Thursday, January 19, 2012

What About The CoCo3?

More than once I have been asked why I am developing Fahrfall for the CoCo 1/2 rather than the CoCo 3.  So, maybe I'll take a few moments to address this burning question for my readers... :-)

Baa Baa Black Sheep

In the answer I gave to this question in a Facebook comment, I joked about "trying to make all those 'one percent' CoCo3 owners feel jealous for a change".  In truth, for a long time almost anyone with a reasonably serious interest in the CoCo had at least one CoCo3, probably as their main CoCo system.  The CoCo 1/2 bits of their collection mostly piled-up around the house, the products of trying to keep old CoCo stuff out of the landfill.  Most CoCoNuts only kept the old systems around either to run the handful of software that didn't run on the CoCo3 or as fodder for electronics projects that could use some computer control -- remember, we've been at this for a lot longer than for how long the Arduino has existed... :-)

With that said, we are finally reaching the point where CoCo 3's are becoming a little scarce.  Also, recent years have shown an uptick in interest amongst nostaligic former CoCo users.  Today, many potential CoCoNuts don't even have a CoCo 3.  Many more have nearly-useless CoCo 1/2 systems laying about the house doing nothing.  So, producing a game that only runs on the latter has a certain appeal to me.

Fight The Good Fight

I have developed software for the CoCo 3 in the past.  In particular, I developed a digital video player for the CoCo 3.  That was a fun project, and during that project I brushed against many of the unique features of the CoCo 3.  I know that the CoCo 3 platform is relatively luxurious in comparison to the CoCo 2.

But, my hobby is retro-computing and especially retro-programming.  What is the point of all that retro-stuff if it isn't to re-create a taste of the past?  A past where programmers struggle to make the most of what little they had?  It is this struggle that intrigues and excites me.

The video capabilities of the original CoCo platform are much more limited than those of the CoCo 3.  The flexibility of the interrupt generation hardware is much more limited as well.  And the only timing sources available are the horizontal- and vertical-sync signals from the video hardware.  Making something entertaining and fun on this platform seemed more like the kind of challenge I wanted.

We Are The World

As I mentioned in Basic CoCo Architecture, the basic CoCo design is copied from a diagram in the SAM datasheet.  A charitable person could use that fact to explain why there were a number of CoCo clones, including the Sampo Color Computer, the Prologica CP400, and the Micro-SEP.  The British-born Dragon was at least polite enough to swizzle the design enough to avoid being branded a true "clone".  Nevertheless, the Dragon and the other clones are all close enough to the Tandy CoCo that lots of software written for one will run on the others more-or-less as well.

The existence of these (near-)clones means that there is international demand for CoCo 1/2-compatible software!  Owners of these machines cannot use software developed for the CoCo 3.  These old machines are yearning for new software!  How can I deny them that? ;-)

Hit The Road

Well, hopefully that answers the question of why I am targeting the original CoCo platform.  I hope to be able to support the CoCo 3 as well in the long run, but I haven't yet solved all the technical answers of how I will do that.  CoCo 3 owners can rest assured that they will be able to play Fahrfall too -- eventually... :-)

I'm going to be doing a little travelling over the weekend, which will limit the amount of attention I can pay to Fahrfall.  I will try to squeeze-out a post or two, but there won't be a lot of progress on the game itself.  I am taking Monday off as well, so maybe I can catch-up a bit then.

Never fear -- more Fahrfall talk will continue soon!

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