The author struggles with relevancy

Debunking debunking TMR’s Code Notes – Electric Café

Using American date formatting today is 3/14 which, along with being the birthday of Albert Einstein, has also been declared as Pi Day, both a celebration of the mathematical constant which begins with 3.14 and an excuse to consume baked pastry dishes.  Since the author is, to quote his own words on the subject, “useless at maths” it’s reasonably safe to assume that he won’t have been celebrating, but may be comforted by the knowledge that he and Pi have something in common; they’re both irrational. And to “celebrate” that particularly weak pun, here’s a video of the digits of Pi being played on a piano just because we can:

And with that amusing but ultimately frivilous aside complete, we now return to our scheduled programming and the author’s most recent missive that appeared whilst your correspondent was getting Macro Clone Cafe ready for release over the weekend…

In a recent post on TMR of the rival blog “C64 Crap Debunk” said that I had said it was impossible to programming the Commodore 64, then posted notes about another demo, which was actually created in 1988. This demo consists of some sampled Kraftwerk (note spelling, meaning factory) music, so this means it wasn’t programmed by the demo creators.

Except of course the author is wrong here and it means no such thing; the programming behind the music in Electric Cafe was indeed down to developers Ash & Dave who wrote both the sample playback routine in the demo itself and the sampling software used to record the data being played. We also have to pause and wonder where the authour believed the program code behind the music in this demo came from if not the authors…?

Apart from this, the demo was created in 1988, which was 3-4 years after I gave up on the C64.

This is, of course, irrelevant because, again, your correspondent isn’t bound by that time window and the author only sticks to that particular “rule” when he feels that it will support a claim he’s trying to make anyway so there’s no reason for anybody else to concern themselves with it either.

But let us also pause here dear reader to remember yet again that the documentation available in the UK didn’t significantly change after the author’s failed attempt to learn programming so all of the people we’re discussing who picked up programming with the C64 a year or two after he did still didn’t have any magical advantage; Ash & Dave started releasing demos together in 1987 so it would be a conservative but fair estimate to assume they started learning during 1986.

In the meantime I expected all kinds of things may happen, such as lots of new computers coming out, existing computers becoming more popular, etc, etc.

This “argument” (for want of a better word) can be applied to every other computer the author has mentioned as well – and indeed every computer manufactured – since there was no way to know at the time which would be popular; his “logic” (again, pushing the definition somewhat) appears to be that the skills learnt using bespoke BASIC commands that weren’t even transferrable between different 8-bit dialects were somehow going to be of greater use further down the line than understanding the more important “meat and two veg” of program logic that could be picked up with any flavour of BASIC including Commodore’s.

Your correspondent will offer himself as an example; the knowledge he gleaned from BASIC V2 is still applied to this day with Windows-base dialects like BlitzMax or scripting languages such as PHP.

Also, TMR had the cheek to mention the German 64’er magazine, which he previously described as irrelevant, just because it was in German and not available in Britain in 1984-1985, when I owned a C64. What a hypocrite!

The author has previously insisted that things outside his personal scope – the United Kingdom between 1984 and 1985 – are, somehow, invalid when they’ve been brought up (for a very recent example, see the comment quoted above regarding Electric Cafe being “created in 1988, which was 3-4 years after [he] gave up on the C64” quoted above) so a German-language magazine which wasn’t made available here during that time period is indeed irrelevant by the author’s own “logic”.

Your correspondent’s reference to 64’er was whilst talking about musician Chris Huelsbeck and it was, unlike when the author brought it up, relevant to the topic being discussed so the author’s accusation of hypocrisy is of course false.

What actually happened during 1985-1988 was that the Amstrad CPC joined the Spectrum and C64 as a widely supported format, the Amiga and Atari ST were released, had different models and got cheaper then more popular, Amstrad released a cheap PC clone, then other PC manufacturers followed suit, the Sinclair QL and the Enterprise flopped, and MSX was discontinued in the English speaking World where MSX2 was never released.

This is more a description of the situation within the United Kingdom than it is the “English speaking World” dear reader, because what was “widely supported” varied quite significantly from territory to territory; America was a larger chunk of the English-speaking home computer market than the UK at the time for example, and the Spectrum and Amstrad CPC weren’t supported there.

A platform gets that level of support does so because it’s popular and by that your correspondent doesn’t merely mean that there are a lot of installed systems, there has to be a demand from users for that support too so the author’s basically saying that there were a huge amount of satisfied Commodore customers.

Apart from the above, the Amiga and Atari ST computers used the 68000 CPU, and there were articles in the general, non format based, computer press about how amazing 68000 Assembly Language was, with lots of additional instructions that made it easier to program in than 6502 or Z80 Assembly Language, so that was yet another reason not to bother with the Commodore 64.

Again, this isn’t something specific to the C64 despite the author’s  childlike attempts to portray it as such; computers have a built in obsolescence regardless of brand, generation or the author’s biased personal opinions so being surprised that the next generation of hardware might be more powerful is akin to expressing shock as the Pope defectes in a woodland area. And a computer is far more than just its processor dear reader, so whilst the 68000 might be easier it doesn’t automatically follow that programming a computer build around it such as the Macintosh, Atari ST or Amiga is easier as well.

We know with hindsight that the bright future of the 68000 gave way to the Intel 80×86[1] now, so anybody putting their eggs in that particular basket was going to be spending time relearning somewhere down the line and might as well have spent it with an 8-bit system because the sensible approach has always been to simply get on with the business of learning the important, transferrable lessons of programming before moving on when the next generation of systems is properly established.

[1] Your correspondent did try to pick up 80×86 assembly language at some point during the early 1990s when the writing about 68000-based systems was pretty much on the wall, but found the memory segmentation alone to be hideously overcomplicated.

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