Among those of us that grew-up in the 80s, the rivalry between whether you were a Commodore person or a Spectrum person ran deep. So deep, that we sometimes still define our old school friends from that period by the criteria of which computer they owned. Arguments ran deep then, and haven't mellowed with age. These iconic Goliath's of early home computing divided opinions on which was better, taking debate down to the most minute detail of the two computer's operation, their likely-hood of crashing mid-game, and even which simply looked cooler. The awesomeness of the C64's SID chip way outstripped the bleeps and tweaks of the Spectrum. Oh but wait! Would say a Spectrum owner, the Z80 3.5Mhz processor was way better at handling graphic heavy games than the 6510 1.0Mhz processor of the C64! Ah! Would say a C64 owner, that maybe true, but Speccy graphics were just crap, whether it could handle 3D better than the C64 or not! Look at all the collision detection problems the Speccy had, and the C64 had a dedicated VIC-II graphics chip. You could go on and on. So let's set them side-by-side and put up some stats, and discuss some of the arguments that have been put forward in favour of each machine over the years. Whatever side you fall on though, one thing is for sure, owning either of these machines in the 80s not only stayed with those now middle-aged big kids forever but brought home computing to the masses. Something we take for granted these days. If it wasn't for these two machines, the technology drenched world we now live in would be a very different place without them.
Some c64 stats!
Release Date: August 1982
Cost: US $595 / UK £399
Units Sold: 12.5 - 17 million
Processor: 6510 1.0Mhz (Approximate due to NTSC / PAL variations)
Memory: 64K RAM + 20K ROM
Graphics: Dedicated VIC-II Chip. (320 × 200, 16 colours or 320x200, 4 colours.)
Sound: Dedicated SID 6581 Chip.
Sinclair ZX Spectrum
Some Speccy Stats.
Release Date: April 1982
Cost: 16K version £125 / 48K version £175 (later reduced to £99 and £129 respectively, due to higher production numbers.)
Units Sold: 5 million
Processor: Z80 3.5Mhz
Memory: 16K RAM / 48K RAM (+ 16K ROM)
Graphics: No dedicated chip. (256x192, 8 colours.)
Sound: No dedicated sound chip... It just went BEEP!
The Look & Feel Of The C64.
The Commodore C64 was a robust machine, with its early 'bread bin' wedge design. It felt like you were holding something of substance. It had a proper tactile keyboard, the peripherals plugged in and seated properly without fear of them coming unplugged or randomly falling out. It had the good old reliable dedicated 1530 Datasette, and the 1541 Floppy Drive. They said, "Grrr...!!! Hey Ho, Let's Go!"
When you switched it on, it just came on, no messing around. That flashing light blue cursor on the darker blue background spoke of restrained simplicity, belying a power house of a machine. A sea of calm blue, with a roaring ocean of untapped power underneath.
Score: 1 for AESTHETICS
Software Titles For The C64.
Judging the amount of software titles available for the C64 isn't easy to estimate, and quoted figures vary wildly. Whether you count only commercially available titles, some games were re-released under different titles, and as part of compilations. Some estimates claim around 20,000 titles for the C64, of which around half of those (10,000) were commercially released official titles.
Beyond Gaming With The C64.
With its "real" keyboard, industry standard disk drive and dot-matrix printer the C64 was marketed as a business machine. Developers even created early word processing and other small business packages for it. The C64 even had an early Windows like GUI in the form of GEOS. Oh and not forgetting the C64 had an early modem available for it too.
Total Score: 6/10
The Look & Feel of The Speccy.
The Spectrum was as flat as a fart, looking more like a bread-board that belonged in a bin. Those infuriating multi-function rubber keys. Argghh!!! Even now the thought of touching them gives me nightmares. No dedicated tape player, so any old audio one had to do. It did have the ZX Microdrive, which was seated loosely at best. Breathing near a Spectrum meant that the peripherals were in mortal danger of falling off onto the floor.
When you switched it on, it initially looked like it was about to die, as corrupted graphics flashed up the screen. And then nothing! A thin black cursor blinking aimlessly at the bottom of a dead white screen.
SCORE: 0 FOR AESTHETICS
Software Titles For The Speccy.
Again, as with the C64, counting the number of available titles isn't an exact science. With new titles still being unofficially produced. However with the Spectrum we have the website World Of Spectrum to help us out, which devoted to archiving all the titles available. At the last count (I checked it today) the website claims to have 24,329 unique titles.
Beyond Gaming With The Speccy.
The rubber keyboard, the weird tape based ZX Microdrive, and that utterly pointless thermal printer with its tiny rolls of paper. The Spectrum was never a serious machine, and was always destined to never move beyond the smelly sock strewn bedrooms of spotty adolescents. Let's be honest, the Speccy was always just a game machine, pretending to be a proper computer.
Total Score: 4/10
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