Debunking Programming, using, or gaming?
The author’s post begins with a screenshot from a C64 music editor with the caption asking if it would be “programming or using” to compose music in that environment. That’s a surprisingly interesting question, in very loose terms the process of composing music with such an editor can possibly be considered as a form of programming but far more valid to file under “using”.
But even if we were to classify it as a simplified form of programming that doesn’t mean there were thousands of previously unrecognised “programmers” out there; this program and several others like it weren’t available to buy over the counter in computer shops since they were distributed peer to peer through the demo and cracking scenes so there was only a very small minority of people who would have known of or had access to them. Consumers dive have options such as like Electrosound or the Advanced Music System, but both use much offer more user friendly interfaces and don’t expect would-be musicians to work in hexadecimal:
Incidentally, the editor itself is called GMC and was released in 1990 by Brian of Graffity, one of those many thousands of self-taught bedroom coders that the author refuses to believe exist and well after that 1985 cut-off point that the author insists his interest stops at.
TMR of the blog http://www.c64crapdebunk.wordpress.com has claimed that most people before buying a computer had already decided that they didn’t want to do programming, but I’m afraid they didn’t actually know or understand enough to know what they wanted to do with it.
There might be a very small minority of buyers who purchased a home computer and then found themselves wondering what they’d actually do with the thing when they got it home, but for the majority of buyers that would be a ridiculous way to make what was a major purchase. The author forgets that people didn’t make these decisions in a vacuum as well and, along with the magazines he’s previously mentioned, many computer buyers were enticed into the fold by seeing what their peers were already doing with their computers or watching television programs like ITV’s Magic Micro Mission and Bad Influence which both covered gaming (the BBC’s Micro Live would do so once in a while as well).
I remember now that before I got a Commodore 64, I thought that whatever people did with a computer was called programming, with the possible exception of playing games and that everyone who worked with computers in an office was a computer programmer.
Your correspondent is unsure how to respond to this particular piece of naivety on the younger version of the author’s part, apart from pointing out that it can’t be assumed that this misunderstanding was common or even shared by a minority of people.
Games consoles were already available for prices cheaper than computers, but they could only play games, while the big difference between them and computers was that computers could actually be programmed.
Games consoles can be programmed too but, unless there were hardware options to make it possible “out of the box”, doing so took far more knowledge and dedication to do; many of the Atari 2600 coders cut their teeth on 6502-based computers first and then either reverse engineered the cartridge hardware or relied on someone else’s work.
I think that most computer buyers wrote a program such as the following…
10 PRINT “STEVE WAS HERE! “;
20 GOTO 10
Lots of people in this day and age may have forgotten, or never even knew that the program above
Which clearly demonstrates that they had no real interest in programming in the first place.
This makes the effect more noticeable compared to the version without it after the screen fills up printing “STEVE WAS HERE!”, but the Spectrum would keep asking “Scroll? (Y/N)” whenever this happened. It continues printing the message until the user presses a key.
The “Scroll?” prompt can be turned off but the author won’t like the fact that it’s done via a POKE command.
Your correspondent also wonders in passing who “Steve” might be.
I think that after writing the program above, most people may have written a few more programs, then lost their way or been brainwashed by computer magazines they read.
The idea that people were “brainwashed” by computer magazines is laughable simply because most people chose magazines based on their interest, those not reading publications that dealt with programming should probably be assumed to not have an interest in programming. And it’s worth noting that, despite what the author is trying to get at, we can’t assume that people entering a simple two line program actually had an interest in programming any more than we could assume that someone writing pithy graffiti on a toilet door has plans to go into journalism.
Of course, it should be obvious to anyone with half a brain that before buying any item such as a computer you should first of all read some reviews of it. People who don’t read reviews before buying are asking for trouble.
Which contradicts much of what the author said previously about how untrustworthy the reviews from “various” journalists were of course…
Sales assistants have a vested interest in selling customers something that their shop actually stocks, as well as in preventing them from going to another shop. My Dad believed a sales assistant he’d only spoken to over the phone who told him “The Commodore is a better one than the Atari”. What this actually meant was “The Commodore is better for me, because I’ll get paid commission and/or keep my job, but the owners of my shop have decided not to stock Atari, so if you buy an Atari, then that’s not good for me”. Let the buyer beware!
And the other option which the author patently refuses to accept despite it being just as viable is that the sales assistant believed what he was saying. The author is merely guessing at the salesman’s motivations.
 Even the gaming-oriented magazines of the 1980s weren’t exclusively about gaming; Zzap! 64 ran articles on programming, covered the demo scene (mainly through UK online service Compunet) and sold productivity software and non-gaming hardware such as printers through their own mail order service.
 Your correspondent isn’t sure how well that sentence works but likes it too much to leave it out.