The Editors and Readers of COMPUTE!
Mattel Aquarius Benchmark
I am writing in response to your article in the January 1985 issue of COMPUTE! on the subject of MSX. My letter is actually based on my own applications with a recently purchased Mattel Aquarius system, and my frustrations in obtaining support, literature, and peace of mind in my attempt to decipher this elementary unit.
I ran your test program on my Aquarius (thank you for listing it in plain vanilla), and was quite surprised to find that it executed in only 4:35! Perhaps you might know why this is possible? The Aquarius uses the Zilog Z80 central processing unit, and it has a clock speed of only one megahertz.
I would truly appreciate any information or ideas in my attempt to crack the graphics, sound, machine language, etc., on my Aquarius.
Paul A. Linck
Your timing of 4 minutes and 35 seconds, if accurate, is indeed impressive-it places the Aquarius ahead of the fastest computer in the benchmark test, the IBM PC, which ran the program in 5:45.
We're at a loss to explain why the Aquarius is so fast at running this test. However, one factor may be the sparse BASIC, which can run faster because it isn't burdened by numerous extra commands. Also, no benchmark program is ever really a fair test for different kinds of computers; some benchmarks simply run better on some computers than on others. A different or slightly modified benchmark test might yield quite different results (as pointed out by columnist Bill Wilkinson in "INSIGHT: Atari," March 1985).
You don't say how much memory is installed in your Aquarius, but computers with less memory often tend to run faster than computers with more memory. Many users who have upgraded a machine from 16K to 48K or 64K have noticed that their favorite programs execute with just a little less zip. Recall how the Commodore VIC-20 placed near the top of the benchmark test-it has only 5K of RAM. Its 22-column by 23-line screen also requires less screen memory than other computers, so the refresh time is shorter.
Unfortunately, we can't help you in your quest for detailed information about your Aquarius. Evidently you purchased it at a closeout sale. The Aquarius suffered one of the shortest lifespans of any computer-it was discontinued by Mattel almost as soon as it hit the store shelves, a victim of the 1983 home computer price wars.