THE COMMODORE 64 THE EU AND BREXIT
Britain in isolation
At the beginning of 1957, the European Economic Community (EEC) was formed. This group was originally made up of West Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. They were joined in 1973 by Britain, Ireland, and Denmark, then in 1981 by Greece. The following year, the Commodore 64 was released.
The aims of the EEC (which later became the European Communities or EC, then later still the European Union or EU) were to prevent another war between its member states, protect them from being threatened by larger countries in the World, as well as to become more or less self sufficient, involving lots of trade protectionism, meaning that although some goods from the rest of the World would be allowed in, most of the goods consumed in the EEC would be produced in the EEC. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) made sure that the EEC could feed itself by paying farmers to keep producing as much food and drink as possible, surplus to demand. This created what were called a “butter mountain” and a “wine lake”. Sometimes, the butter had to be sold to the USSR because there was so much of it, but the objective of being self sufficient in food and drink had been achieved.
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. 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, where European computers weren’t popular and even more so in Japan. I also remember Tony Bastable (RIP) in the ITV series Database reporting from Japan that they couldn’t find a single computer on sale which was European or American. They were ALL Japanese!
There is such a thing as non tariff barriers. Some examples of these were France insisting that all video recorders sold there must have SCART sockets, as well as forcing all Japanese video recorders to be inspected by a single inspector to slow them up getting through customs. 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.
An emulator of the Robotron A5105 computer released in mid 1989 in the final 15 months of East Germany
Meanwhile, in the Eastern Bloc, Warsaw Pact, or COMECON countries, western technology was either banned or not allowed to be sold to those countries, so they made their own. Sometimes, these computers were clones or lookalikes of western computers, such as the Sinclair Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Apple ][, as well as high end IBM minicomputers or mainframes, but produced in the east. Other times they produced fairly original computers, such as the East German Robotron A5105, which was a combination of Amstrad CPC type hardware, that had been upgraded to display more colours (320×200 with 16 colours, 640×200 with 4 colours), but with a BASIC called RBASIC, similar to MSX BASIC. This proved it could be done. A demo disk shows a another Robotron KC Kleincomputer model, which is just a CPC clone.
Robotron Kleincomputer CPC clone demo disk
Meanwhile, the Brazilian government allowed Brazilian companies to copy foreign companies’ designs and sell them in Brazil.
A Brazilian computer enthusiast shows off the TK90X Sinclair ZX Spectrum clone
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.
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. It also had a bus extension system, allowing it to accept plug in cards. Unfortunately, it didn’t have hires graphics, but these could have been added on a plug in card later on, plus there was an upgraded version for business, called the ABC800, which did have graphics. Unfortunately, this computer wasn’t very successful outside Sweden, which was probably due to Sweden only being part of EFTA instead of the EEC. Similarly, in New Zealand they also developed some innovative computers, such as the Poly-1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poly-1 and the Aamber Pegasus https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aamber_Pegasus , which even used a dial to select one of several boot ROMs, but as New Zealand had a small population and wasn’t part of a big integrated trading bloc, they weren’t very successful outside New Zealand, or even at all.
Nowadays, about 85% of countries in the World are either in or about to join a bloc of countries promoting free trade, a common market, or economic and political union. There are blocs in southern Africa, west Africa, east Africa, the Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, South America, and elsewhere https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trade_bloc
Prime Minister Theresa May leads Britain into isolation
The phenomenon known as Brexit is short for Britain exiting the EU. If this mad shit actually happens, then it will mean no free access to the EU Single Market, a lack of resources to design and produce goods, as well as individual consumers in the EU boycotting British goods, which has already started. It can be summed up as “Little Britain”, named after the BBC sitcom. 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. The price of computers in Britain has already started to increase, as you can read about on https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/feb/16/microsoft-raises-prices-of-some-laptops-by-up-to-400-due-to-brexit?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=213681&subid=15597259&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2
Apart from the above, there could be lots of very cheap and crappy goods flooding into Britain from China, with hardly any restrictions at all. A lot of these goods could lack fundamental features that buyers would automatically think should be included, similar to the BASIC on the C64. Some examples of this from the past are Amstrad video cameras and satellite receivers. In spite of marketing the excellent CPC computer range, Amstrad later brought out a camcorder with no zoom, and no playback through the non existent viewfinder, as well as satellite receivers not designed to pick up more than 16 channels, without decoders, and no facility to tune into audio carriers on different frequencies from the Astra satellites. This was OK for the original unencrypted Sky TV UK package and other channels on the Astra 1 satellite, but required add ons when Astra 2 was launched, as well as when Sky UK was encrypted. I think people should watch out in case China produces a phone which can’t make phone calls, but can only send texts and run apps. 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”. I think people should just download whatever is on Sky TV that they want to watch from Torrent sites, and subscribe to or build a VPN if necessary to subvert any restrictions on Torrents by their ISP. Also don’t watch Fox productions at all (e.g. 24, (Fear) The Walking Dead, The Simpsons), because Fox is owned by Rupert Murdoch, so they may contain brainwashing and even subliminal messages.
Just imagine what a difference it would have made! If the Commodore 64 had been banned in the EEC !
MAKING MUSIC – PART 2
The Batman TV series theme
I wanted to make music. I’d tried playing in bands, but the problem was musical differences. I ended up playing with people who badly wanted to sound like someone else instead of doing their own thing.
Eventually, I found out that I could use a computer to play all the instruments. It wasn’t a really good idea on computers which had only three or even four channel synthesizer chips, but the Yamaha CX5M Music Computer was much better with its eight channel synthesizer module.
Software which enabled people to program a synthesizer to play different instrumental parts at the same time was in general called a sequencer. Vince Clarke revealed in the BBC documentary “Synth Britannia” that he left Depeche Mode after finding out that sequencers enabled him to make all the music himself, although he still needed a singer to accompany him. After leaving to form Yazoo, followed by Erasure, his musical style didn’t really change, although you might not agree on that point. As for me, I found that I was up against other musicians determined to just be a pale copy of someone else. It was no good telling them here was a song or some music I’d written, “Now just get on and play it! do as you’re TOLD!” For that, I needed a computer which would obey my commands. I even had a Grandad who thought the solution to this was him having a big win doing the football pools gambling system, after which he said “You’ll get your band”. Perhaps he was thinking of something more like a 1940’s Big Band orchestra, where musicians might have been hired and paid to do as they were told, who knows?
My first adventures playing electric music involved reading the book “Lead Guitar” by Harvey Vinson. This explained to me about the pre Rock ‘n’ Roll music called The Blues, which it said was the ancestor or basis of Jazz, Country, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and later Rock Music, as well as Soul Music. It involved playing musical phrases called riffs over the same old chord sequence called “Twelve Bar Blues” or “Blues Progression”. It can be heard in most 1950’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Music, as well as the 1960’s Batman TV series theme music, and most Status Quo songs. Of course, this same old tune couldn’t carry on forever, people had got sick of it, so that meant I had hardly ever heard any songs which used it. The chord sequence went G G7 C G G D C G D7, with mostly Major chords and a few seventh chords here and there. If you started on another chord, such as E, then it would go E E7 A E B A E B7, for example. You go up 2.5 tones at first, followed by 1 tone. On a guitar or bass guitar, each fret represents half a tone. It said I was supposed to make up my own riffs from the Major Blues Scale which would fit over the chord progression. These riffs were supposed to be moved across the guitar fretboard as the chords changed. It was totally cliched and had been done to death years before.
“Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Led Zeppelin, a band so derivative that they’ve settled out of court for Copyright infringement at least a few times
The first tune I ever learnt to play by anyone else was “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones. I started playing it on one string before learning to play it with bar chords, which means chords that can be moved up the fretboard by placing the index finger across all 6 strings. Chords which don’t use this technique are called open chords, meaning some of the strings aren’t fingered at all. “Blitzkrieg Bop” was off their first album “The Ramones” and didn’t feature the Blues Progression, although it contained chords which were the same distance apart, meaning E, A and B. My point is that the chord sequence wasn’t the same. Most Ramones songs were a kind of three chord song, but some of them featured additional chords used briefly and they could all be played using two movable bar chords, based round the open chords E and A, so no problems there after finding out just how to press down the strings with the index finger, which took me a few months.
The book “Lead Guitar” by Harvey Vinson didn’t mention that there were variations on the 12 bar Blues, such as the 8 bar Blues, or 16 bar Blues, and even 32 bar Blues, which would have made things less monotonous.
Funky 16 bar Blues
8 bar Blues (2 variations)
A variation on the 12 bar Blues is the song “Let’s Dance” first performed by Chris Montez, which was a hit in 1962 (not to be confused with the David Bowie song of the same name), as well as appearing on The Ramones first album “The Ramones”. As for the 12 bar Blues Progression, it may have helped me learn to play electric guitar and bass, but I found it was best to forget about it and make up my own chord sequences, like almost everyone else seemed to have done, changing chords whenever I felt like it.
“Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones
There are 12 notes in an octave, including sharps and flats. This means there are only so many combinations of these notes that can be played, which can lead to claims of Copyright theft or plagiarism. Notes which are an octave apart obviously the same note just higher up or lower down. However, the system of dividing a range of frequencies up into 12 notes is totally artificial. There is actually a much larger, some say infinite, range of notes in between two notes an octave apart. These notes can only be played by stringed instruments without frets (e.g. Violins, Cellos, Double Bass, fretless Bass Guitar), employing different tunings, bending strings, or using pitch bend on electronic keyboards, synths, or samplers. Unfortunately, a lot of people, or even most people, are so used to hearing the traditional notes that they might complain such music is out of tune.
So that explains the basics of how to play music. After that, you need to learn how to apply it on computers.
It’s now 2017, the 35th anniversary of the release of the Commodore 64, which is nothing to celebrate. However, it’s also the 30th anniversary of the release of the Amiga A500, the computer which enabled lots more people to afford an Amiga. Don’t forget that the Amiga has nothing to do with the C64 except that Commodore bought the company. The Amiga is based on Atari 8 bit computers, both projects headed up by Jay Miner (RIP). Unfortunately, the Amiga A500 had no expansion slots which accepted plug in cards, just the less capable side expansion edge connector often used for hard drives, as well as the trapdoor slot for RAM expansions, unlike IBM PC compatibles, the Apple ][, or even early S100 bus systems based on the Altair 8800 computer. This is one reason why it wasn’t more successful. Just imagine how things could have been if Amiga A500 owners could have plugged in an amazing third party graphics card which could have given the graphics edge back to the Amiga over PCs, instead of just keeping up with PCs when the AGA chipset was released. Commodore never upgraded the sound chip at all. As the Amiga developers said “We made the Amiga, THEY fucked it up!”, referring to Commodore as THEY.
MAKING MUSIC – PART 1
A weird tune I recently created on my new/old Yamaha CX5M Music Computer using the Yamaha FM Music Composer Program
After thinking a lot about The Machine Language Book of The Commodore 64, I was writing another post about it, but of course this is a very complicated subject, so I didn’t know how to finish it. I was also involved in political campaigns for the Mayor of London and Greater London Assembly (GLA), as well as the EU Referendum. I was devastated and sidetracked by the leave result, which means the abolition of the UK/Britain, serious isolationism for England and Wales and that I must leave the country ASAP. Then, I got an email asking if I was alright and when I’d make another post. My answer to that was I was still alive, but basically that I didn’t know when I’d make another post. Now, after over three months without any new posts, I decided to do this post instead.
Making music was one of the reasons I bought a Commodore 64. It was one of the computers described in that lying buyers’ guide “The A-Z of Personal Computers” as containing a 3 channel synthesizer chip. This detail was true, but of course there was a catch. After I found out that some computers had built in three channel synthesizers, while other computers only had tone generators or beepers, I decided to go for a computer which did have a synthesizer chip. This more or less limited my choice to one of the range of Atari computers with FOUR sound channels, the BBC Micro, the Commodore 64, the Oric-1, a Memotech MTX, or the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A. When I was choosing one, I didn’t know about any upgrade peripherals which could add a synthesizer chip to any of the other computers. I was disgusted when I found out I could’ve bought a peripheral for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum which added such a chip. Of course, there were also replacement keyboards for the rubber calculator key ZX Sinclair Spectrum, which would have shut my Dad right up with his saying of “Word processing. Word PROCESSING!”
The Commodore 64 seemed to have everything I needed, although I knew I didn’t really need 64K, because plenty of computers had less than that amount of RAM. It had a three channel synthesizer chip, came with “BASIC” built in, and had a good amount of software widely available for it. I thought the Commodore 64 came with everything I needed to play music on it. I was shocked to find out that it didn’t. After that, I bought an Amstrad CPC664, then started to have lots of fun drawing lines across the screen and playing simple tunes.
About two years after buying a C64, in early 1986, I bought a Yamaha CX5M Music Computer. This computer was part of the MSX standard, which I’d read a lot about, but I knew it contained an FM Synthesizer Module, which wasn’t part of the MSX standard. I was previously told in a music shop (i.e which sold musical instruments) that the Yamaha CX5M is a true musical instrument, but the Amstrad CPC wasn’t. It came with everything needed to play music on it. Built in was a non standard MSX command CALL MUSIC. The command CALL on MSX always refers to something contained on a ROM other than the MSX BASIC ROM. Typing this in at the MSX BASIC 1.0 Ok prompt turned off MSX BASIC 1.0 and brought up a page allowing the user to control the FM Synthesizer Module enough to play music. It even allowed the user to save or record the data to cassette or cartridge, although I never used this facility, I only recorded compositions from the FM Music Composer, and the DMS-1 cartridge. A synthesizer is called that because it can make up or synthesize an almost infinite range of sounds. An electronic keyboard is stuck with a fixed number of sounds. A synthesizer doesn’t actually have to have a music keyboard built in either. The FM Voicing Program was what enabled me to make up my own unique sounds.
I originally learnt to play music on an electric guitar and bass guitar, after playing only a few notes and a couple of short tunes on pianos. The electric guitar and bass seemed a better way of making music. I first learnt to play my first tune written by anyone else on just the sixth (i.e. the thickest) string before learning to play it using bar chords, meaning that the first finger is placed across all the strings, allowing guitarists to play the same chord shapes for Major, Minor, Seventh, Ninth, Minor Ninth, Diminished, etc chords at any fret, meaning root note, on the guitar.
One problem with that was the need to find other musicians who would agree exactly with my musical style, have the right image, etc. The CX5M made that unnecessary.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t make much use of the knowledge I’d gained from playing guitar and bass, because I was suddenly given only the choice of playing on a piano type keyboard, or inputting notes using the computer keyboard. There was no way to hook up a guitar to the CX5M via MIDI. There may have been MIDI guitars and MIDI guitar adaptors, but unfortunately, due to a design fault, MIDI IN on the original CX5M SFG-01 FM Synthesizer Module didn’t work! This meant I was stuck with the music keyboard and the computer keyboard.
I managed to compose several tracks on my trusty Yamaha CX5M, as well as input some sheet music and play it back. After that, I got sidetracked, as follows…
The Soho Roses’ final gig, in 1989 which I went to, showing the guitar based Glam/Sleaze or Glam/Trash Rock with accompanying fashions and lifestyle
About two years after buying the Yamaha CX5M, I experienced the attitude, as mentioned in the BBC Documentary “Synth Britannia” that synthesizers had gone out of fashion and guitars were back in fashion. In my case it was about being part of a close knit group or cult, based on a personal recommendation from someone I met. There was a lifestyle attached to that, with lots of gigs and some clubs, although I hadn’t been going out much in the period just before that, because it seemed there was nowhere to go and nothing to do, or anywhere I could go was totally out of fashion, due to the rapidly changing and cliquey attitude associated with the music. This made me go back to playing the electric guitar again, which I hadn’t forgotten how to play, as well as to neglect and even stop playing the CX5M altogether.
Synth Britannia (BBC)
Some time later, I answered a Musicians Wanted ad as a guitarist. The ad was placed by a female singer. We got together and formed the nucleus of a band. She also told me about a vacant flat, which was how I got my first flat. The two of us tried recording vocals, guitar, bass, and drums, in my bedroom, as well as in rehearsal studios onto a four track Fostex machine, which used the then standard compact audio cassettes as one sided instead of two sided. These recordings were all quite distorted, though. Unfortunately, we never managed to get any more members, or at least not permanent members. I could have programmed my CX5M to play the missing instruments of bass guitar and drums, but that was totally disapproved of in this scene, so we needed people to play bass and drums live, but I tried and failed to program convincing electric guitar type sounds on the CX5M. The main problems we faced were other people not wearing the right clothes and not having the right hairstyles, as well as the people we saw at gigs and clubs not being able to play any instruments, or already being in a band. I was driven in desperation to teach a woman we’d met who had “the right image” to play the bass guitar. Unfortunately, although she actually went out and bought her own bass guitar, she wasn’t dedicated enough to learning. She was from northern England, but living in London with her family. She kept hanging round with people visiting London from northern England, then later on complained that she didn’t have any friends in London, so she decided to go back up north! If we’d all been squatting together instead, then I think things would’ve been different.
As for the very short track at the start of this post which I composed on my new/old Yamaha CX5M, I should explain how I did it. A well known mnemonic (i.e. memory aid) to learning standard music notation is that the lines on the treble clef stave are, from the bottom to the top, “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour”. The spaces in between can be remembered by the word “FACE”. The bass clef stave is different, so I made up my own mnemonic for the lines, which is “Good Boys Deserve Favour Always”. You might like to make up your own mnemonic for the spaces in between, with the notes ACEG. Although I know what kind of sound one note followed by a particular other note will make, I decided to input all the notes on the treble clef without thinking how they’d sound. This created a different type of tune, which I think has given me my inspiration back to create more tracks. Unfortunately, my creativity was sucked dry a few years ago after being granted so many free recording sessions that I just couldn’t think of any more tunes. Of course, bands like 1950s Rock ‘n’ Rollers, or Status Quo would just have done more riffs based on the Blues Progression.
That’s all for now! You can look forward to another post about making music, or about “The Machine Language Book of The Commodore 64” in the near future.
THE MACHINE LANGUAGE BOOK OF THE COMMODORE 64 – PART 2
The book in question
Now for another instalment about this amazing book, which wasn’t published or promoted by Commodore at all, but I think copies should have been given away with every Commodore 64 sold. At the very least, I think Commodore should have included a business reply card in each C64 box saying something like “Are you serious about programming your C64? If so, then you need this book! Please register your C64 with Commodore within 28 days of purchase to get a copy of this book at the discounted price of… Meanwhile we hope you enjoy using the built in Commodore BASIC V2, which is designed to produce text based applications only”. This card could also have mentioned some other amazing books by Data Becker/Abacus and by Compute! , where the exclamation mark is actually part of the name.
As I pointed out in the last post of this series, I couldn’t get the LEA Assembler I typed in to work, and couldn’t find a working copy of it for download either, so this means that I’d need to alter the Assembler Directives and syntax slightly to get any of the code in this book to Assemble and run on another Assembler.
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. The Table of Contents lists the Pseudo Opcodes or Directives as EQU (=), ORG, PUT, VAR, SAV, DSK, END, DUM, and DEND. It follows these up with lists of commands for what it calls formatting, strings, data and allocation. Some of these may be necessary, such as TXT, ASC, and .DFB, so I’ll look at the Directives and those other three commands first, then may come back to the several other commands listed in the manual later. The Directives are used as follows. Label EQU expression , or label = expression. Another one is ORG expression , which the manual explains is $8000 by default. This is much lower than the commonly used $C000 which LEA seems to use by default. PUT filename allows the user to place a filename in RAM for assembly at the location of this opcode. DSK filenme will assemble directly to disk. END denotes the end of your source file. TXT “ABC” will Assemble ABC as Commodore PETSCII, but ASC “ABC” will Assemble ABC into standard ASCII. It seems that DFB can be followed by any one byte long numbers or text, or even a list of these separated by commas.
The Machine Language Book of The Commodore 64 doesn’t list any Directives in its Table of Contents, so I’ll have to go through it to find out what they are. I’ve already mentioned in the previous post in this series that = is EQU and .EN is END , though. On page 94 it starts by telling us to define a label as some optional text in the first column. The example given is called simply LOOP , which isn’t followed by anything in that column. After this, we can use BNE LOOP to get back there. Labels can have a maximum length of five characters, which is much better than Commodore BASIC V2 limit of two significant characters for variable names. As I mentioned earlier .EN means that your source code ended with the previous line. The Directive ORG , meaning put the code at the following address, doesn’t seem to be needed, because there’s no mention of this or an equivalent in the first few example programs. On page 99, we learn that labels can also be used to stand for addresses in the memory map. In that case they have to be inputted using all three columns in the BASIC V2 editor. An example of this is VIDEO = $400 , which defines the screen memory as beginning at $400 or 1024 decimal. After this, we’re introduced to the use of *= instead of ORG. The Directive *= is placed in the second column, followed by the address $C000 in the third column. The address $C000 or 49152 decimal seems to be the most commonly used location for storing Machine Language programs on the C64, at least while the BASIC V2 interpreter is still turned on. The book explains that 4K of space is available at that location. It seems there’s a lot you can do with 4K on an 8 bit computer. On pages 100-101, we’re introduced to the Directive .BY , where it’s explained that this is used to store data or text which follows it. I think this would be .DFB in Merlin 64, DB, DEFB, or BYTE or some other Assemblers I’ve read about some time ago, but I can’t remember which ones. I think this knowledge may now be enough to convert some listings from this book for other Assemblers! Examples of .BY given are .BY 100 , .BY $7F , and .BY CR , which I think stands for carriage return, but there’s no mention of if or where this is defined. It may be that .BY is more complicated than similar directives in other Assemblers, because it can also divide a 16 bit value into two 8 bit values using the operators < and > , but I think we’ll leave that til later. Immediate addressing is carried out by prefixing operands with the # character, while zero page addressing is achieved by prefixing operands with the * character. After this, we’re told we now know enough to start using the LEA Assembler.
I’ve recently found a quite obscure book about 6502 Assembly Language and there’s also Jim Butterfield’s book, but I’ve decided to deal with them in a later post.
Unfortunately, it looks like I can’t afford to buy another C128 or even a C64 at the moment, especially as I still need to buy a frying pan, a saucepan, a sharp knife, a plunger, and go for some more badly needed nights out.
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. Perhaps you’d like to have a go at this yourself.
THE MACHINE LANGUAGE BOOK OF THE COMMODORE 64 – PART 1
The book that reveals lots of C64 mysteries
You can download a copy of this book from the page http://www.bombjack.org/commodore/books.htm about two thirds of the way down.
My original version of this post, or even of the whole series of these posts, was lost when my laptop was stolen by a schizophrenic bastard madman who had given me shelter under his roof, but then kicked me out on the street to die after just eight days because of his mad fantasies that I had stolen his rail card and was also trying to set fire to his house. Now I’m starting to write it again from scratch.
This is a truly amazing book by author Lothar Englisch published by Data Becker GmbH and republished by Abacus Software Inc about how people could manage to program the Commodore 64 to do lots of things that users of Atari 400/800/XL/XE computers, Apple ][ computers, Acorn computers, MSX computers, and virtually any non Commodore computer could do in BASIC. By that I mean write programs using colour, graphics, and sound which would run on any other computer of the same model or a compatible model. Of course, owners of the Commodore 16, Commodore Plus/4, Commodore 116, and Commodore 128 computers could do these things using their built in BASIC as well, although only the Commodore 128 has a synthesiser chip, while the others have just a tone generator.
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 means that most people attempting to learn 6502 Machine Language for the C64 would fail. After that, they probably have to wait for the Data Becker/Abacus BASIC compiler to be released, be lucky enough to hear that it existed, as well as probably buy a disk drive.
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. It includes a BASIC listing for an Assembler called LEA for Lothar Englisch Assembler, which is used alongside a program called UNTOKEN, that allows the user to type in Assembly Language using the Commodore BASIC V2 editor without the Assembly Language mnemonics being mistaken for short versions of BASIC commands, then tokenised and converted into the long versions of these commands. 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. You’re probably thinking now why not just use another Assembler? The answer to that is it’s not that simple, because some of the Directives and other syntax for this Assembler are slightly different to any other Assembler. This means that I need to make a list of Directives for all 6502 or C64 Assemblers, as well as make notes of what different syntaxes may be used before I understand what changes I need to make to the Assembler listings in this book to get them to Assemble and run on another Assembler. Labels are defined by = signs with a certain number of spaces, code ends with .EN , but I’m not sure what else. There seems to be no disk image anywhere for download with the contents of this book typed in. I eventually lost all my data after putting the disks in a suitcase which I couldn’t carry, so I placed it into Left Luggage at Victoria Coach Station, London at the rate of £10 per day. The suitcase was either dumped after a few hours, or destroyed three months later.
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 followed by how to do that and more in Assembler/Machine Language. Later on, there’s even a section about how to extend the crappy Commodore BASIC V2.
Obviously, Commodore should have published a similar book to this one, at at least recommended it to all C64 owners, but AFAIK they didn’t do either of these things.
That’s all for now! I plan to make another post about this amazing book as soon as I can, but this will involve some more research into Directives on different Assemblers, buying a C128 or even a C64, etc.
WHY THE APPLE ][ COMPUTER IS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE COMMODORE 64 BEING CRAP
(DEBUNKING “CODE NOTES LANTERN OF D’GAMMA”)
The amazing Apple ][ computer
TMR of the blog “C64 Crap Debunk” has recently been making posts about an Apple ][ demo called “Lantern of D’gamma” https://c64crapdebunk.wordpress.com/2016/05/12/code-notes-lantern-of-dgamma/ , as if this is supposed to somehow prove that the C64 isn’t crap. I’ll try to explain here why this is totally irrelevant to the C64.
The original Apple ][ computer was released in 1977 when people were amazed by any computer at all, but the ones I saw at my local computer club in 1984 were all either the later Apple ][e, or Apple ][europlus models, so I’ll concentrate on that. You can read the specs on http://www.apple-history.com/aiie
The Apple ][e or //e is a very sturdy computer, expandable by using plug in cards, but unfortunately it was too expensive for most people to consider buying at about US$1,395 or about £1,250. It was totally unnecessary for Apple to charge that much, because other companies round the World managed to make much cheaper clones of the Apple ][. All Apple products have been overpriced ever since.
Unfortunately, the basic Apple ][e had only a beeper instead of a synthesiser chip, so it wasn’t what I was looking for. It would have been even more expensive to buy an upgrade on a a plug in card. In the USA, Apple ][e users could plug into a TV and get colour graphics. I thought the computers and their green screen monitors looked quite professional, but I didn’t know that they couldn’t display colour on European PAL TVs without a graphics card.
The Apple ][e had a 32K ROM compared to the C64’s total of 16K ROM, including BASIC and an Assembler/Monitor, but as the system was mainly or entirely disk based, it was possible to load other versions of BASIC and other languages from disk.
Finally, here’s a graphics demo for the Apple ][e written in BASIC, without having to PEEK or POKE yourself to death!
That’s all for now! Another post about how crappy the C64 is will be posted here soon.
How Jack Tramiel and his former company Commodore killed the Amiga computer!
Jack Tramiel gloating at all the mess he’s made
I’ll try to keep this post short and sweet, so I’ve used a bulletted list. I think that’s the best way.
Jay Miner the visionary with the Amiga computer he designed
- Jack Tramiel bought Atari, the company which was supposed to buy the Lorraine Amiga computer from Amiga Inc
- Jack Tramiel was only interested in a deal to buy the custom chips from Amiga Inc and not in employing the design team
- Amiga Inc accepted a deal with Commodore who agreed to let them keep their jobs
- Jack Tramiel tried to sue Commodore Amiga Inc over the rights for the Amiga custom chips
- Jack Tramiel’s legal action delayed the release of the Amiga computer
- Jack Tramiel brought out his own hastily cobbled together Atari ST computer before the delayed Amiga computer
- Commodore soon kicked out the original Amiga design team because Jack Tramiel taught Commodore all they knew about doing business
- Commodore’s own engineers didn’t really understand the Amiga
- The original Amiga of 1985 was several years ahead of the competition but Commodore failed to upgrade it quickly enough so that it fell behind the competition
- Commodore slashed their R&D budget
I think this proves conclusively that Jack Tramiel is responsible for killing the Amiga, leading to the rise of the big business IBM PC compatible computers (now just called PCs) and Apple Macs with home users, but with business software at business prices. You can thank Jack Tramiel for all of that.
My Linux KDE Plasma interface
BTW, I’m writing this post on a Compaq Presario laptop, which cost me £81 on eBay http://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/ , onto which I’ve installed Linux Mint 17.3 Rosa KDE 64 bit edition, plus the Mac OSX like KDE Plasma interface, Cairo dock, and a Mac OSX theme, so this means I’ve saved a fortune by not buying an Apple Mac laptop.
For more details on how Jack Tramiel killed the Amiga click on the following links…
That’s all for now! Another amazing post will follow soon.