Learning by the book – parts 1 and 2

Debunking The Machine Language Book Of The Commodore 64 – part 1 and part 2

The author is reading books again dear reader and that’s never a good sign with his remarkably poor comprehension skills! Your correspondent is sure that everybody reading is aware of the saying “never judge a book by its cover”, but the author hasn’t properly read The Machine Language Book Of The Commodore 64 but still feels able to describe it as “truly amazing” regardless of that ignorance.

Unfortunately, even in the Preface to this book there’s the statement “Many people try to learn it, but most quickly give it up because it is too complicated. Only a few actually use it”! This preface wasn’t written by the Author himself, but by someone higher up, involved with the Data Becker management, so I must assume from that that it’s very likely they know what they’re talking about.

This is a false assumption on the author’s part; people in management at a publishing house know about the logistics of publishing but the author can’t demonstrate that the person responsible for that preface had any clue about the difficulty of learning 6502 assembly language.

The Table of Contents doesn’t actually list everything in the book, but the back cover states clearly that readers will be able “to program high resolution graphics”! This simple statement would have been enough to persuade me, as well as thousands or millions of other C64 owners to buy the book.

The author is still lying to his readers by falsely claiming that what he personally wanted is representative of what “thousands or millions of other C64 owners” were interested in despite being unable to offer any evidence whatsoever to back the statement up.

I typed in the whole Assembler, but then found that it didn’t work, so then I ran UNTOKEN, moved the cursor to some lines causing errors and re entered them, then found they worked. Unfortunately, there was another line causing errors, which I couldn’t really read in the book. I tried altering it, but couldn’t clear the error, so that meant I couldn’t get the Assembler to actually Assemble any code.

Can we just pause for a moment dear reader to comment on the way that the author mentions struggling here and elsewhere in his posts but still refers to this book as “truly amazing” regardless of that?

On page 167 this book finally gets down to drawing a diagonal line across the graphics screen, using five SYS calls, and four POKEs! This is obviously something that hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of C64 users had wanted to do ever since geting their C64s, otherwise why would it be in the book?

This is yet another false argument from the author; quite apart from the fact that he can offer absolutely no evidence to back up his bogus claim that “hundreds of thousands or even millions” of C64 owners wanted anything of the sort, in the 1980s there was no way that either the author or publishers would have been aware even if that were the case! So no dear reader, it doesn’t follow at all that, just because the book covers the topic, it was of interest to a significant number of C64 users.

The Merlin 64 Assembler seems to be a popular Assembler for the C64. I managed to download a PDF of this, which says that it was published in 1984, so that means I could have bought a copy while I owned my Commodore 64.

Whilst Merlin was quite common amongst American programmers, as a cassette-based user in the United Kingdom the author would not have been exposed to it; instead he would have been far more likely to come across something like Interceptor Micros’ Pulse Assembler or Zeus 64 Assembler by Crystal Computing, both of which were available to purchase on cassette over the counter. Pulse is quite frankly rubbish and this is echoed by magazine reviews when it was released but Zeus is at least reasonably solid and tokenises the source code for efficiency.

So after choosing an assembler that he wouldn’t have been exposed to, the author then wastes time “educating” his poor readers on assembler directives rather than actually getting on with reading the book. We’ll skip over that rather sloppy and overly long paragraph to the end of the second post.

That’s all for now! The next stage is for you to absorb what you’ve read and I plan to try and convert some of the source code listings from this book for the Merlin 64 Assembler.

Your correspondent finds himself wondering what the author will do with his spare time if, having learnt how to program the C64 from Lothar Englisch’s writings, he subsequently realises that he’s actively debunked the majority of his own tired, childish arguments in the process…?


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