Comments rather than replies

I decided to approve the comment above from TMR and reply in the comments section, rather than write a lengthy de debunk post of it.

The author doesn’t seem to know the difference between a comment and a pingback; the latter is automatically generated by WordPress blogs when they mention each other, so what he approved wasn’t a comment from your correspondent at all. And, since the author is truly terrible at “de debunking” anyway, it should probably be considered a blessing in disguise that he didn’t make yet another failed attempt dear reader. Your correspondent is also wondering if the author was perhaps trying to hide his response in the comments, presumably also not realising that WordPress blogs have a feed for comments as well as posts…?

Obviously, when I said that Commodore PET and VIC-20 programmers had a head start on programming the Commodore 64, I was referring to them having access to a simple computer which could introduce them to the concepts of programming.

Your correspondent has already covered that point, but let’s just pause to reiterate that “having access to a simple computer which could introduce them to the concepts of programming” doesn’t give a “head start” in any real sense because it doesn’t magically become easier to learn what are essentially the same BASIC and assembly language skills on a different platform. That said, this might just be a misunderstanding caused by the author’s poor writing skills of course and he may actually be trying to say that he feels it to be a “head start” because those people could pick their skills up earlier than those who started with the C64; this would still be a false argument because only a tiny minority took that specific path anyway.

Let’s not forget dear reader that the author has previously said (with emphasis added below by your correspondent and we’ve already noted that the author was underselling what had actually been witheld) that…

Of course, TMR has recently criticised Atari again for holding back a few details about their original Atari 400 and Atari 800 models, which were released in 1979, for two years. I think this was before many people had computers, so they weren’t affected.

…so, unless he’s now claiming that there were actually significant numbers of computer owners at that point in time, there was almost nobody getting his supposed the “head start” anyway. And if he’s actually right for a change, the previous, somewhat ridiculous “argument” about the serious impact of Atari witholding documentation is, obviously, debunked for a second time.

It would have been possible for Jeff Minter to create an early version of “Sheep in Space” or any arcade game using character graphics in mono and with only beeps as a sound effect, before taking this basic design then upgrading it by adding sprites, scrolling, raster interrupts, and synthesised sound.

The author has absolutely no idea if what he’s claiming would have been possible or not since he doesn’t understand what goes into that kind of game. And although there might be the odd exception, games just aren’t developed that way; using hardware sprites is actually easier than character blocks or indeed any more complicated forms of software sprite so, if the hardware is present, then programmers tend to gravitate towards them rather than taking the more difficult route to begin with.

I remember seeing a video of Jeff Minter talking about starting to design games just by using graph paper, so this proves that you don’t have to think about sprites or hires graphics to start with.

The author’s assumption here is false because the graph paper was used to design those “sprites or hires graphics”, meaning they were indeed being thought about at that early stage in the game’s design. (And we haven’t even thought about the possiblity that the author is accidentally misremembering or deliberately misrepresenting what was said in the video of course, this should be considered since he has a long history of both.)

Here’s a video showing a lot of games programmed in the old USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) or Soviet Union, where the game TETRIS was created. This is relevant because these games all use only text characters in a Russian and English character set, possibly without even any graphics characters, on a mono 80 column B&W display.

We’ll completey skip the “lesson” in linguistics dear reader because it’s irrelevant to a blog like the author’s which at least claims to be about programming, but the relevance of the programs in the video to the current topic is also somewhat dubious since manipulating text-based screens varies from system to system;, without knowing how these Russian computers handle their screen memory it becomes virtually impossible to make guesses like those of the author’s about how close or otherwise they are to systems like the PET[1].

Obviously, it was very difficult to control C64 sprites once they’d been defined and even more difficult to use bitmapped graphics, but on the C64 programmers had to try and do this, otherwise their games wouldn’t be taken seriously.

Obviously the author is lying because it really isn’t difficult to control the C64’s sprites and your correspondent has been merrily posting source code for a few months now that demonstrates just how easy it actually is. And the author is still wilfully and rather pathetically ignoring a massive body of user-created programs out there which also use the hardware sprites, so here’s a couple of videos containing thirteen hours of C64 crack intros[2] from said amateur programmers with quite a bit of hardware sprite use throughout:

The rest of the author’s claim is complete bilge as well of course, C64 programmers had (and indeed have) no obligation whatsoever to use the hardware sprites and some of the more popular games on the system either use a mixture of hardware- and software-generated objects or don’t touch the hardware at all but are still taken seriously by gamers. In fact we apparently need to pause and note again that, even if there was any demonstrable pressure to be “taken seriously” on programmers, it has never applied to the beginners or amateurs that the author has been focusing on anyway, so the relevance to the topic under discussion is at the very least questionable.

[1] Your correspondent has no clue either since his only previous experience with Russian computers is limited to some of the beefed up Spectrum clones or the BK-0011M (emulated in each case because getting access to the real hardware is either very difficult or prohibitively expensive) but isn’t making uneducated guesses like the author has either.

[2] The author will no doubt moan about the programs in the video which were released after he personally threw in the towel, but nothing happened to make using the supposedly “very difficult” sprite hardware easier after he quit so any such whinging would be utterly irrelevant.

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