The author fails to understand the autistic spectrum

Debunking Rain Man’s computer

The author is off on yet another pointless flight of fantasy dear reader. To begin with there’s what he describes as a “loading screen for a non existent game based on Rain Man” which is actually a mock Nintendo NES screen which apparently features Dustin Hoffman as portrayed by Roy Cropper from Coronation Street. After a whole five minutes of Googling for an appropriate image (in this case the cover to the soundtrack) and throwing it through Windows-based C64 graphics tool Project One, here’s an actual C64 multicolour mode picture which is at least more relevant than the one presented by the author:

Rain Man - five minutes with a freely available C64-specific graphics converter

Rain Man – five minutes with a freely available C64-specific graphics converter

Next we will skip over the synopsis of the movie Rain Man and some fleeting and quite frankly poor understanding of autism on the author’s part to get to the meat of his “argument”.

According to surveys, about 1-2% of people are autistic. This means that when the Commodore 64 had sold 1,000,000 units it’s likely that at least 10,000-20,000 of C64 owners were autistic.

This is based on false logic; it doesn’t automatically follow that purchasers of the C64 or indeed any 8-bit computer are representative of the whole in the way the author would like to believe. Roughly 50% of the population is female but it isn’t true that over half of the people buying home computers in the 1980s were as well.

And the author once more confuses his own opinion of the C64 with what an autistic person may or may not find appealing, reading up on autism would have told him why this assumption was flawed but he’s obviously failed to do his research properly once again.

The figure was probably higher than this, because once autistic people or their families had heard about the Commodore 64 and all the PEEKs and POKEs required to program it using its built in Commodore BASIC V2, then this would have made it more appealing to them, because they knew they could gain respect by programming it.

Very few people gained respect for programming any home computer in BASIC and it isn’t true about assembly language either. There’s absolutely nothing in the way of facts behind the author’s “argument” here.

I don’t know how many PEEKs and POKEs are required in Commodore BASIC V2 on the C64 to do the things that could be done by less than 100 commands on Sinclair Spectrum and Atari 8 bit computers

This is obvious from the way that the author whines about it; for example, it takes a lot more POKEs to handle hardware sprites on the Atari 8-bit than the C64 but he is either ignoring or ignorant of that fact. But, since he’s just admitted to not knowing, the opinions he offers on which is better can safely be ignored since they’re built on guesswork.

but the number of memory locations has to be multiplied by at least 16 or even by 256 to account for all the numbers that could be POKEd into those locations. This takes us into a realm of hundreds or thousands of numbers to remember.

Again, this is false logic and built on the author’s very poor understanding of computers in general.

As for me, I’m not autistic at all and I prefer to remember words and images rather than numbers, so that explains why I couldn’t learn to program graphics or sound using Commodore BASIC V2 on the C64.

Not everybody who can remember numbers well is automatically on the autistic spectrum either, your correspondent isn’t for example but still remembers the registers for both the VIC 20 and C64 simply because he used them a lot to the point where they’re ingrained. He can similarly recall the telephone number of 1970s Saturday morning television programme Multi-Coloured Swap Shop without any difficulty[1] despite there being no conscious decision to do so, it just “went in” because it was repeated several times during each episode and plastered across Noel Edmonds’ desk.

Before the days of mobile phone address books, people in the UK would directly dial six digit local telephone numbers from memory all the time.

An update on the situation of autism and programming has recently been re published by http://www.slashdot.org on the page http://developers.slashdot.org/story/14/07/09/131243/normal-humans-effectively-excluded-from-developing-software , in which a programmer called Johnathan Edwards says “The way things are today if you want to be a programmer you had best be someone like me on the autism spectrum who has spent their entire life mastering vast realms of arcane knowledge – and enjoys it. Normal humans are effectively excluded from developing software”.

I think that sums it up. I rest my case!

This is one person’s opinion so no, it isn’t “an update on the situation of autism and programming” even in the slightest so the author is lying to his readers by presenting it this way. Johnathan Edwards is discussing development now in an environment that has similar graphics and sound commands to the ones the author so hysterically insists are needed rather than a bare bones system like the C64, so the case isn’t so much rested as collapsed.

[1] The number is 01 811 8055 if anybody was wondering… and Googling for that number will find other people reminiscing about it and a few companies trying to sell t-shirts and hoodies with a reproduction of the Swap Shop desk sign to the aforementioned group as well!

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