Knowing me, knowing EU

Debunking The Commodore 64 the EU and Brexit

The author’s latest little missive is something of a stretch considering the author’s self-stated topic of “explaining why the Commodore 64’s BASIC V2 was crap and how some people managed to program the C64”; the post being examined here completely ignores the stated aim (although that hardly comes as a surprise) and steps well outside of the author’s self-imposed 1984 to 1985 window at the same time! And, considering how inaccurate his posts are generally, it’s hard to believe that anybody sensible would take notice of his political commentary without at the very least double checking the facts.[1]

Unfortunately, things didn’t go entirely according to plan. Lots of foreign computers were widely sold in the EEC and at one stage Commodore was the largest supplier. Of course, there were also lots of computer manufacturers native to the EEC, including Sinclair, Acorn, Tangerine with their Oric and Microtan computers, Thomson, and Olivetti.

And, because the C64 and other Commodore hardware for the EU was manufactured within the EU, we have to include Commodore on that list as well dear reader, unless we’re holding some kind of pathetic, childish grudge of course.

 I remember Ian McNaught-Davis (RIP) on the BBC’s Micro Live TV series presenting some charts which showed how there was a lot of trade protectionism in the USA

It’s probably fun for the author to throw terms like “trade protectionism” around but actually demonstrating it is far more difficult since there are so many factors in play. For example, the American home computer market had a significant head start on the UK so taking a 48K system like the Sinclair Spectrum over as the Timex Sinclair 2068 in 1983 when companies like Apple and Atari had been doing the same general kind of computer since the late 1970s and were already moving beyond even the expanded machine’s specifications was, even if we’re being charitable, a questionable idea at best.

Obviously, the EEC should have blocked Commodore from ever setting up a subsidiary inside the EEC, then set up some kind of quality control or non tariff barrier to stop Commodore computers from entering the EEC, but they failed to do either of those things.

No dear reader, obviously they were right not to block Commodore in that way because these rules aren’t made for a single company and the same “logic” would also have applied to the UK arm of American company Timex who manufactured the Spectrum for Sinclair or indeed other companies whose headquarters were outside the ECC like Atari or indeed the MSX consortium.

The EEC could have made up some rules such as that foreign computers sold in the EEC would have to have a minimum spec before getting a permit to be sold. Computers made by companies in the EEC all seemed to have quite advanced versions of BASIC, so Commodore and Sharp (whose MZ80K had NO language on ROM), could have been required to have the same. Unfortunately, they weren’t.

That net would also catch a lot of other hardware on sale which didn’t come with BASIC in ROM or didn’t match the author’s requirements; remember dear reader that, even if we ignore all of the non-consumer systems such as mainframes or minicomputers, a ruling such as this would also have outlawed sales of the Jupiter Ace, earlier models of the Atari 8-bit series (where BASIC was on cartridge), blocked the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga… some of which are machines the author has previously championed for one reason or another!

And companies are endlessly resourceful when it comes to finding work-arounds for these rules anyway, look at Amstrad’s Spanish distributor Indescomp who released the “72K” CPC472 simply to get around tariffs aplied to systems not meeting certain criteria which had 64K or less; that extra 8K of RAM was a single chip that wasn’t electrically connected to the computer and therefore useless!

In Sweden there was a quite well thought out computer called the ABC80 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABC_80  , which came out in 1978. This was based round the Z80 CPU and had its own type of BASIC, which was self compiling, so ran much faster than other dialects of BASIC, at a similar speed to Assembly Language/Machine Code.

Natively compiled BASIC (or, as the linked Wikipedia article describes it in the case of the ABC80, semi-compiling) will be faster than the original, fully interpreted BASIC program but simply can’t be expected to produce machine code execution speeds. It’s also worth remembering that compilation has memory overheads, reducing the available memory for programs as well.

Unfortunately, this computer wasn’t very successful outside Sweden, which was probably due to Sweden only being part of EFTA instead of the EEC.

There is no “probably” here and the author is merely guessing once more. But since we’re on the subject of the ABC80, here’s video of a recent demo called Hires Invasion created by members of Genesis Project which uses precise timing to create high resolution graphics on a machine not equipped for them:

(Genesis Project are primarily a C64 group dating back to the 1980s, hence the link above to their profile at the C64 Scene Database.)

After this, there might actually be a lot of manufacturing in Britain by cottage industries, making copies of foreign computers because most people wouldn’t be able to afford the real thing, the same as happened in the USSR, where there were lots of Sinclair Spectrum clones. Of course, no other countries would buy these goods.

This merely demonstrates a lack of understanding as regards what goes into a modern computer, dear reader; home computer development and manufacture wasn’t a small scale, cottage-style industry in the 1980s and now things are in a completely and utterly different league.

Of course, I advise everyone against subscribing to Sky TV, or to unsubscribe if they already do, because it’s owned by Rupert Murdoch, who brainwashed lots of people in the UK into voting Leave, because “When I go to Downing Street they do as I say. When I go to Brussels they usually take no notice”.

Your correspondent wouldn’t head anywhere near as far down the tinfoil-hat-wearing path as the author does by suggesting that the media broadcast by Murdoch-owned companies “may contain brainwashing and even subliminal messages”[2] (because everything is broadcast digitally and conclusive proof of such shenanigans couldn’t remain concealed for any extended period) but, generally speaking at least, your correspondent actually agrees that Murdoch’s influence on the United Kingdom isn’t a positive one.

Just imagine what a difference it would have made! If the Commodore 64 had been banned in the EEC.

We can easily imagine some of the effects dear reader; Commodore employed a huge number of people in those territories who would otherwise have not been in work and their computers were the starting point for an equally large percentage of the home grown game development and other IT-related industries throughout Europe. Taking them and other US influences (as we’ve previously noted, the author’s suggestion of an ECC “rule” to remove Commodore would also have impacted on Atari, Sinclair, the MSX consortium and others) out of the economy without anything else to fill those voids would have been a complete and utter disaster.

[1] Your correspondent may also be offering a personal commentary on socio-political matters, but doesn’t expect to be taken seriously or avoid being fact checked where appropriate, even in the current “post truth” environment.

[2] The author rather subversively suggests using illegal means to watch the Fox productions he feels may contain subliminal messages but, if that were actually true, obtaining said media outside of Fox’s control wouldn’t remove said subliminals so they’d still be a danger to the viewer!

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