Prepare to operate – part 1

Debunking The Commodore 64 and Operating Systems (Part 1)

Welcome to everyone who has recently been viewing this blog so much!

Your correspondent notes that the author apparently doesn’t understand that the WordPress statistics include spambots, search engine spiders or perhaps content scrapers in with the legitimate views. Your correspondent has also noted several busy periods but wouldn’t automatically assume that meant a significant spike in visitors.

Unfortunately, I‘ve had serious problems working out what to do next in the quest to find out how some people managed to program the Commodore 64…

And we have to start dear reader by asking ourselves what on Earth the diatribe which follows has to do with that stated topic; all of the rather blatantly uneducated discussion of Linux isn’t relevant in the slightest and, as we’ve noted previously, sitting down and putting the time and effort into learning is how people managed to program the C64, just like any other computer.

…as well as being very depressed by the destruction of my home city of London. The city is still there, but has been made virtually uninhabitable to me, as well as its nightlife being decimated. If any of you are thinking of visiting London, don‘t bother!

This has absolutely no relevance to the author’s stated topic either but, if we’re going to offer personal opinions of London, your correspondent worked there for a while in the late 1990s and found it an unfriendly and rather depressing place even then. It’s one of the reasons your correspondent now resides in Yorkshire in fact.

Operating Systems are what makes computers go. There‘s some dispute about whether or not the C64 actually had an Operating System, though. Some books and magazines say it had, while other books and magazines say that an Operating System is something you boot into which isn‘t a language waiting for you to type a program in. As the C64 boots into BASIC with the Ready prompt, on that basis it doesn‘t have an operrating system.

The majority of 8-bit systems go to a BASIC ready prompt in the same way as the C64 and some of these systems have to then boot a DOS from disk whilst others don’t even have an official solution for attaching a disk drive to the computer in the first place. The C64’s DOS might not be particularly user friendly but it does come with disk commands baked into the BASIC interpreter.

And if, as the author claims at the start of that quoted paragraph, “operating systems are what makes  computers go” how do any of these machines actually “go” if dropping to the BASIC ready prompt equates to not having an operating system?

Unlike MS-DOS, the Commodore KERNAL doesn‘t have lots of routines which can be called up. It has a total of 39 routines, as listed on . I don‘t know what routines are contained in the very messy Commodore DOS.

So the author is once more complaining about something he hasn’t properly researched or understood… and let’s pause to note dear reader that any computer running CP/M or MS-DOS was actually loading a third party operating system from disk so comparing it to the C64 without allowing the latter to do the same with something like a DOS wedge is both a false argument and hypocritical. So, although they’re a later example of a DOS wedge, your correspondent found four slightly battered Action Replay 6 cartridges earlier…

Four Action Replay 6 cartridges and friends

…including one modified to extend the freeze and reset buttons for use with a C128D[1].These are also third party programs which boot from an external ROM rather than disk but work in a similar manner, adding commands such as $ to read the directory, @N to format a disk, @V to validate, @S to scratch a file, @C to copy files and @B to duplicate an entire disk either via RAM or from one drive to another. There aren’t drive letters of course because Commodore computers use numbers so commands like @8 or @9 select the relevant drive for the other commands.Formatting a blank disk with an Action Replay 6 cartridge

For example this is how to format a blank disk for example, @N is the format command (short for “new” as in new disk) whilst C64CD is the disk label and 64 the ID.

Linux operating system is open source, which makes it highly customisable. It comes in lots of different varieties, called “distros” (distributions) meaning that the software included with each distro and how to install new software varies greatly.

This is off topic as noted earlier but okay… your correspondent would argue that Linux is actually too customisable, that the huge range of distros makes it difficult to get into as a beginner or even intermediate user and that said flexibility has more likely harmed rather than helped Linux as a desktop operating system over the years. Even for someone with a bit of computing experience it can be a painful ride, with desktop environments varying significantly and commands from one distro either not working or at least functioning differently on another.

I don‘t think it depends on any ROM, because it can run on PCs, Macs, and Raspberry Pi computers.

When a computer is turned on there’s some kind of ROM-based code in charge initially so yes, Linux does depend on it. In some cases like the Raspberry Pi it merely mounts the SD card’s file system and hands off control, but the average PC BIOS will go much further to the point of specifying which device the operating system is going to boot from and then handing over information about the system including RAM size and available drives.

At the end of the author’s latest missive  your correspondent finds himself wondering what the end game might be with this particular line of “thought”. Presumably he’s trying to build another worthless anti-C64 “argument” where not having an operating system (by some definitions at least) is somehow an issue but that’s easily debunked merely by looking at all of the users and indeed programmers who didn’t find that to be an issue either on the C64 or with other 8-bits which are similarly lacking in that department. There’s apparently more to come so we’ll have to wait and see where this goes next, and hopefully the author will actually be on topic next time… although that would be more than a little surprising if it were to happen.

[1] The Action Replay 6 cartridges are accompanied in the picture by a far more recent Turbo Chameleon and 1541 Ultimate 2 which can both, among many other functions, pretend to be one as well.

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