so yes they were impressively skilled but it wasn't because computing was hard then, it's because atari wanted more profit
all they would have had to do to make that task far far less complicated would have been to use the MOS 6502 instead of the 6507.
the 6502 had hardware interrupts and could easily have been configured to remove all the need to "race the beam". the need for extreme skill was a manufactured limitation.
an absolute, consistent rule: computing has always been much much better than what succeeded. consumers, the actual market, always got the dregs
when the macintosh came out the GUI was 15 years old and had been done better and faster. the IBM PC got reasonable bitmap graphics like twenty years late.
these weren't cutting edge designs, they just innovated in designing down to a price, which resulted in a ton of our "formative" computing experiences being, again, deliberate design choices
"computers" were not that bad in 90, in 84, in 79. they were just expensive and companies wanted to make a windfall selling them to our dads
ok here's the thing: i hate capitalism, because we could have had GUIs in our homes and color computers in 1985 if nobody's profits had been at stake
yeah i know memory was expensive and whatnot but like, capitalism *created* the desire for people to want computers they had no use for as well
remove the marketing angle, the desire to sell computers to people who did not want or need them
the nerds could have gotten graphics and sound and powerful computers because nobody would have been competing for the few RAM chips and decent procs that were available
yes, RAM was expensive as fuck, but: remove all the excited dads getting home with A COMPUTER!!!! that then sat on a table and was not touched for three years and then put in the attic
if nobody had put any of the RAM chips that WERE made in TRS-80s, they could have put them in much better computers for the same amount of resources
i've been mad about this for most of my life - with everything capitalism produces. the idea that we're burning up unbelievable amounts of oil because we won't stop making bad vacuum cleaners.
resources are not infinite and it just FROSTS me that people in 1977 were churning out breathtakingly expensive ICs to put in computers that would run one or two programs in their lifetime and accomplish nothing