Response to a response

Debunking TMR’s comment answered

The blog http://C64crapdebunk.wordpress.com was started because I rejected ONE comment from TMR.

And the author’s blog was started because he felt the world needed “educating” with misinformation and biased personal anecdotes about a thirty year old home computer, so there’s a relevant phrase about pots and kettles which immediately springs to mind. But your correspondent had already been reading and responding to the author’s bile-filled posts at the Atari Age forums for a while beforehand so no, this blog wasn’t just started after one comment was rejected.

1. The Commodore Max was a predecessor of the Commodore 64, mentioned in an official Commodore book, which was either the User Guide, or the Programmers’ Reference Guide. It said that the Commodore 64 could use Commodore Max games cartridges.

Your correspondent feels that some context needs to be restored; the author is originally claimed that “[The Max] failed miserably, but instead of forgetting all about it and cutting their losses, they had the cheek to use its custom chips VIC II  (graphics) and SID (sound) in another version which they claimed was a computer” and this is what was being disputed because the C64 was already being designed before the Max went to market and was shown in working prototype form around the time the Max launched. In a general sense it’s a predecessor because the Max came first (but only just) but not in the sense that the C64  replaced it or was an afterthought based on chips developed for the Max as the author has tried to claim.

2. I was SHOCKED to find out that I couldn’t use anything like 64K in my BASIC programs, as well as that the Sinclair Spectrum 48K had more RAM free to BASIC than the Commodore 64!

The author has made this same mistake in his wording twice now and, as with the previous time, your correspondent will happily offer a correction; the term “more RAM free to BASIC” includes any memory available to the program rather than just the space the program itself is stored in and on the C64 that’s 42K.  There isn’t an 8-bit computer out there that can give all of it’s memory to BASIC programs in part because the BASIC interpreter needs some of that memory and, ironically, the author will presumably be SHOCKED to hear that the 64K Atari 65XE he currently uses demonstrates that rather well by having less memory available than the C64 for BASIC programs.

Based on various comments, even software houses programming in Assembly Language/Machine Code didn’t think they could use anything like 64K. At the department store John Lewis, they quite rightly had a sign on display next to the Commodore 64, saying it was a 38K computer.

None of which makes the author’s original statement a fact of course and merely means that whoever was responsible for the sign at John Lewis or whoever were behind the unattributed “various comments” are simply ignorant of the facts.

The Commodore 64 Programmer’s Reference Guide explains how to use more memory for machine code and there are games from as early as 1982 and 1983 that work outside that 39K space (and since the author puts so much stock into personal experience, even as a newly-minted 6502 novice your correspondent’s first real game consumed just over 44K) so there were no misunderstandings as far as programmers were concerned and the confusion lies more with the people who didn’t have the technical knowledge to be commenting in the first place such as the author and the indeed aforementioned John Lewis employees.

Saying “based on various comments” means absolutely nothing of course because, without knowing the source of said comments or indeed the substance of the comments themselves, it’s impossible to know if they were made by somebody with the technical knowledge to back up what was said or simply plucked from thin air.

3. I was talking about a potential ROM upgrade in the form of a new BASIC ROM which would have been fitted to the C64 motherboard, totally replacing the original C64 BASIC ROM with its “COMMODORE BASIC V2”.

The term used by the author was “BASIC ROM upgrade” and the C64 is designed to be able to replace its BASIC ROM from a cartridge so Simon’s BASIC is indeed a BASIC ROM upgrade in all senses apart from the bit about requiring the machine be sent to a service centre.

Finally, there’s a caption at the top of the post under the hideously badly edited picture of a C64 without a keyboard (when a C64GS would’ve illustrated the point far better and without making every Photoshop user’s skin crawl) which reads “The Commodore 64 as it should have been, so that people would have known it wasn’t possible for them to program it” – to answer that “fact” (since the author claims that, apart from the two fictional tales, everything else on his blog is fact) here’s a couple of links to Gamebase 64 which contains 23,000 games at the time of writing and the C64 Scene Database containing 108,737 releases.

Whilst a large number of the games archived in the Gamebase were written by commercial programmers of some flavour, a more significant proportion were also the result of average people (not the rocket scientists the author seems to believe machine code programmers to be) working in their spare time from backrooms or bedrooms and the majority of productions uploaded to the CSDb are by their nature produced by the scene and come from that background too. For something that it “wasn’t possible […] to program” there do seem to be tens and probably hundreds of thousands of people who didn’t find it a problem, so we have to consider that, just perhaps, the issues the author experienced aren’t due to the C64.

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