Ridiculous headline shock!

Debunking Schoolboy in Four Hour Detention Shock!

It seems we’re back up to speed again, with two posts in a fortnight and your correspondent’s vague plans about wandering off into meta territory are, sadly, on hold for the moment dear reader. Meanwhile, the author has returned to the land of make believe once more (although in his case it proves difficult to tell where the posts are coming from anyway) with a “shocking” tabloid news story he’s tried to write:

Isn’t it amazing how just the right amount of news happens to fill the newspapers? Obviously not, because Editors pick and choose which news stories to publish. Here’s a story which could easily have happened, but AFAIK never appeared in any newspaper. Of course, this story is fictitious

There are reasons why even a real story about a child receiving a four hour detention wouldn’t make a national or even local newspaper of course; even the locals are never that desperate for news in the first place and no teacher in their right mind would keep a detention running for that long because it would be their own time they were wasting.

The 1541 disk drive was painfully slow, although it offered random access instead of sequential access. In theory, this could have made it possible for someone to write an extended BASIC compiler that produced a machine code program which would run without a copy of the extended BASIC being needed.

Skipping over the author’s uneducated “opinion” of the 1541 disk drive because it’s barely worth commenting on, as your correspondent has noted previously the idea of BASIC compilers for the C64 that support extended BASICs isn’t theory; the Abacus 64 Compiler can handle various dialects including Simon’s BASIC.

Of course, this wasn’t possible using cassette.

Because cassette simply isn’t flexible enough a storage medium for something like a compiler which needs to keep both the source and target files open simultaneously when working. That said, your correspondent did write his first full machine code game almost entirely on a cassette-based C64, but really wouldn’t recommend doing it to anybody else!

Now we come to the author’s “news item” itself. It’s difficult to comment directly on fiction like this for various reasons (and perhaps spokespeople in the author’s alternative universe actually talk like that) but we can at least have a prod at what the author came up with as a task;

“I put three pupils each in front of one of these computers, gave them the accompanying User Guides, plus some other books and manuals for each computer, and told them to learn how to draw any geometric shape on the computer they were using, then print out the result, as well as the program listing before handing them in to the School Secretary”

A square is a geometric shape and, since there are no caveats placed on display modes, this can easily be drawn using PRINT statements. From there it would be easy to simply repeat the PRINTing process after re-pointing the output to printer using four extra BASIC commands which are more than adequately covered in the C64 user’s manual and adding a LIST command before closing the printer device will dump the program itself to printer as well, neatly completing the task. It would require a little foreknowledge of BASIC of course and some light reading of the manual, but this is equally true of the other two machines mentioned.

But ignoring the programming and heading off at the kind of tangent this blog can happily entertain to examine the post as a whole, we can note that, because the fiction has apparently been loosely based on incidents in the author’s life nearly three decades ago, it gives us something of a glance into his psyche… and somebody should probably be concerned about that grudge he’s been holding for such a worryingly long time!

And as we learn a little more of the author’s own history from the introduction and reading between the lines of the story itself takes us some way towards understanding the his irrational, almost ridiculous dislike of mathematicians and even people he erroneously believes to be mathematicians for that matter. Because the author mistakenly associates maths with programming in his mind, we end up with this kind of ridiculous statement:

We advise people to learn Machine Code for serious programming anyway. I personally think it’s as easy as quantum theory

The problem is that the author has never actually attempted to even learn machine code so this opinion, here voiced by a sock puppet but echoed elsewhere in his blog, is merely his ignorance talking. There are machine code programs for the C64 out there written by teenagers who were too young to have been taught the more complicated mathematics that the author mutters darkly about from time to time and your correspondent and a couple of friends had all completed their first machine code games before finishing secondary education.

Taking a moment to read back over some of the previous posts, the author appears to lay a lot of the blame for his own failure to learn programming at the feet of his father and the “nasty” maths teacher Mr Wells (we shall assume, dear reader, that the names have been changed to protect the innocent) when looking closer to home for issues would have been advisable; despite BASIC making it easier, not everybody has the mindset required to be a programmer and, based on the evidence presented here and elsewhere, the author comes across as one of those people.

Finally, it needs to be noted that, despite the author’s previous claim that the point of his blog “is computer literacy versus computer illiteracy”, he has once more drifted well away from that subject and is deep into the realms of programming.


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