More debunking

Debunking the “Debunk” of the Debunk of Schoolboy in Four Hour Detention Shock!

1. My article makes a point about news censorship. Newspapers and magazines often fail to cover relevant down to earth stories like this when they happen. I have read and seen stories about schools in print, as well as on TV, though.

It doesn’t actually make a point about news censorship; newspapers simply cannot cover everything and it isn’t censorship when they pass over stories; but even if this were considered a newsworthy item, it certainly wouldn’t have written in the way the author did because, along with the technical information being exorcised, someone would have knocked chunks out of the word count.

That said we’ll proceed to skip lightly onwards through the author’s post since newspaper censorship and ham—fisted fictionalising of something in the author’s past have no bearing on a discussion about computer literacy or indeed computers.

3. Of course, back in 1984 the Commodore 1541 cost more than the actual Commodore 64 computer itself, so whatever software was available on disk was irrelevant to most Commodore 64 owners, because they couldn’t use it.

Just because the author didn’t have a disk drive it doesn’t follow that other people didn’t as well; in the UK it wasn’t common (although by 1984 your correspondent knew a couple of C64 owners with 1541s and owned one himself in 1985 which was a mere £50 second hand) but in America having at least one was the norm. And for anybody looking to program at anything even approaching a serious level, a disk drive is a must but that’s true for other platforms as much as it is the C64.

Apart from this it seems that TMR agrees with my statements that it’s impossible to compile programs into Machine Code from a cassette based data recorder.

Some of the disk-based compilers produce something very close to hand-written machine code so they’re preferable, but both the Blitz and Laser shipped on cassette so compiling without a disk drive was possible; the results from Blitz are p-code rather than machine code however (so a significant speed increase over BASIC but not machine code speeds) and your correspondent has no personal experience of Laser BASIC/Compiler to comment on the output.

4. In my story, I said that the pupils had to DRAW a geometric shape on the screen. I didn’t say anything about pathetic simulations of drawing by using Commodore 64 graphics characters

The relevant definition of the word “draw” here is “to compose or create (a picture) in lines” so drawing PETSCII characters onto the screen is still drawing. That means that, because the author’s story doesn’t mention any specifics about which screen mode the geometric shape is to be drawn in, the solution offered is completely valid.

5.There was no point me studying 6502 Machine Code/Assembly Language programming to use on the Commodore 64, because I couldn’t even get the hang of BASIC on that so called computer.

This is a failing of the author rather than the computer since, as noted repeatedly in this blog and indeed elsewhere online, there are huge numbers of people who didn’t find the C64 to be a stumbling block.

Later on, I studied Z80 Assembly Language/Machine Code after I decided to buy an Amstrad CPC computer, which was Z80 based. I inputted various short programs, which were listed in an Amstrad CPC magazine, but they only taught the fundamentals and didn’t do anything interesting. Later on, I got a book called “The Ins and Outs of the Amstrad”, which listed all the ROM function calls, but was a cheaper alternative to the Concise Firmware Manual. Using this, I was even able to draw lines on the screen!

Your correspondent has previously used a small type-in program from a book to draw lines, first from BASIC and then in machine code… but since then has found no actual use for doing so after the novelty wore off. Unless a programmer is planning to do something in 3D there’s no real need for line drawing and anybody looking to make that kind of program usually writes their own routines to make them as fast as possible.

Incidentally, your correspondent has also written and released a Z80 program for the Amstrad CPC (completely skipping over learning the BASIC in the process) and is currently planning his first game.

Unfortunately, I got very upset and depressed when my Amstrad CPC664 not only became last year’s model after just 4 months, but was even discontinued, although the CPC464 was still sold.

Dear reader, we have to note the quite heavy helping of irony here; the C64 that the author had sold before buying the Amstrad CPC664 was compatible with the last C64s off the production line a decade later so, if he’d stuck with it, this needless anguish could have been avoided!

6. When I wrote “computer literacy”, I meant this to include computer programming.

And as mentioned in the previous debunking, the dictionary definition of the term “computer literacy” does not include programming, in fact the entire entry avoids using the word entirely (the word program is used once but not in reference to computer programs). It’s bad enough that the author rather ridiculously insists that his personal opinion somehow overwrites the positive experiences that significant numbers of people had with the C64 without him also trying to redefine well-established terms in this way.

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