I’m sorry I haven’t posted here recently. I’ve had a lot of distractions, including my fantastic, banned or censored from all English speaking countries (meaning countries where English is the main language), MSX2 computer‘s on/off switch breaking. This means I haven’t been able to use my MSX2 computer for a couple of months, but I‘ve just managed to get it repaired!
There are potential jokes to be made about build quality here of course (even more so when we consider that your correspondent regularly uses a 1984 issue C64 which is older than the author’s MSX2) but your correspondent will gloss over those. It is however important to reiterate once more that the MSX2 was neither banned or censored from English-speaking countries despite the author’s bogus claims; it didn’t appear in those territories because the manufacturers took the decision not to release it in those territories.
And we do have to wonder dear reader how the author’s MSX2 computer was such a distraction when it was broken?
Meanwhile, here’s a de debunk of TMR’s last debunk. It was getting too long, so I decided not to quote TMR at all.
I never said that TMR was a hacker, just that a document I remember writing about MSX BASIC 2.0 sprite collisions and joystick use has mysteriously disappeared.
And, since the author didn’t quote your correspondent, the context around what was very obviously a joke is misrepresented by him. We’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume that was merely stupidity on his part rather than actual malice.
TMR often likes to pretend that it doesn’t matter that these cartridges couldn’t produce stand alone programs, because years later someone produced a compiler which could compile these programs. Of course it DOES matter because this compiler came out years after the C64 and probably required a disk drive as well.
The author falsely believes that the commands offered by such BASIC extensions are important; your correspondent disagrees and points to a huge body of user-developed software that doesn’t even rely on those expansions.
I didn’t have a disk drive for my C64 and I don’t remember seeing anyone at my local computer club who had one either.
This is the author once more trying to pass off his personal experience as the norm – some communities might well have been in the same boat, but others like the one your correspondent was involved in during the mid 1980s were well stocked for disk drives with some people even having multiple units for fast disk-to-disk copying.
Meanwhile, owners of other computers, such as the Sinclair Spectrum, BBC Micro, Atari 400/800/XL, Spectravideo 318/328, MSX, etc, who didn’t even have disk drives, were running rings round Commodore 64 owners who couldn’t even draw a line across their graphics screens!
“Running rings” in this case meaning doing less actual programming than the C64 owners.
Not many books or articles ever appeared about Simons’ BASIC (although it was used a lot in INPUT magazine), let alone Commodore’s very own Super Expander 64 extended BASIC, which seemed to be less popular than Simons’ BASIC, or the Turbo BASIC which I bought, the more expensive Ultra BASIC, etc.
Because books or articles are usually written for the “lowest common denominator” since the sensible thing for any publisher to do would have been to write about the BASIC that every C64 has rather than a dialect which only a small percentage of users have access to. They want to sell to as many people as possible after all.
We’ll lightly skip over the extremely long and badly written paragraph that talks about new BASIC commands added to interpreters that appeared two or three years after the C64’s release because there’s really no point in commenting.
TMR was waffling on about a quite different couple of computers, released years later. These computers were called the Amstrad 464 Plus and the Amstrad 6128 Plus, not CPC at all.
And yet they started up in Locomotive BASIC and ran CPC programs because they were compatible with the earlier machines bearing the same model numbers; the point which was apparently being deliberately avoided by the author this time,was that the Plus features weren’t grafted into Locomotive BASIC in the same way the Commodore BASIC V2 didn’t gain commands for sprites and this is Amstrad doing the exact same thing that the author despises Commodore for. It was presented as yet another example of the author’s bias and his vain attempt to class it as “waffling” holds water like a sieve.
My post about the CPC664’s 30th anniversary, is nothing to do with what Amstrad did years later on the Amstrad 464 Plus and 6128 Plus! By this stage, Alan Sugar and Amstrad had gone way past the “sharp practice” which was how a magazine I phoned described his stunt of discontinuing the CPC664 after only 4 months.
And yet this and the further tirade that accompanied it still rather hypocritically fails to earn Alan Sugar or Amstrad anywhere near the levels of hatred that Jack Tramiel and Commodore receive from the author. Despite describing Amstrad’s actions as “a severe blow to [the author’s] confidence and self esteem” (and Commodore didn’t scrap the C64 six months after the author purchased one) there is no blog from him called “Amstrad CPC664 Crap”.
I don’t think any dirty trick like this had been played by any computer manufacturer before then, although someone out there may know different.
There weren’t many blatant examples (so, again, why Amstrad doesn’t receive at least as much abuse from the author as Commodore is something of a mystery that we might have to ponder at length later) but companies regularly produced upgraded versions of their machines which left at least part of the user base behind without an upgrade path for their existing hardware.
I didn’t lie to my Dad about the Amstrad CPC664 not having 128K, I just kept it to myself, because I thought my Dad would prevent me from having one if he found out it didn’t have 128K.
This is called lying by omission since the author deliberately misled his father by not mentioning the difference in RAM size between what he was meant to be choosing and the CPC664. It’s worth noting that, since the CPC664 was discontinued very soon after purchase by Amstrad in favour of a 128K machine, that the author’s father was right.
TMR confessed that with the C64 some users were forced to buy second hand disk drives because they were so expensive.
In the UK during the 1980s there were a lot of people who had to buy their computer equipment second hand regardless of platform because the country was in recession; a new disk drive for an Atari 8-bit didn’t cost much less than one for the C64 and the Amstrad CPC6128 was out of reach for many as well. For some people, even the humble Sinclair Spectrum with a cassette deck was a major investment brand new that couldn’t be taken lightly.
The drives ran painfully slowly, and used the old fashioned 5.25″ really flimsy floppy disks, which had to be stored in envelopes, and users weren’t allowed to write on the disk labels when the contents changed! They were easily damaged and corrupted, while Amstrad’s disks were quite secure.
Nobody in their right mind should be surprised that computer from 1982 used the disks that were most common around the time it was released; the C64 shares the 5.25” floppy disk with the Apple II, Atari 8-bit, early IBM PCs/compatibles and other popular systems.
Robustness does depend somewhat on the quality of the disks themselves (there were a lot of cheap and very cheerless floppies doing the rounds from less reputable vendors) but the better brands matched Amstrad’s 3” floppies for data retention. Your correspondent owns 5.25” floppies which survived a postal journey from Australia in the 1980s in a jiffy bag packed with just a sheet of cardboard that still work to this day and has spoken to several people who recovered old Atari, Commodore and Apple projects that were stored on decades old 5.25” disks.
When it comes to transfer speed, as has been mentioned previously the C64 is only slow if used without a fastloading scheme and there were lots of those available with quite a few being free software distributed user to user or via dial up services such as Compunet.
I started to learn Z80 Machine Code even before buying the CPC664, but I often read letters and articles saying how it was essential to buy “The Concise Firmware Manual” by Amstrad, which I didn’t think I could afford, so that held me back. I eventually got hold of a cheaper book called “The Ins and Outs of The Amstrad” by Melbourne House, then I was suddenly able to read about and use lots of or even any of the many ROM firmware routines, which the C64 had hardly any of, which enabled me to draw lines on the screen in Machine Code.
There were books for the C64 with small machine code libraries that could have taught the author pretty much exactly the same thing. Please note once more dear reader that the author didn’t put the same effort into the C64 which once more displays his almost irrational bias.
Whatever new releases have appeared for the C64 since mid February 2015 doesn’t prove anything.
To restore the context again removed by the author, February 2015 was chosen in that previous post because that was roughly when the author had last posted; and despite the author’s claim it proves that people aren’t struggling to program the C64 as has continuously and erroneously claimed which essentially undermines his main “argument”. And that’s before we’ve remembered that the same website catalogues user-generated content from over thirty years.
The article that the author claims is needed very obviously isn’t because people are not only quite happily picking up and programming the C64, they’re doing so in as large or often larger numbers than for other 8-bit systems.
One thing I’ve realised in recent years is the absolute necessity of flowcharting. It’s impossible to create anything more than a short, simple program without doing a flowchart first. I read about flowcharts in books, but there were also articles and comments from people like TMR who said that flowcharts didn’t matter, or weren’t that important.
Apart from issues with documenting programs running at multiple levels of interrupt which can and usually do interact with each other at unexpected moments, the process of producing and maintaining a flowchart merely gets in the way of a large, expanding project. The author has yet to complete a “long and impressive program” with or without a flowchart and is therefore unequipped to comment.
The aftermath of all these computers with BASIC on ROM instead of an operating system, most of them using either a Z80 or a 6502 CPU, or a CPU which was compatible with the Z80 or 6502, which have now been replaced by PCs or Macs running an OS such as Microsoft Windows, Mac OSX, or Linux, is that lots of people are desperate to program anything at all on a computer in a simple programming language, and even to somehow take control over a computer, instead of the computer denying them access to its hardware. This is the thinking behind the astounding Raspberry Pi computer. Users are recommended to program either in Scratch, which is totally graphic, or in Python, which can easily do graphics
There’s some very twisted “logic” going on here; Python or Scratch are freely available to be installed on a Windows or Linux machine (your correspondent assumes the same is true of OSX but isn’t a Mac user since the PowerPC days so can’t comment) so the Pi doesn’t deliver anything that isn’t available elsewhere in that respect. It’s also hard to argue that Scratch has much to do with the ROM-based BASICs of the 1980s since it very deliberately moves away from that programming model whilst Python programming uses extension libraries which have more in common with C64 BASIC using extensions or indeed C than the feature laden ROM-based BASIC dialects the author tries to champion.
Finally, I’d like to a wish happy 30th anniversary to the Amiga computer again! The Amiga was designed by ex Atari engineers, and was a “super Atari” computer. They planned to sell it to Atari, but meanwhile Jack Tramiel’s price war had turned Atari into a loss making division of Warner Brothers.
It was Warner’s mismanagement of Atari that turned it into a loss making division of Warner Brothers; it might be somewhat “breathless” in the writing style, but Atari Inc.: Business Is Fun by Curt Vendel and Marty Goldberg is worth reading for the actual story of how the majority of Atari’s eggs ended up in the 2600’s basket and why this pushed what would become Amiga away.
Commodore bought the Amiga computer and hired the team who created it, but of course Commodore didn’t understand the Amiga because it was a “super Atari” computer, not a Commodore computer. After this, they were quick to get rid of the Amiga’s creators and got their own Commodore engineers to repackage it into the A500 and A2000 versions.
So they “didn’t understand” the Amiga but managed to redesign the motherboard several times for the various Commodore-produced Amigas…
What Commodore couldn’t do was redesign the graphics, sound and other chips, because they didn’t really understand them. All they did was increase the amount of RAM the chips could directly access (Chip RAM) from 512K to 1Mb. Eventually, in 1992 Commodore managed to release an upgraded graphics chip in the new A1200 and A4000
…and couldn’t redesign the chips apart from those times they redesigned the chips for the various Commodore-handled upgrades during the Amiga’s lifespan such as the ECS chipset which the author has glossed over. As “arguments” go this is particularly flimsy and should only be treated with contempt.
Post-Tramiel Commodore’s mistake with the Amiga was similar to pre-Tramiel Atari’s with the Atari 2600, it sold well enough that they rested on their laurels rather than upgrade right up to the point where their competition went roaring past. And we do have to remember that the PC predated the Amiga and had a far better commercial foothold from the business side of things before it was launched, so trying to compete against a behemoth like that is always going to be an uphill battle.
 Your correspondent hasn’t drawn a flowchart since the 1980s when it was part of the GCSE Computer Studies curriculum and even then he tended to draw the flowchart up after the program was complete because it was easier that way.