Release Notes – Hyperzap 2018 (C64)

Hyperzap 2018 is the first game release from C64CD, a gallery shoot ‘em up for the C64 based on a game your correspondent wrote over thirty years ago whilst learning how to program the C64 in assembly language. The original was both painfully simple as a game and technically terrible, but that was because your then teenage correspondent was working out features of the C64 hardware as he went from their entries in the C64 Programmer’s Reference Guide and implementing what was required for his project “on the fly”. The hardware-based sprite collisions which apparently vexed the author in the past were, after a little experimentation to understand how they operated, utilised.

Jumping forwards in time to the bank holiday weekend just a few days ago and your correspondent found his mind wandering a little more than usual – possibly due to the hot weather – and thinking about hardware-based sprite collisions; his code in 1987 was something of a bodge in part because the hardware collision system is somewhat limited[1] and erred on the side of caution by destroying anything registering as a collision to make sure nothing was missed, but perhaps there was a way to handle things with more accuracy? That’s where Hyperzap 2018 comes in dear reader, because the bulk of the main code was written in around four hours on bank holiday Monday to test your correspondent’s cheap but cheerful solution!

Please don’t expect amazing things from Hyperzap 2018 dear reader because it’s very simple fare and deliberately so – that shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the development time – but games like this and the demos we’ve looked at previously are, despite the author’s bizarre and rather pointless fixation about drawing lines, the sort of thing that 8-bit programmers would actually write whilst learning and your correspondent points to himself as one of many examples along with the developers behind some of the games that loosely inspired the original Hyperzap like Pirates In Hyperspace from 1986 or the public domain release Kernal’s Chaos which was originally shared via Compunet in 1987.

Hyperzap 2018 (C64)

The author has endlessly lectured his readers on programming but we have to note once more that he doesn’t actually release anything himself – very much a case of talking the talk whilst failing quite spectacularly to appropriately perambulate it would seem – but this might be his chance for some redemption; after all, he’s said how much easier the other 8-bit systems are to program compared to the C64 so, if that really is the case, writing a similarly simple little action game for one of his favoured platforms which matches the 50 frames per second (or indeed 60FPS on NTSC) action of your correspondent’s little game should be a walk in the park for him [2].

[1] Sprite to sprite collisions are handled by a register where the eight bits of one byte represent the sprites; if a bit is set that sprite is colliding with another, but that’s all the hardware really tells the programmer so further checks are needed.

[2] No dear reader, your correspondent really doesn’t expect the author will do this… or indeed any actual programming despite several promises over the years.

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Perhaps it shrunk in the wash?

The author has been surprisingly quiet of late dear reader[1], especially considering the release of TheC64 Mini during March; there was a deluge of posts, news items and videos on social media so your correspondent has been half expecting a trite little bile-laden emission from the author after the massive online outpouring of love for the C64 and indeed this new device that the launch created, presumably applying his “I know best” attitude in order to tell everybody else they’re wrong merely because he says so.

For those who aren’t already aware, TheC64 Mini is a scaled down reproduction of the breadbin C64 so despised by the author, containing an ARM processor which in turn powers an emulator and a front end to select games with; there are, appropriately enough, sixty four titles to choose from including a couple of your correspondent’s all-time favourites[2] and pretty much the entire list looks to be decent.

There are a couple of USB ports on the side – one for the included joystick which is apparently a less sturdy copy of the classic Competition Pro – and video output is via HDMI at the back.

Just as interestingly for C64CD readers is Commodore BASIC V2 being available from the main menu and this inclusion isn’t merely a gimmick either; a disk image can be mounted from a USB stick and BASIC then used to “side load” other games to play on the system. Having the BASIC interpreter there also means that programs could be written in BASIC or, with the appropriate tools, assembly language on TheC64 Mini in the same way that they are on a regular C64, although an external keyboard will be required since the one included on the unit is merely decorative.

TheC64 Mini is currently available from Argos, Game, Smyths and a plethora of other sources, usually priced somewhere between £64.99 and £69.99 depending on the seller. Your correspondent hasn’t purchased one[3] but feels that this product isn’t really aimed at people like him who already have a C64 or five lying around the front room; instead TheC64 Mini is for all of those people with fond memories of the C64 from the 1980s and 1990s.

[1] That is probably for the best since most of what appeared in his most recent posts was off topic drivel about operating systems.

[2] Io and Armalyte if anybody was wondering, although Uridium is also close to the top of that list.

[3] The promised full size unit is at least a possibility depending on feature set, price and if your correspondent’s wife will murder him for buying it.

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Debunking operations

Debunking Debunking TMR‘s “Prepare To Operate – Part 2”

TMR of the blog “C64 Crap Debunk” recently had the cheek in https://c64crapdebunk.wordpress.com/2017/12/23/prepare-to-operate-part-2/ to debunk my excellent post examining operating systems in general and what they have to do with the Commodore 64!

The author’s uneducated gibberish about Linux and CP/M or distracted meandering about computers in science fiction are completely irrelevant to the his stated topic of “explaining why the Commodore 64’s BASIC V2 was crap and how some people managed to program the C64”. What exactly do either the Enterprise’s computer or Linux have to do with the C64 dear reader…?

I haven‘t actually written an operating system yet, but I think I may be able write one at some stage in the future.

Let’s pause to remember dear reader that the author has complained incessantly about how the C64’s BASIC forces people to deal with the computer directly but that’s exactly what he’ll have to do in order to program his own operating system – as opposed to using someone else’s code as a base – except without a fixed target platform to worry about; even choosing hardware that doesn’t vary too greatly between iterations such as the Raspberry Pi still gives a range of potential hardware to deal with.

The author has previously talked,  amongst other things, about producing his own version of Microsoft Extended BASIC for the C64 but that hasn’t materialised over four years later so his ability to complete the far more complicated task of writing an entire operating system really does have to be questioned. It’s a positive thing to have dreams of course but they don’t necessarily stand any chance of coming true; your correspondent wanted to be a tap dancer in his youth but had to stop due to balance issues[1].

To do this, I have to look at what other people have done, what operating systems have in common, and how they work.

Just looking superficially at how operating systems work won’t tell the viewer much about actual implementation, what’s happening “under the bonnet” is far more important since that can often shape what’s happening on screen.

I thought I expected computers to be absolutely amazing before getting one. This was based on what I‘d seen in sci fi series, such as Star Trek: The Original Series, Space 1999, Blake‘s Seven, and Doctor Who. Looking back at at episodes and clips from these series made before 1984, they show that none of the computers featured had a GUI, they were mainly voice controlled, could also speak, and either had lots of flashing lights, or panels with lighted switches

One of the problems with basing expectations on science fiction is right there in the term, they’re works of fiction and based on what the writers think may be possible with no guarantee those ideas are based on experience of knowledge of the current state of technology. Some of what was predicted by those programmes became reality over time – as often as not because fans went on to make them happen  – but it’s worth remembering the context because these voice-activated computers were usually found aboard faster-than-light capable starships in the distant future or as part of the control console of a type 40 TT capsule from another world.

The now obsolete Prime computer that Romana installed into the TARDIS in 1980 is at least “terribly interactive” even if we should possibly question the definition of the word “terribly” as used in that context.

 I think that the fictitious computers in these versions of Star Trek probably all contain a ROM or some equivalent RAM storage that can survive a reboot containing routines for graphics, so that creators of operating systems don‘t have to worry about doing this.

We need to pause and note that the author is here discussing his assumptions on the inner workings of fictional computers here dear reader. And,because there’s nothing available in the source material to back that or indeed any other argument, it’s equally valid to presume that the graphics routines were loaded from a DNA-based storage medium which was semi-sentient and relying on modified cow DNA with some extra routines to suppress the occasional dialogue box containing the word “moo”[2].

If he actually wants to understand more about the actual subject of operating systems the author could do a lot worse than looking at G. Pascal Zachary’s book Showstopper which is about the development an actual operating system for real computers, the team of people behind it and how much they sacrificed to get Windows NT written.

[1] He kept falling into the sink.

[2] That isn’t significantly more ridiculous than the author assuming that he knows how the operating system of a fictional computer aboard a starship from the future works, again it’s called science fiction for a reason.

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