Debunking operations

Debunking Debunking TMR‘s “Prepare To Operate – Part 2”

TMR of the blog “C64 Crap Debunk” recently had the cheek in to debunk my excellent post examining operating systems in general and what they have to do with the Commodore 64!

The author’s uneducated gibberish about Linux and CP/M or distracted meandering about computers in science fiction are completely irrelevant to the his stated topic of “explaining why the Commodore 64’s BASIC V2 was crap and how some people managed to program the C64”. What exactly do either the Enterprise’s computer or Linux have to do with the C64 dear reader…?

I haven‘t actually written an operating system yet, but I think I may be able write one at some stage in the future.

Let’s pause to remember dear reader that the author has complained incessantly about how the C64’s BASIC forces people to deal with the computer directly but that’s exactly what he’ll have to do in order to program his own operating system – as opposed to using someone else’s code as a base – except without a fixed target platform to worry about; even choosing hardware that doesn’t vary too greatly between iterations such as the Raspberry Pi still gives a range of potential hardware to deal with.

The author has previously talked,  amongst other things, about producing his own version of Microsoft Extended BASIC for the C64 but that hasn’t materialised over four years later so his ability to complete the far more complicated task of writing an entire operating system really does have to be questioned. It’s a positive thing to have dreams of course but they don’t necessarily stand any chance of coming true; your correspondent wanted to be a tap dancer in his youth but had to stop due to balance issues[1].

To do this, I have to look at what other people have done, what operating systems have in common, and how they work.

Just looking superficially at how operating systems work won’t tell the viewer much about actual implementation, what’s happening “under the bonnet” is far more important since that can often shape what’s happening on screen.

I thought I expected computers to be absolutely amazing before getting one. This was based on what I‘d seen in sci fi series, such as Star Trek: The Original Series, Space 1999, Blake‘s Seven, and Doctor Who. Looking back at at episodes and clips from these series made before 1984, they show that none of the computers featured had a GUI, they were mainly voice controlled, could also speak, and either had lots of flashing lights, or panels with lighted switches

One of the problems with basing expectations on science fiction is right there in the term, they’re works of fiction and based on what the writers think may be possible with no guarantee those ideas are based on experience of knowledge of the current state of technology. Some of what was predicted by those programmes became reality over time – as often as not because fans went on to make them happen  – but it’s worth remembering the context because these voice-activated computers were usually found aboard faster-than-light capable starships in the distant future or as part of the control console of a type 40 TT capsule from another world.

The now obsolete Prime computer that Romana installed into the TARDIS in 1980 is at least “terribly interactive” even if we should possibly question the definition of the word “terribly” as used in that context.

 I think that the fictitious computers in these versions of Star Trek probably all contain a ROM or some equivalent RAM storage that can survive a reboot containing routines for graphics, so that creators of operating systems don‘t have to worry about doing this.

We need to pause and note that the author is here discussing his assumptions on the inner workings of fictional computers here dear reader. And,because there’s nothing available in the source material to back that or indeed any other argument, it’s equally valid to presume that the graphics routines were loaded from a DNA-based storage medium which was semi-sentient and relying on modified cow DNA with some extra routines to suppress the occasional dialogue box containing the word “moo”[2].

If he actually wants to understand more about the actual subject of operating systems the author could do a lot worse than looking at G. Pascal Zachary’s book Showstopper which is about the development an actual operating system for real computers, the team of people behind it and how much they sacrificed to get Windows NT written.

[1] He kept falling into the sink.

[2] That isn’t significantly more ridiculous than the author assuming that he knows how the operating system of a fictional computer aboard a starship from the future works, again it’s called science fiction for a reason.

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