Is it really “Poorly coded”?

I had a Linus Tech Tips video running in the background about “tech hoarders” when this part played out (skip to 16:00)

The thing here with calling PC games back then “poorly coded” is that this seems short-sighted of what the market was like back then. Computers in the early 80s was still the wild west and a rather fragmented market. Just to name a few computers systems that were popular back then:

  • Commodore PET, VIC-20, and 64
  • Apple II
  • Atari’s 8-bit computers
  • Sinclair ZX Spectrum
  • BBC Micro
  • And of course, the IBM 5150 Personal Computer

The thing was that all of these computer platforms were independent of each other in terms of interoperability. Software written for Commodore was backwards compatible. Software written for Atari’s computers were mostly compatible. But you couldn’t take a BBC Micro computer app and run it on an IBM 5150. And even though all of these computers had a mode dedicated to running BASIC, you couldn’t run BASIC written for one company’s line of computers on another company’s as-is.

Looking specifically at the IBM 5150 Personal Computer, while it did receive an updated model in the form of the IBM 5160 Personal Computer XT, which was simply a 5150 with a hard drive and some minor improvements, the first model to receive a core upgrade in the form of the CPU was the IBM 5170 Personal Computer AT in 1984, three years after the release of the original 5150.

Up until this point, none of these computer systems had a CPU upgrade. The Apple II family eventually had one in the form of the Apple II GS in 1986, but at that point it had to have had one since the aging 1.067MHz 6502 wasn’t going to cut it.

This is all to say that back in the day, programmers weren’t expecting a speed up in clock speed. Since every system had the same CPU, they could expect the clock speed. No application developer could predict a new system to make their software that was not “poorly coded.”

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