Down at the Computer Club   Leave a comment


I went along to a local computer club to have a look at various computers being used, even before I’d bought one. During my visits there, I saw various computers, including the Apple ][e, BBC Micro, Sinclair Spectrum, Commodore 64, Sinclair ZX81, Oric 1, and Sinclair QL. After one or two visits, I had bought a Commodore 64.

Later on, I hung round with other Commodore 64 owners at the club and felt we were part of a group. I watched and listened to a kind of tutorial session given to me and another Commodore 64 owner by the group leader. I thought I was getting somewhere. I often stayed up all night after coming back from the club, to practice something I’d learnt, or to try and take it further. I was really keen to learn!


My C64 TARDIS sprite 

One night at the club, I was going over a BASIC listing I had adapted from the Commodore 64 User Guide. This was the listing that displayed a sprite which looked like a hot air balloon and moved it across the screen. You can read about how stressful it was by clicking this link . I had changed the sprite to look like Doctor Who’s TARDIS and managed to display a second sprite identical to the first, then managed to get the two sprites to cross each other’s paths. After this, I asked the Commodore 64 group leader to show me some collision detection. He explained something which sounded too technical for me, then added some more commands to my program and after a little while, there were some numbers being displayed in the top left hand corner, which changed when the two TARDIS shaped sprites collided. I saved this new version of the program to cassette. After this, I asked the group leader the obvious next question, which was how could I make the sprites bounce off each other and head in different directions. His answer was “Oh, that would be VERY complicated!” I realised he must be very knowledgeable about the Commodore 64, otherwise he wouldn’t be the Commodore 64 group leader. He was much older than me, and I thought he might be a proper “Boffin”, meaning one of the people who had used computers before there was such a thing as personal computers or microcomputers at all. I wondered how long he’d owned one and what hope there was for me of ever really getting anywhere on that computer. I think this was the turning point when I lost faith in the Commodore 64, although I still wasn’t sure why. Of course, there were various computers which didn’t have sprites at all, but on those computers you could at least have user defined graphics characters (UDGs), which you could position vertically, as well as horizontally.

Later on, things got to the point where I realised that something was wrong, although I didn’t know what. Eventually, I found out that I’d been burdened with a computer that had no commands for colour, graphics, or sound. After this, I remember that one night I was staring across the room hypnotised by and drooling over a Sinclair QL displaying concentric circles in various colours. The next thing I knew, that Sinclair QL user had changed the size of the concentric circles just by making a small edit to one command. I was totally in awe! At the same time I felt really depressed, because this was something I could only DREAM of doing on my Commodore 64!!!!


A Sinclair QL computer

Sinclair QL SuperBASIC was like a more advanced version of Sinclair BASIC on the Spectrum, but with the addition of procedures, long variable names, and other commands similar to BBC BASIC. Unfortunately, the Sinclair QL sound chip could only produce beeps, it was supposed to be a business machine but wasn’t accepted as one, while it was a bit too expensive for most home users, so not that many Sinclair QL computers were ever sold. One Sinclair QL user was Linus Torvalds, creator of Linux. The design of the case was later adapted for new models of the Sinclair Spectrum computer.

Posted January 1, 2013 by C64hater in Uncategorized

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