More Pi for tea

Debunking Debunking TMR’s “Pi For Tea”

TMR of the Commodore 64 bootlicking blog had the cheek to try and debunk my previous article about the rebirth of programming on the Raspberry Pi computer, in his post “Pi for tea” , so here’s what I think of that!

The author still falsely believes that what he’s doing by responding to your correspondent is “debunking”.

Of course, all computers of the “home computer boom” in the 1980’s were designed to make a profit, but Commodore were more miserly, ruthless, and extortionate than other manufacturers

This is a relative thing; your correspondent would call it at least as “miserly” or indeed “ruthless” to develop a computer with a custom video architecture but refuse to document it for third party developers to keep all the best features in house – that’s what Atari did to its users for the first couple of years, making it close to impossible for third party developers to get off the ground – try using the player missile graphics from BASIC even on later revisions of the Atari 8-bit series to see the effect of that policy. And then there are the companies that built their machines mostly from off-the-shelf parts to keep their prices down, again that’s just as “miserly” if not more so compared to Commodore’s far larger outlay for research and development or chip manufacture.

As for what Commodore did being “extortionate”, that’s something else the author doesn’t understand and he should probably consider investing in a good dictionary (or at least using a reasonable online one) before waving long words around so ineptly. And yes, of course they were ruthless because anybody in business who isn’t ruthless is doomed to fail; Alan Sugar was also ruthless whilst Clive Sinclair wasn’t and look who ended up owning whose company. The author has previously complained about his beloved Amstrad CPC664 being removed from sale, but that’s somehow less “miserly” and “ruthless” than he claims Jack Tramiel to have been…

Commodore made even more profit with a double whammy of selling cartridges such as Simons’ BASIC (by David Simons) and the Super Expander 64 (by Commodore), which contained commands that should have been built in, but couldn’t produce stand alone programs which would run on other C64’s without one of these cartridges inserted.

Apart from those compilers that make stand-alone Simons BASIC programs of course… and the author has no idea how much profit was being made; Commodore were selling machines at a lower retail price than their competition so “even more profit” in this case isn’t guaranteed to be more profit per unit than Commodore’s rivals were making.

Not only that, but this blog is about programming, so I would actually have to show you some programming techniques which enable you to program something interesting, amusing or useful in a particular dialect of BASIC, in Z80 Assembler, 6502 Assembler, or 68000 Assembler, instead of just showing you a video of something, then claiming I’d programmed it. TMR has posted very little about programming in his blog, in spite of claiming that it’s easy.

There is a saying which claims that “those who can do, those who can’t teach” but the latter still requires a higher level of understanding and experience than the author is capable of mustering. Of course, it could be argued that your correspondent is also teaching rather than doing but that isn’t the case; he’s been writing and releasing programs for a range of 8-bit computers[1] at the same time as writing these blog posts and, since he doesn’t expect the author to learn, writing these little missives probably can’t be described as “teaching” either.

Of course, you should start any program by making a flowchart of what you want it to do.

As noted previously, this is just one of many indications that the author barely understands his supposed subject matter.

Unfortunately, they also made the mistake of claiming that its 32 sprites were more than any other non MSX computer, although this feature was shared by other computers using the same or compatible video chip, such as the Texas Instruments TI99/4A, Memotech MTX, and Tatung Einstein.

And that’s why it’s a mistake to base your “opinion” of a system on the advertising hype as the author is apparently doing here.

TMR also had the cheek to claim…

“since the C64 had at least the same percentage of its user base programming as the machines mentioned by the author, that equates to more programmers too”

Of course, I have no idea where he gets this information from, or what type of programming they were doing.

If we just consider the numbers, the C64 selling so many more units than most of it’s competition means that, assuming the same percentage of users took up programming, the overall number of people has to be higher. That’s just simple mathematics and, whilst it’s built on assumptions, that’s all we have to go on.

That said, whilst it’s impossible to be completely accurate we can get at least a rough idea because a reasonable percentage of this bedroom coding didn’t remain behind closed doors; most 8-bit computers had and in some cases still have demo and cracking scenes which are made up almost exclusively of amateur programmers, so we can use this as a base for a reasonably educated guess as to what the rest of the user base were up to[2].

And, since the author has neglected to mention it, the Raspberry Pi Foundation described the C64 as one of the “machines that people of an earlier generation learned to program on” so they feel there was a large bedroom coding community out there for the machine as well, which is at odds with the author’s uneducated opinion too.

Linus Torvalds from Finland is the creator of the operating system Linux, which is based on a kernel, meaning collection of routines, he wrote to work in a similar way to UNIX or MINIX. The first computer he used was a Commodore VIC-20, but this was his Grandfather’s computer, not his own. It’s quite likely that his Grandfather didn’t have a clue what he was doing when he bought a VIC-20.

Linus Torvalds’ grandfather owning the computer or his level of knowledge makes no difference whatsoever to the experiences of Torvalds himself and is a particularly weak false argument on the author’s part. The obvious but poorly sidestepped point was that a young Torvalds discovered an interest in programming on the VIC 20 and what he went on to do with the Sinclair QL, Acorn Archimedes and so forth is all built upon that first exposure and subsequent interest.

The Commodore VIC-20 was crap for having only a 20 column display

It didn’t have a 20 column display so the author’s “research” is again at fault.

[1] Your correspondent has considered documenting the writing of a demo to “rag” on the author; this is a traditional part of the demo scene but, since a ragging demo has to be answered in kind, it seems unfair to insult the author in this way since he’s apparently incapable of offering a decent response… but it is tempting since this is your correspondent’s 100th post!

[2] The author spends most of his posts just guessing without having anything to base it on so this is a more valid stance than anything he has to offer.

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