operating system (in my opinion the first "real" operating system for a home computer) - Which doesn't help much when you want to produce a game.


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bwinkel67
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Re: Comparing Sinclair QL to Commodore 64

Postby bwinkel67 » Thu Mar 26, 2020 7:38 pm

tofro wrote:Probably various reasons:
...


Thank you, that is exactly what I was looking for (i.e. you answered my question). I do know that the Amiga was powerful because of its specialized chip set and didn't put the two together to see that the C64 also had that. I know they are not directly connected since the Amiga was a separate company before Commodore acquired them but I think there was some cross pollination.

tofro wrote:What the QL has instead, is an excellent operating system (in my opinion the first "real" operating system for a home computer) - Which doesn't help much when you want to produce a game.


I couldn't agree more and why I have such affinity for the QL. It's is by far, an outstanding OS considering when it came from and the platform it was designed on. Like a mini Unix before people got into small Linux kernels for secondary devices. It truly is amazing to see preemptive multitasking on an early 80's personal computer. I worked on hacking the Mac kernel back in the mid 90's and know how truly awful its cooperative multitasking OS was before they switched to BSD.


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Re: Comparing Sinclair QL to Commodore 64

Postby Dave » Fri Mar 27, 2020 4:05 am

If I had to pick a machine that was most line the QL, I would pick the Coleco Adam.

Similarities:

Both have two CPUs. The Adam 2nd CPU, used for system IO and memory management, is a 6801 - a small ROM microcontroller version of the 6800. In the QL, it's an 8049.
Both communicate through an internal serial bus. The 8049 uses a serial link to the 8302. The Adam has a more developed implementation of this called Adamnet which allows data devices, keyboards, printers, etc. to all be accessed.
Both had quirky high speed tape systems. Both systems were a small advance on other available systems. Both sucked in practice.
Both machines launched to great optimism and failed in the marketplace, with reports of unreliability. Both claims were based on early machines.

Differences:

The Adam was beige.
The Adam had a better keyboard.
The Adam had a VDP, and video memory wasn't part of the Adam's memory map.

I do think though that if there were a spiritual match for the QL from an American company, it was the Adam.


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Re: Comparing Sinclair QL to Commodore 64

Postby Gromit337 » Fri Mar 27, 2020 11:47 am

Quite simply the C64 was designed to be a powerful home computer, whereas the QL was cobbled together in an almost ad hoc manner, with the sole aim of being a cheap 'Business" computer. It was built in the usual Sinclair way, down to a price, no matter what the consequences. It wasn't marketed as a "Home" computer, it was buggy, incomplete, there were many bad design decisions and it couldn't compete with other true 16 bit machines that appeared, nor the likes of the 'inferior' Amstrad PCW range. Sir Clive severely misjudged the market and couldn't make up his mind what he wanted.

There wasn't any cross pollination between the C64 and the Amiga. The true predecessor of the Amiga was the Atari 8 bit range, which came out well before the C64. Both the Atari and Amiga having been largely designed by Jay Miner. The Amiga was a true multiprocessor system, true multitasking, seriously powerful graphics and sound capabilities and a significant step up from most other home computers of the time.

Ironically, an expanded Amiga running a version of Qdos could almost be the ideal QL.


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Re: Comparing Sinclair QL to Commodore 64

Postby pjw » Fri Mar 27, 2020 12:28 pm

Gromit337 wrote:Ironically, an expanded Amiga running a version of Qdos could almost be the ideal QL.
Imagine SMSQ/E fully incarnated into the Amiga hardware! Mmm.


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Re: Comparing Sinclair QL to Commodore 64

Postby RalfR » Fri Mar 27, 2020 12:47 pm

pjw wrote:Imagine SMSQ/E fully incarnated into the Amiga hardware! Mmm.
Should be possible, It works on the Atari (native WIN, native screen).


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Re: Comparing Sinclair QL to Commodore 64

Postby tofro » Fri Mar 27, 2020 2:15 pm

RalfR wrote:
pjw wrote:Imagine SMSQ/E fully incarnated into the Amiga hardware! Mmm.
Should be possible, It works on the Atari (native WIN, native screen).


I don't think that is what Per has asked for: The SMSQ/E port (nice it exists, tough) for the Atari doesn't even support or use the Atari's (much fewer than the Amiga) custom chips like the Blitter and the DMA chip.

A full-blown port of SMSQ/ to a system like the Amiga would really need to make use of all the Amiga hardware to be really superior. There is QDOS Classic for the Amiga, which doesn't make much use of the Amiga hardware capabilities either.

Tobias


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