Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.


Author Topic: Q&A with Bruce Tanner (IS-BASIC writer) (Read 73460 times)

Offline BruceTanner

  • EP user
  • *
  • Posts: 487
  • Country: gb
  • OS:
  • Windows 7/Server 2008 R2 Windows 7/Server 2008 R2
  • Browser:
  • Chrome 25.0.1364.172 Chrome 25.0.1364.172
    • View Profile
Re: Q&A with Bruce Tanner (IS-BASIC writer)
« Reply #225 on: 2013.April.05. 23:58:06 »
I think it was just a general purpose "home computer".

Games would have been a big part of it. My recollection of the general feeling around at the time is that people were reluctant to admit they were buying a home computer for games - they wanted one and justified spending the money by talking of educational value, doing home accounts etc...and then used them for games! The fact that the Nick chip has a Spectrum-compatible mode speaks volumes.

But it certainly wasn't aimed as a games-only machine - even back then games consoles had been around for quite a while and had detachable joystick/controllers for two players, hardware sprites etc. I think if you were going to design a custom video chip aimed exclusively at game playing, even back then, you would not come up with the Nick chip, and you would not need to be able to expand the RAM to nearly 4Mb.

And it certainly wasn't aimed as a business only computer - a plastic keyboard, built-in joystick and colourful keys would have put paid to that! It definitely did have its serious side though - eg. built in WP, CP/M compatibility.

The school market seemed to have been well and truly stitched up - the BBC broadcast a series of TV programmes on computers, programming in BASIC etc and there was a public outcry that they picked one particular commercial manufacturer (Acorn and the BBC micro), which was then also picked as the standard state school computer. [The BBC is funded by a "licence fee" (tax) paid by anyone with a TV, and is supposed to be completely commercially neutral eg. they are not allowed to mention or display commercial brand names in any programs they broadcast or fund.] But as each home computer back then was different, they probably didn't have much choice - there would have been an even bigger outcry if they had favoured an existing brand eg. the Spectrum.

In truth the Enterprise had a probably over-ambitious spec and was trying to be "all things to all men", and better at everything than everything else around at the time! In many areas it succeeded, but you could argue that it was also its downfall. But you don't become great by aiming low.

Although the C64 eventually became popular, it was really slow to take off. We were aware of its existence but I don't think anyone at the time was too bothered by it - it just didn't sell in large numbers.

Offline Zozosoft

  • EP addict
  • *
  • Posts: 13517
  • Country: hu
  • OS:
  • Windows 7/Server 2008 R2 Windows 7/Server 2008 R2
  • Browser:
  • Firefox 19.0 Firefox 19.0
    • View Profile
    • http://enterprise.iko.hu/
Re: Q&A with Bruce Tanner (IS-BASIC writer)
« Reply #226 on: 2013.April.07. 00:58:26 »
Our opinion: the Enterprise wanted to be a best home micro at the time.
Then it is strange why missing the sprites and fine horizontal scroll capabilities? These are the strongest part of C64 graphics. MSX also have both. MC6845 in CPC have a trick for smooth horizontal scroll.
About the sprites exist some preparation (External color inputs in the extension bus, controlled with the SPRITE system variable in EXOS 2.1), but unfortunately never released Sprite unit :cry:
Do you know anything more about these? Exist any prototype?


For the horizontal scroll, would have been good if the LPT have pixel shift option...


I guess the gaming are not priority in the Enterprise developing.


Quote
The fact that the Nick chip has a Spectrum-compatible mode speaks volumes.
The Spectrum compatible mode are definied requirement for the developing? If yes then it is by the IS or the Elan?
At this time the Spectrum is the most popular in UK?
The gaming question are answered: if the Spectrum games can easy converted, then enought?



Our greatest pain: very small amount of the REAL Enterprise games.
Most of them are Spectrum conversion.
Strange, but the CPC are totally unknown in Hungary, we never hear about it until the internet era. The most of non Spectrum games, what we thought as original EP games, then discovered these are from CPC...
« Last Edit: 2013.April.07. 10:24:43 by Zozosoft »

Offline ikduncan

  • Beginner
  • *
  • Posts: 38
  • OS:
  • Mac OS X Mac OS X
  • Browser:
  • Safari 6.0 Safari 6.0
    • View Profile
Re: Q&A with Bruce Tanner (IS-BASIC writer)
« Reply #227 on: 2013.April.07. 09:41:11 »
The c64 was very expensive on launch that is why it was slow to take off.
I think it was around £345 or 400 euro when released.
It didnt make any major impact until commoodore reduced price to <£200
(Which all happened i think in time between enterprise announcment and release)

Offline lgb

  • EP addict
  • *
  • Posts: 3496
  • Country: hu
  • æðsta yfirmaður
  • OS:
  • Linux Linux
  • Browser:
  • Chrome 27.0.1453.15 Chrome 27.0.1453.15
    • View Profile
    • http://lgb.hu/
Re: Q&A with Bruce Tanner (IS-BASIC writer)
« Reply #228 on: 2013.April.07. 10:17:57 »
Quote from: Zozosoft
About the sprites exist some preparation (External color inputs in the extension bus, controlled with the SPRITE system variable in EXOS 2.1), but unfortunately never released Sprite unit :cry:
Do you know anything more about these? Exist any prototype?

Hmm, that's something which would be really interesting to build/have something using the EXTCOL stuffs :)


Quote
For the vertical scroll, would have been good if the LPT have pixel shift option...

If I understand the situation well, you mean _horizontal_ scroll, and not vertical ... ?

Quote
Strange, but the CPC are totally unknown in Hungary, we never hear about it until the internet era. The most of non Spectrum games, what we thought as original EP games, then discovered these are from CPC...

True, first time I heard about CPC was some years ago on this forum! While for example one of my friends in elementary school had Enterprise 128 ....

Offline Zozosoft

  • EP addict
  • *
  • Posts: 13517
  • Country: hu
  • OS:
  • Windows 7/Server 2008 R2 Windows 7/Server 2008 R2
  • Browser:
  • Firefox 19.0 Firefox 19.0
    • View Profile
    • http://enterprise.iko.hu/
Re: Q&A with Bruce Tanner (IS-BASIC writer)
« Reply #229 on: 2013.April.07. 10:25:23 »
Quote from: lgb
If I understand the situation well, you mean _horizontal_ scroll, and not vertical ... ?
Yes :oops:

Offline Zozosoft

  • EP addict
  • *
  • Posts: 13517
  • Country: hu
  • OS:
  • Windows 7/Server 2008 R2 Windows 7/Server 2008 R2
  • Browser:
  • Firefox 19.0 Firefox 19.0
    • View Profile
    • http://enterprise.iko.hu/
Re: Q&A with Bruce Tanner (IS-BASIC writer)
« Reply #230 on: 2013.April.07. 11:01:38 »
Quote from: ikduncan
The c64 was very expensive on launch that is why it was slow to take off.
I think it was around £345 or 400 euro when released.
You think the C64 are in different league?

Then possible understood the Enterprise plans about external Sprite unit.
The standard machine are cheaper, and with Sprite unit will be same league with price and gaming capatibilities?

Quote
It didnt make any major impact until commoodore reduced price to <£200
Then started millions loss of Commodore...

Offline BruceTanner

  • EP user
  • *
  • Posts: 487
  • Country: gb
  • OS:
  • Windows 7/Server 2008 R2 Windows 7/Server 2008 R2
  • Browser:
  • Chrome 25.0.1364.172 Chrome 25.0.1364.172
    • View Profile
Re: Q&A with Bruce Tanner (IS-BASIC writer)
« Reply #231 on: 2013.April.07. 12:12:22 »
Quote from: Zozosoft
Our opinion: the Enterprise wanted to be a best home micro at the time.
Then it is strange why missing the sprites and fine horizontal scroll capabilities? These are the strongest part of C64 graphics. MSX also have both. MC6845 in CPC have a trick for smooth horizontal scroll.
About the sprites exist some preparation (External color inputs in the extension bus, controlled with the SPRITE system variable in EXOS 2.1), but unfortunately never released Sprite unit :cry:
Do you know anything more about these? Exist any prototype?

No I don't remember any sprite hardware around :cry: or even any talk of any. I suspect part of the problem was just lack of communication with real game writers - we were very focussed on "system" things like BASIC and EXOS, and IS's game expertise was of course chess which doesn't need either sprites or scrolling. It is very easy to say with hindsight that it should have had horizontal scroll and sprites but I don't think it was quite so clear at the time what advantage these would have to games writers. And what would have to be missing from the Nick chip if it had? The Nick chip was already pushing the available technology to the limit, which is what caused all the problems.

Quote
The Spectrum compatible mode are definied requirement for the developing? If yes then it is by the IS or the Elan?
At this time the Spectrum is the most popular in UK?
The gaming question are answered: if the Spectrum games can easy converted, then enought?
I don't know who drove the Spectrum compatible mode requirements - it was already in the Nick spec when I started - but being easy to convert Spectrum games was definitely thought to be an easy way to having lots of games available. I'd say yes, the Spectrum was the most popular in the UK. Of course with hindsight that means few games that really take advantage of the Enterprise's features, as you observe.

Offline endi

  • EP addict
  • *
  • Posts: 7305
  • Country: hu
  • grafikus, játékfejlesztõ, programozás, scifi, tudományok, vallás
  • OS:
  • Windows XP Windows XP
  • Browser:
  • Opera 9.80 Opera 9.80
    • View Profile
    • Honlapom
Re: Q&A with Bruce Tanner (IS-BASIC writer)
« Reply #232 on: 2013.April.07. 12:35:40 »
My question: who made the basic demos for the machine? And what was the purpuse of these programs?
I think these demos are not bad, but I think it is possible to make more more better things in EP basic!
And why did you not make asm demos?
« Last Edit: 2013.April.12. 22:31:59 by szipucsu »
Vigyázat! Szektás vagyok! :)

Offline endi

  • EP addict
  • *
  • Posts: 7305
  • Country: hu
  • grafikus, játékfejlesztõ, programozás, scifi, tudományok, vallás
  • OS:
  • Windows XP Windows XP
  • Browser:
  • Opera 9.80 Opera 9.80
    • View Profile
    • Honlapom
Vigyázat! Szektás vagyok! :)

Offline Zozosoft

  • EP addict
  • *
  • Posts: 13517
  • Country: hu
  • OS:
  • Windows 7/Server 2008 R2 Windows 7/Server 2008 R2
  • Browser:
  • Firefox 19.0 Firefox 19.0
    • View Profile
    • http://enterprise.iko.hu/
Re: Q&A with Bruce Tanner (IS-BASIC writer)
« Reply #234 on: 2013.April.07. 14:25:06 »
Quote from: BruceTanner
IS's game expertise was of course chess which doesn't need either sprites or scrolling.
Yes, I also always thinked IS = chess. This is the reason, why surprising about your first work!
Quote
I was actually working on a video game for the Atari game console for the upcoming James Bond film Octopussy
It is a special occasion at the IS?
« Last Edit: 2013.April.07. 19:53:13 by Zozosoft »

Offline BruceTanner

  • EP user
  • *
  • Posts: 487
  • Country: gb
  • OS:
  • Windows 7/Server 2008 R2 Windows 7/Server 2008 R2
  • Browser:
  • Chrome 25.0.1364.172 Chrome 25.0.1364.172
    • View Profile
Re: Q&A with Bruce Tanner (IS-BASIC writer)
« Reply #235 on: 2013.April.07. 19:32:41 »
Quote from: Zozosoft
Yes, I also alwasy thinked IS = chess. This is the reason, why surprising about your first work!It is a special occasion at the IS?
Yes James Bond was the only "action" game we did. Someone "reversed engineered" the Atari games console, and I reverse engineered the Intellivision games console. The Atari was quite painful to program because the processor had to output video data "on the fly", using the frame flyback time for games processing. It had a reasonably fast (for the time) 6502 and two sprites, and although it was possible to reposition a sprite to appear further down the screen in real time, there was not enough processor time to reposition it further to the right on each scan line. So the solution was to have it in one position in one frame and another position the next frame - this is why Pacman has flickery "ghosts"! The video on the Intellivision on the other hand was much easier and there was a system ROM with multitasking kernel, but the processor was a very slow and lumbering 10-bit beast based on the PDP-II instruction set!

I'm not sure why, having invested a lot of engineering time reverse engineering these systems, IS did not produce more action games. Maybe the Enterprise just used all available non-chess resources.

Offline BruceTanner

  • EP user
  • *
  • Posts: 487
  • Country: gb
  • OS:
  • Windows 7/Server 2008 R2 Windows 7/Server 2008 R2
  • Browser:
  • Chrome 25.0.1364.172 Chrome 25.0.1364.172
    • View Profile
Re: Q&A with Bruce Tanner (IS-BASIC writer)
« Reply #236 on: 2013.April.07. 19:35:47 »
Quote from: endi
My question: who made the basic demos for the machine? And what was the purpuse of these programs?
I think these demos are not bad, but I think it is possible to make more more better things in EP basic!
And why you did not made asm demos?
I can't remember who did the demos but it wasn't the core Enterprise IS developers. I was never very impressed by them - you would think a new computer's demos would be impressive or there would be no point! I suspect they were put together in a hurry.

Offline Zozosoft

  • EP addict
  • *
  • Posts: 13517
  • Country: hu
  • OS:
  • Windows 7/Server 2008 R2 Windows 7/Server 2008 R2
  • Browser:
  • Firefox 20.0 Firefox 20.0
    • View Profile
    • http://enterprise.iko.hu/
Re: Q&A with Bruce Tanner (IS-BASIC writer)
« Reply #237 on: 2013.April.07. 20:23:09 »
Quote from: BruceTanner
I was never very impressed by them
Yes, it can demonstrate some of IS-BASIC capatibilities, but about nothing of the Enterprise power.

Quote
- you would think a new computer's demos would be impressive or there would be no point!
I can remember to wow feeling when I firstly see the Small Demo. (If you haven't seen previously try on your new Enterprise!)
I very surprised what my machine can do! And asked: why not put Enterprise machines running something similar in the shopwindows?

Anyway will be interesting project comparison different machines demonstration softwares (which included with the machine or sent to shops at launch).
« Last Edit: 2013.April.12. 22:34:31 by szipucsu »

Offline geco

  • EP addict
  • *
  • Posts: 5430
  • Country: hu
  • OS:
  • Windows XP Windows XP
  • Browser:
  • Firefox 17.0 Firefox 17.0
    • View Profile
Re: Q&A with Bruce Tanner (IS-BASIC writer)
« Reply #238 on: 2013.April.07. 20:47:54 »
If I remember well, C64 did not have :D
I typed the basic programs from it's book, most of them was full with POKE's :D
May be other computers did not have demo program either.

Offline Zozosoft

  • EP addict
  • *
  • Posts: 13517
  • Country: hu
  • OS:
  • Windows 7/Server 2008 R2 Windows 7/Server 2008 R2
  • Browser:
  • Firefox 20.0 Firefox 20.0
    • View Profile
    • http://enterprise.iko.hu/
Re: Q&A with Bruce Tanner (IS-BASIC writer)
« Reply #239 on: 2013.April.07. 20:54:25 »
Quote from: geco
May be other computers did not have demo program either.
Spectrum have.
TVC also (I think some parts converted from EP).