Gaming PCs





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The Golden Age of PC Gaming

The "PC Families" section lists the greatest Personal Computer (PC) gaming families of the 70s, 80s, and early 90s.  The PC ( or home computer) industry started in 1977 with the release of the Apple II, TRS-80, and arguably the Commodore PET (which was geared more towards business use).  However, computer gaming didn't truly become popular until 1979 with the release of the Atari 400/800.  There were games written for PCs before Atari entered the scene, but they were generally written by amateurs (how many people could call themselves a professional computer game programmer in 1977?!) who produced adaptations of traditional games, which were regionally marketed and unprofessionally packaged.  It wasn't until Atari entered the computer market in 1979 that gaming was not only taken seriously, but it became a major consideration when purchasing a computer.  Zip-lock bags turned into boxes and computer gaming turned mainstream.  Atari brought with it a host of "professional" game developers and jumpstarted the industry as a whole.  This was the start of the "Golden Age" of computer gaming.

In 1983, the gaming console market (led by Atari)  crashed.  Many game players turned to the PC for interactive entertainment, and PC games suddenly  became a valid and profitable business venture.  The Golden Age was about to reach its peak.  There were many platforms competing for the PC gamers' dollars throughout the mid-80's. 

Starting in 1992, there was really only one platform for PC Gaming -- the Intel-based PC.  The Apple Macintosh was also a viable gaming platform in the 90's, but its numbers were dwarfed by the Intel-based games.  The dominance of Intel and the mass-production of games on CD-ROM signified the end of the Golden Age.  The main players in PC Gaming from 1979 through 1991 are represented on the left.   I chose these computer families because I feel they represent the pinnacle of computer gaming at their respective times.  I call this period the "Golden Age" of PC Gaming and these PC product lines "gaming-significant" platforms. 

You will notice that GOTCHA does not specifically feature some computer hardware on its menu: the Coleco Adam, Mattel Aquarius, the Macintosh, the Intel-based PC, Commodore PET and the Apple IIgs to name a few.   Here's why:

Coleco Adam & Mattel Aquarius -- The Coleco Adam is basically an expansion system for its video game console counterpart, the ColecoVison.  The idea is similar to the computer modules for the Atari 2600, only much better.  The Adam was released in 1983 along with a host of other products that tried to escape the game console crash of '83.  Although computer games and video game consoles share a common history (namely Atari), GOTCHA considers them different categories for collecting purposes.  GOTCHA does not collect or write about video game consoles.  The Mattel Aquarius was in fact not technologically related to its game console predecessor, the Intellivision.  The Aquarius could not natively run Intellivision games (unlike the Adam, which could run ColecoVision games).  The Aquarius was bought by Mattel, repackaged and marketed for the USA specifically to be a computer.  However, its own employees dubbed it "The System for the Seventies" (it was released in 1983 like the Adam).  Most of the games were ports of Intellivision favorites such as Utopia and Astrosmash.  To learn more about the Aquarius, check Intellivision Productions' page at:  Both computers had a very short run (approximately 1983 -1985), very little impact on the U.S. market, very limited game support by third parties, and offered negligible innovation in computer gaming.  Although the hardware isn't featured in the menus, the GOTCHA archives does have a boxed Aquarius in its archives purchased in December of 2002.
Apple Macintosh and Intel-based PCs (once called IBM-compatible PCs) -- Although these systems have been around for a long time, their significance to gaming came at the very end of the Golden Age.  During the 1980's, the black and white Mac and four color Intels (later 16 color) were no competition for the Atari ST, Commodore Amiga and often the C-64, and many of the classic games for the Intel/Mac platforms were also made (and made better) on the competing platforms.  The Intels and the Mac (which was positioned as a "serious" computer to differentiate it from the Apple II series) didn't become significant in the gaming world until the early 1990's, which actually signifies the end of the Golden Age.  It is also important to note that by this time, games were produced in much larger quantities and are therefore not as rare.  Personally, I equate the coming of age for Intel PCs with the release of Wing Commander II in 1991 by Origin Systems.  This was the first game that made me want to buy an Intel PC.  One more note:  I'm not saying that there were no Intel and Mac-based games of significance in the 80's; there were, and those games are part of the GOTCHA Museum.  However, GOTCHA doesn't collect old Intel machines like the 8088, PC Jr. or even 286-based machines because they don't represent the pinnacle of gaming during the Golden Age.    Also, older Intel games can be played on newer Intel based machines, making the Golden Age machines unnecessary for retro-gaming.  To see what Mac and Intel games GOTCHA has, visit the Apple games page and the Intel-based PC games page.
Sinclair Spectrum and Amstrad CPC (European Systems) -- Both of these systems were immensely popular throughout Europe and featured a plethora of games from many big third-party publishers.  Given their popularity and their peak timeframe (early to mid 80's) I would rank them as contemporaries and serious competition for the Apple II and Commodore 64.  These are definitely gaming-significant platforms.   However, GOTCHA hasn't acquired either of these because they are barely known in the U.S. marketplace, and  they wouldn't be much use in the U.S., given the video and power supply differences.  However, due to the magic combination of emulation and eBay, GOTCHA has had the pleasure of experiencing these games first-hand.  Someday GOTCHA may acquire the actual computers, but for now you can find examples of these games in "The Games" pages under the appropriate  PC Families section.  One note:  there was a U.S. version of the Sinclair, released by Timex.  However, the first and most popular of the family (the 1000) only had 2K of memory and a membrane keyboard by default.  Later models and expansion units had 16K, but Timex never supported gaming and the Sinclairs were mostly bought by beginner hobbyists as an inexpensive entry into home computing.  GOTCHA obtained a nice 16K Timex Sinclair 1500 in 2002.  This version of the 1500 comes in a padded briefcase form-fitted to the 1500 CPU, 2020 data cassette recorder, the miscellaneous cables, and the instructions.  It is a very nice package, but again, compared to the European "Spectrum" line, it is a poor gaming substitute. 
MSX -- A fairly popular computer platform in Japan and Europe during the early 80's.  Several manufactures produced compatible systems including: Sony, Philips, Toshiba, Panasonic, Yamaha, Sanyo and JVC.  Its hardware is excluded from GOTCHA for similar reasons to the Sinclair and Amstrad.   Additionally,  its relative obscurity keeps it below our radar...aside from a brief mention here.  For more information on MSX, try this site:
Commodore PET -- The PET (which stands for ''Personal Electronic Transactor'') was Commodore's first successful foray into personal computers.  It was released in 1977 along with the Apple II and TRS-80.  However, the PET was geared more towards the small business market and therefore was not a significant contributor to the gaming world.  This being said, one PET game in particular, Flash Attack, won a GOTCHA award for1980 and was the first game to be played over two networked PCs.  It was also host to the first (and most primitive) version of Temple of Apshai and other games by Epyx.
Apple IIgs -- Read the Apple II page to see why GOTCHA doesn't place this system in its own "family."

Do you disagree with the statements above?  Do you think GOTCHA is missing some gaming-significant systems?  Write me and let me know.  If you make a convincing argument that GOTCHA has neglected a gaming-significant system, it will be added to the GOTCHA Museum.

The sections under "PC Families" list the antique computer systems in the GOTCHA Museum.  For the record, GOTCHA doesn't focus on hardware.  If that were the case, the hardware archives would be much larger and include many different flavors of each PC.  Aside from their historic value, the main reason GOTCHA acquires hardware is because that is the way classic computer games were meant to be played.  This is GOTCHA's focus:  ORIGINAL computer games with original boxes and original documentation.  For each gaming-significant platform, GOTCHA selects one model that is representative of the product line and can play a vast majority of the games created for it.  Click the menu to the left to see the systems in the GOTCHA Museum and read a brief history about their gaming significance.

Note:  Many of the pictures in this section are generic  representations.   They are not necessarily pictures of  the GOTCHA systems and are provided for reference only.



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Last modified: February 19, 2004
Copyright 1998 - 2004 Hugh Falk International Interactive Enterprises Industries Incorporated Limited Etceteras.  All rights reserved.