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1984   Leave a comment

1984 1984IgnoranceA poster with a slogan from the book 1984, which also sums up the attitude behind Commodore 64 BASIC

I think I should take the time to explain more fully my hatred of the Commodore 64.

I was unlucky enough to get a Commodore 64 in 1984, which was the year after it came out in Britain.

I think that every computer then, as well as now, should be supplied with a programming language which is easy to learn and use. I believe that ANYONE can program a computer with the right language. This must be a high level language, NOT Assembly Language!


I’m talking about 1984, the year Virgin Atlantic airlines was launched with this kind of tasteless, sexist advertising (because there are only female flight attendants, one male pilot, his uniform isn’t Virgin red and this suggests that all Virgin pilots were male), NOT about what programmers have done on the Commodore 64 with any advantages that came out years later, such as buying an Atari or Apple ][ computer for peanuts off eBay

The Commodore 64 WASN’T supplied with a programming language which was easy to learn and use. It was supplied with an old dialect of BASIC which wasn’t even written for the Commodore 64.

AFAIK, almost every other “home computer” sold in and not long after 1984 had a reasonably modern dialect of BASIC which included commands for colour, graphics, and sound. These facilities were the most interesting aspects of a computer for most users of the new colour computers of the time, after the monochrome green screen displays of CP/M computers and others, as well as B&W computers such as the Sinclair ZX81 and the original TRS80.

“Home computers” sold in 1984 and around that year which DIDN’T have a reasonably modern and capable dialect of BASIC were the Commodore 64, Commodore VIC-20, the Aquarius, and the Jupiter Ace, but the Ace computer had an alternative language called FORTH built in. It didn’t have colour. The whole idea of FORTH is to add commands to it.

An exception was the Sharp MZ80K, which was part of a range that first appeared back in 1978! This computer had no language built in at all. BASIC or some other language had to be loaded from tape. This fact appeared in the buyers’ guide I read, so I never considered buying it. It didn’t even have colour or graphics! I think the BASIC was supplied with the computer, so that made it the standard BASIC for that machine.

I certainly don’t care about the prices of second hand Commodore 64 computers or compatible disk drives available nowadays wherever you may find any listed. I care about the fact that in and around 1984, the 1541 disk drive cost more than the Commodore 64 itself. I remember being in one of the main Commodore dealers in central London exchanging a faulty copy of an extended BASIC, watching various disk software running, as well as the nice clear sound through a dedicated monitor, instead of the distorted sound through a TV, but they were both out of my price range and an expensive way to try and fix Commodore’s mess.

I don’t care what software was written and what tricks were discovered some years after the Commodore 64 was released or even after I sold it in March or April 1985. I only care about the software available in 1984 and early 1985, as well as the totally inadequate BASIC supplied with the Commodore 64.


Your 64 magazine No. 1, April 1984. “Firing-up BASIC?! Add new words?” Little did I realise what this meant before I’d bought the Commodore 64. This cover says to me “Girls, buy yourself a Commodore 64 computer, then your boyfriend will be more interested in you when you manage to hold a conversation with him about it!”

If you visit the website , click on Downloads, then on Magazines, you’ll be able to read some vintage Commodore 64 magazines from 1984-1985, although by 1985 I’d given up on the Commodore 64 and was reading as much as I could about other computers. I remember reading Your 64, Commodore Horizons, and Your Commodore. These all contain ads for software designed to fix the mess Commodore had made of the Commodore 64. Instead of this crap, I could’ve been enjoying reading Antic and Analog for the Atari computer, or Sinclair User, and Your Sinclair, for the Spectrum.


Your Commodore No. 1, October 1984, encouraging Commodore 64 owners to learn Machine Code/Assembly Language to do things that owners of other computers could do with their built in BASIC. The Hex numbers listed, if used as opcodes are probably  C8 – INY, EA – NOP, 9F – STA-STX, 16 – ASL, D2 – HALT, but it’s far easier to use them on an Atari 8 bit, Apple ][, BBC Micro, or Acorn Electron than on a Commodore 64!

Whenever I hear about people who can somehow program the Commodore 64, I immediately wonder how they learnt to do this. I suspect it wasn’t actually on the Commodore 64, but on some other kind of computer, such as the Atari 8 bit computers, the Commodore PET, 4000, or 8000 series, the Apple ][, the BBC Micro, Acorn Electron, or Acorn Atom. This is because these other companies’ 6502 based computers were more user friendly than the Commodore 64, while the Commodore PET, 4000, and 8000 series weren’t more user friendly, but more simple than the Commodore 64. They didn’t come with colour, graphics, or sound.

My confidence was severely damaged by being defeated by the Commodore 64 and I couldn’t understand how anyone had managed to learn how to program it, but now I think the explanation is in the paragraph above. I thought I was over this upsetting period in my life, until I heard about some people who had the cheek to CELEBRATE the 30th anniversary of the Commodore 64, so I knew that I had to speak out.

Various people can perform amazing tasks such as memorising lists of names and numbers and solving difficult or almost impossible maths problems, but just because a very few people can do this doesn’t prove anything. Finally, Assembly Language or Machine Code isn’t a language for BEGINNERS! Before learning it, you must learn at least one other programming language, including using all facilities of a particular computer. Commodore 64 BASIC prevented users from doing that!


Posted August 1, 2013 by C64hater in Uncategorized