The C64 isn’t an Enigma

Debunking The Commodore 64 enigma

We’ll wander deftly around the update on the author’s current situation because, as noted on several occasions previously, it’s utterly irrelevant to his stated subject matter. That said, so was most of the rest of the post…

I could always use a Commodore 64 emulator such as VICE, but that feels like cheating and encourages the use of development packages which simply weren’t available to bedroom programmers during the time period 1984 to 1985 when I owned a Commodore 64.

This is a false argument dear reader because it doesn’t follow that merely using an emulator will lead to utilising cross development tools and using a C64 emulator such as VICE with native tools is pretty much the same experience for those who want to use native utilities. It’s more time consuming than working with cross development of course, but there are people doing so, but this has given your correspondent an interesting idea for the future…

My  whole experience with the C64 makes me think of the WWII Nazi encryption machine The Enigma. Both machines produce incomprehensible code and both were created by evil people.

The Enigma machine was created just after the first World War dear reader, and the “evil people” in that case was primarily Arthur Scherbius, who created and patented the first machine a couple of years after the first World War and died in 1929. His device was on sale internationally for commercial as well as military use a decade before the second World War began, so describing the poor man as “evil” because other people misused his design is like calling the people behind the TOR project “evil” because some of the people using TOR are terrorists!

The creators of the C64 are only “evil” inside the author’s diseased imagination, of course.

 as well as a big secret on how to detect the joysticks, as Sheldon Leemon wrote in a “Compute!” book.

This is a matter of reading a register and then examining the bits – the latter part of process is exactly the same as the one required for the Atari 8-bit, except that the C64 has BASIC functionality for checking specific bits in a byte where the Atari doesn’t so the program tends to be more efficient on the Commodore machine! And let’s not forget that some systems like the Sinclair Spectrum and Apple II didn’t come with the relevant hardware to support joysticks in the first place!

 Even so, using the whole 64K on the C64 requires programmers to turn off not only the BASIC ROM, but also the Kernal, and the Character ROM to free up 16K, then they have to make up some kind of replacements for the contents of those chips in their actual program, like reinventing the wheel.

It didn’t involve turning off the character ROM and the author is once more writing drivel whilst falsely trying to pass himself off as knowledgeable. The processor doesn’t see the character ROM in the default configuration and the two areas it shadows – at $1000 and $9000 onwards for 4K each – are both within the BASIC RAM space without having any effect on programs using the same memory.

And let’s remind ourselves again dear reader that shadowing ROM over RAM is also used in the Atari 8-bit, the Amstrad CPC and other computers, so the author just makes himself appear irrational and biased by trying and indeed failing to pillory the C64 alone for it.

TMR continues to post notes about demos and produce cloned versions of them, but this isn’t relevant because there were no demos in 1984 except perhaps one I’ve found called “You Might Think”, which was music only.

The author fails in both understanding and research once more dear reader; as your correspondent has noted previously, the demo scene began in earnest in 1985 but the forerunners to demos were crack intros just like the two Apple II releases recently covered in the Code Notes series. A quick search of the C64 Scene Database turns up forty eight relevant releases in 1984 and, whilst that might not sound a lot compared to over eight thousand entries found with the same search criteria for 1985[1], it’s still significantly more than the one release the author located.

And your correspondent’s clones are written to demonstrate the techniques used in those releases; they may be developed using a more convenient cross assembler, but the actual programming isn’t significantly different to that written by 1980s users.

The only clue from him is that if you tried to program the C64 in your bedroom for long enough, then you’d succeed.

Persistence is absolutely vital dear reader, but that’s true of pretty much anything in life worth doing. In fact the author demonstrates this in his otherwise pointless and off topic ramblings about cookery[2] by going back and repeatedly trying the same thing whilst learning from his mistakes before moving on to something slightly more complicated.

[1] Note dear reader how the author tried to limit things by “forgetting” that his own defined window was 1984 and 1985, so presumably he knew that his argument would fail otherwise and was trying to restrict the damage!

[2] The author’s references to cooking are we can assume a series of incredibly ham-fisted “insults” in reference to your correspondent describing himself as a “truly appalling cook”, mainly because the author has erroneously assumed that to mean incapable when it doesn’t.

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