- BBC Micro
Sinclair’s machines would not remain unchallenged for long. A former Sinclair engineer, Chris Curry, together with an Austrian friend named Hermann Hauser, cofounded a new competing company called Acorn Computers in 1978. After the first experiments, the company took off in 1981 thanks to winning the BBC’s Computer Literacy Project call for proposals. Two models were released in late 1981: the BBC
The BBC Micro, the most successful home computer on the educational scene with 1.5 million units sold, ran a 6502A CPU clocked at 2 MHz.
The space trading simulation Elite, programmed by Dave Braben and Ian Bell in 1984, was the best game for the BBC Micro and was considered to be a “system seller.” It was a ground-breaking game where players were free to play in any way they liked—as an honest trader or as a space pirate, for example—while exploring a vast universe.
Model A and Model B with 16 KB and 32 KB RAM, respectively, with more models to come in the following years.
BBC’s educational program made Acorn’s latest creation a common tool in all British schools and its success was so great that it was used later in similar programs in other Commonwealth countries, such as India, throughout the eighties.
Though it was not originally meant to play games, the BBC Micro would have a relevant role in the industry, mostly thanks to an extremely influential and groundbreaking game, Elite, which was first programmed on this system before being ported to many others and inspiring countless titles up to this very day.
Acorn was sold to Olivetti in 1985 but the BBC Micro was produced, in different iterations, until 1994.
- Amstrad CPC
Sinclair and Acorn were not the only players on the British home computer scene, though, and Amstrad, an electronics company founded in 1968 by Alan Sugar, soon played a major role. The Color Personal Computer (CPC) line of computers was launched in 1984 and soon gathered a large following, mostly in the UK and central Europe.
Games on the CPC were quite varied and, in the mid-eighties, most games
in Europe were ported to all of the three main platforms of the time: the C64, the ZX Spectrum, and the CPC. Amstrad also bought Sinclair in 1986, continuing the Spectrum line with different iterations that, unfortunately, were not able to match the machine’s early successes. The CPC line was ultimately discontinued in 1990 after an attempt to enter the video game market directly with a computer-turnedconsole model, the GX4000, that didn’t catch much attention.
The Z-80 powered CPC 464, the first model in the CPC line. It had 64 KB RAM and an internal cassette deck
MSX was the Japanese answer to American and European home computers. Actually, it was not just a “computer” but a full standard—spanning hardware and software—and it was designed so that different manufacturers would produce compatible machines on a common architecture.
Starting from mid-1983, several Japanese and Korean electronics companies,such as Sony, Sharp, JVC, Canon, Toshiba, Sanyo, and Daewoo, started developing MSX computers. Despite being strongly supported by Microsoft Japan from the very beginning,14 MSX didn’t really succeed in developing a following in the western
A MSX model by Philips. MSX computers were mounting a Z-80 and had different amounts of RAM, from 16 KB and upwards. The last MSX model, the MSXTurboR, was discontinued in 1995.
The beginning of a new, epic adventure: the first Metal Gear game by Hideo Kojima, published in 1987.
Though some earlier games did incorporate a stealth-based mechanic, it was perfected here and became the main game focus, starting a whole new genre.
world, where the market was already crowded. However, it became a very popular choice in countries like Japan and South Korea. Overall, MSX computers sold about five million units worldwide.
Despite its limited geographical relevance, the MSX played an important role in fostering the gaming industry in Japan, somewhat like the ZX Spectrum did in the UK.
In fact, some of today’s most beloved franchises created by Japanese developers, like Metal Gear, Bomberman, and Puyo Puyo, were actually created on MSX computers first before being ported to other systems.
- Apple II
Even though Apple refused to join the on-going price war and maintained a steep price tag on its models, the different iterations of the Apple II were still able to play an important role across the gaming scene, especially in North America where it often turned out to be the tool of choice by many talented developers.
The Apple IIe, with 64 KB of RAM and the ability to display both lowercase
and uppercase letters, was released in 1983 (see the figure on the top of page 90) and it was followed by the IIc in 1984, a compact and portable version that doubled the available RAM.
Overall, including the 16-bit Apple IIGS released in 1986, the Apple II series
was an “all-arounder,” equally at ease in the office, in a research facility, and at home.
It ended up selling between five and six million units, leaving a mark in the memories of many.
Several seminal games, like Jordan Mechner’s Karateka (1984), a side-scroller action game that served as a basis for the later Prince of Persia, were originally conceived on the Apple II.
The IIe was the Apple II model with the longest lifespan and it was produced until 1993