The author struggles with logic

Debunking Summing up: why the Commodore 64’s BASIC V2 was crap and how some people managed to program the C64

What a ridiculously long title… it seems that posting from an Android device has made the author excessively verbose! Your correspondent was already that way inclined of course, but is posting from the severely battered laptop that is dedicated to managing C64CD so can’t use that as an excuse.

I was working in an amazing post explaining how to draw lines on the Commodore 64 in Assembly Language. This technique could have been used to enable people to create wire frame graphics, like in the amazing, ground breaking game Elite, created on the BBC Micro, with its beautiful BBC BASIC language, containing procedures, REPEAT…UNTIL loops, long meaningful variable names, and a built in Assembler, allowing lines of Assembly Language to be mixed with BASIC in the same program.

That’ll be the game Elite where the mathematics behind those wireframe 3D graphics are powered by assembly language and well beyond the “useless at maths” author (quoting his own words there) so no dear reader, your correspondent doesn’t feel that we should believe what was claimed above and instead assumes that this “amazing post” would not have allowed “people to create wire frame graphics” since the person who would have been presenting said text has, in essence, previously declared himself unable to do so.

Why The Commodore 64’s BASIC V2 Was Crap

It was an old BASIC available to Commodore at no extra charge under their perpetual licence from Microsoft bought FIVE YEARS PREVIOUSLY

Components in computers (and BASIC in the C64 is indeed a component, it comes as a ROM chip) were often significantly older than the product itself; the Zilog Z80A in the Spectrum and Amstrad CPC predates the former by the same five years for example and the CRTC used in the Amstrad CPC had already made an appearance in the BBC Micro some three years prior.

Commodore founder Jack Tramiel was a miser

Any successful businessperson is a “miser” dear reader, in fact every company going wants to make a product as cheaply as possible to sell with a significant margin on top and any failing to do that won’t last very long.  An argument could also be raised that entrepreneurs such as Clive Sinclair or Alan Sugar were actually more Scrooge-like than Tramiel by using older components in their designs, they could have improved their computers to include game-centric features like hardware sprites (there are add-on cards for the Apple II which do this for example but it isn’t made by Apple) or scrolling but chose not to, presumably for cost reasons since it was at least technically possible.

Commodore wanted to screw more money out of Commodore 64  owners by selling them cartridges,  such as “Simons’ BASIC” and “Super Expander 64”,  containing the missing commands,  but not even allowing them to create stand alone software

And, childlike wording of the “point” above aside, this is no different to Sinclair, Amstrad, Acorn, Apple or any other computer manufacturer selling an upgrade to their system, either as an add-on or a replacement machine. It was commonplace in the computer industry of the 1980s so Apple II owners were expected to upgrade from Integer to Applesoft BASIC or Apple II to Apple IIGS (and there were lots of third party upgrades to fill gaps in the system’s capabilities) and the 128K versions of the Atari 8-bit or Sinclair Spectrum had software that users with older models weren’t able to use. The author is being particularly hypocritical for singling out Commodore for something that was common practise to the point where his own Amstrad CPC664 was discontinued after half a year to make way for the larger CPC6128, leaving him requiring an upgrade to use software released for the newer model.

Commodore/Jack Tramiel  were too miserly to pay Microsoft any more money for an updated BASIC, unlike Tandy/Radio Shack, Dragon and the MSX Consortium

Jack Tramiel refused to pay a fee for BASIC for each computer sold because “I’m already married”

Jack Tramiel’s experience of being an Auschwitz survivor gave him the attitude business is war

Jack Tramiel was obsessed with destroying his rivals such as Texas instruments and Atari

These are all essentially a repeat of the first “argument” dear reader, although we do need to pause and recall for the latter how Texas Instruments tried to destroy their competition including Commodore to emphasise the previous point about every company essentially being in the same boat. And does anyone apart from the author honestly believe that, given the same opportunities, Commodore’s competition wouldn’t have been equally ruthless?

How some people managed to program the Commodore 64

They had lots of experience using mainframe computers before microcomputers even came out (e.g. Jim Butterfield)

They had  owned an older Commodore computer which was less complicated than and partly compatible with the Commodore 64 (e.g. TMR, Jim Butterfield, Jeff Minter)

These are both flawed “logic” dear reader because, if the C64 is as difficult as the author has been claiming for all these years, then learning on another system and trying to translate those skills would still be just as hard. The same is true of previous Commodore systems, they may be “less complicated” but that actually means that programmers had to do in software things they’d later be using hardware for so the learning curve for these older systems is actually higher!

They didn’t pay much attention to the official Commodore 64 manuals telling them that they were supposed to program in BASIC V2 PEEKing and POKEing any numbers from 0 to 255 to five digit memory locations (most C64 programmers)

No dear reader, the author is essentially lying by claiming this to be true of “most C64 programmers” because he has no proof to back up that claim; apart from the significant numbers of C64 programs archived online now which are written in BASIC and do indeed use the various POKES it wouldn’t be possible to learn how to program without reading something and your correspondent isn’t aware of a good, generic tome covering BASIC programming in a way that was relevant to the C64 without covering it’s specific features.

They were autistic (not many people like to admit they’re autistic, hence the lack of names)

We know from past experience dear reader that the author doesn’t actually understand autism to be making this claim to begin with and have already debunked the “logic” used when the claim was made, but without a single example this is a false argument even before that becomes an issue.

They were excellent at maths (TMR)

Your correspondent has repeatedly stated that he isn’t “excellent at maths” because that statement simply isn’t true by any stretch of the imagination so, whilst this might be considered quite flattering[1], it’s also not true.

They bought a Commodore 64 much later than 1984 when a lot more details of how to program it and software tools as well as cheaper disk drives were available (most Commodore 64 owners)

This is not demonstrable for “most Commodore 64 owners”, so the author can’t produce either the mythical documentation that magically makes the C64 easier to program that was released later or prove that the “cheaper” (and they weren’t significantly cheaper) disk drives were any kind of factor. Unlike other 8-bit systems, the C64 didn’t change after that period so if it was too hard (as it was for the author but not for many others) within his 1984/5 window it would still be too hard after that point.

They learnt to program in BASIC, then 6502 Assembly Language on a non Commodore computer, such as the Acorn Atom, BBC Micro, Acorn Electron, Apple II, or Atari (eg Paul Roper, Dave Braben)

Once more, this is not demonstrable for the majority of C64 owners and the “logic” that the C64 magically becomes easier after having learnt another system is utter garbage. And let’s pause to point out that the author still hasn’t accounted for the vast numbers of bedroom and indeed commercial programmers who learnt directly on the C64 at any point during his little emission.

So since summing up is apparently the order of the day, your correspondent will note that the author’s post was just another tiresome and pointless restating of his previously debunked arguments that served no useful purpose to anyone and proved absolutely nothing; the author appears to still be rather desperately trying to excuse his own inability to do what thousands of bedroom programmers on the C64 did by trying to claim it was the computer or Commodore’s fault, but as always doesn’t offer something that even approaches a coherent argument.

[1] Your correspondent is aware that it might come across as false modesty but it honestly isn’t… and, whilst it’s extremely odd arguing that you’re not as knowledgeable as someone else believes you to be, that’s a complement too far.


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