Archive for December 2012

Shipwrecked with Commodore PETS   Leave a comment



A Commodore PET computer

When I was quite young, I had the misfortune to be shipwrecked on an isolated island. All of us survivors stayed there for several years.

We were shipwrecked in the year 1978 and weren’t rescued until 1984.

Luckily for us, our Second Officer seemed to have a vast array of knowledge at his disposal about how to survive in this kind of situation. We called him “The Chief”.

There were some Commodore PET computers on board, which survived us being shipwrecked. Amazingly enough, The Chief managed to generate some electricity by various means, not limited to the ship’s portable generators, which was enough to keep most of them going. These were the first computers I ever used.

We all knew about Commodore’s reputation as a business company, so we felt privileged to be using these ground breaking computers.

The bundled green screen monitors were easy on the eye, unlike some other computers, such as the TRS80 or Apple II, which often had to be plugged into TV sets. I thought we were lucky not to have been stuck with either of those computers!

We used to while away the long wait for a ship to rescue us by writing quiz programs, as well as creating ASCII art, because the Commodore PET came without hires graphics. As the years went by, we couldn’t help wondering what advances in computer technology were going on in back in civilisation, which we hoped to return to one day.

When we were finally rescued by a ship in 1984, we couldn’t wait to find out about the latest computer technology. We noticed first of all that there were various computers with colour displays and built in high resolution graphics, instead of monochrome green or B&W text only displays. Commodore had released two colour computers while we’d been marooned on our island. These were the VIC-20 and the Commodore 64, although the PET line of computers still continued, but had diverged into business, while the colour computers were for home users.

We noticed that lots of new companies had also brought out computers. These included Sinclair , Acorn with their BBC Micro, Atari, Dragon, Tangerine with their Oric, Memotech, Spectravideo, etc, etc.

Not long after I arrived back home in Britain, I started watching a TV series called “Me & My Micro”, presented by Fred Harris. This showed simple techniques for creating games in BASIC, pointing out that this language had different dialects for different computers. I was surprised to learn from watching this that both the Sinclair Spectrum computer (using Sinclair BASIC), as well as the Acorn Electron (with BBC BASIC) had commands which could specify a vertical as well as a horizontal position for any text or graphics character to be printed on the screen! On the Commodore PET, you had to mess around with cursor control codes, as well as LEFT$, MID$, or RIGHT$ to get this done. I also discovered there was also a great new command called INKEY$, which enabled the keyboard to be read a lot more quickly and simply than Commodore’s old GET$ command. I heard there were translations of the BASIC listings from the free booklet for other computers, but these may never have come out. After further investigation, I couldn’t believe it when I found out that even after 7 years, Commodore still weren’t using a built in BASIC which used these commands or their equivalent. I realised this because I read games listings in magazines and books full of PEEKs and POKEs! After watching this amazing TV series, I decided to buy a Sinclair Spectrum. Thank you soooo much Fred Harris!


The book accompanying the TV series

Posted December 28, 2012 by C64hater in Uncategorized