COMMODORE 64 BOOK REVIEWS   Leave a comment

COMMODORE 64 BOOK REVIEWS

C64PREG
The Bible of C64 programming?

Here are some book reviews of Commodore 64 books dated 1984 or earlier, which I either read or could have bought and read when I owned a Commodore 64. The reviews are written as if they’d been done in 1984.

THE WORKING COMMODORE 64 BY DAVID LAWRENCE (SUNSHINE BOOKS)

This book consists of a serious of type in modules, which means the programs are built up in stages, and some modules can be used independently, as well as together. It includes a simple text editor, and a programmer’s tool kit of routines to merge, delete, and renumber (all available in Sinclair Spectrum BASIC and other BASICs). Unfortunately, there’s also a drawing program which doesn’t allow the user to save the drawings they create, so I think this is a sick joke. Don’t bother buying this book!

GRAPHIC ART ON THE COMMODORE 64 BY BORIS ALLAN (SUNSHINE BOOKS)

This book lists a system for doing LOGO language style turtle graphics in Commodore BASIC V2, which are already built in to Tandy and Dragon BASICs. You have to type in a very long listing from the back of the book, then this allows you to type in various short routines from the rest of the book, as well as make up your own. The whole thing is basically a cheap alternative to LOGO, but without any other features from that language.

Boris Allan sums up the C64’s built in BASIC quite accurately starting in his Introduction, with statements like “As the BASIC is so rudimentary, therefore, you have often to go outside BASIC to do even simple things: such as draw a straight line”, as well as “it is so surprising that Commodore have not provided a better standard BASIC”.

On the back cover, the C64 graphics chip is described as the VIC-Roman II, instead of the VIC-II, so this doesn’t inspire confidence about the accuracy of the type in listings contained in the book! At the end of the day, this book costs £5.95, but Commodore LOGO costs a lot more and only comes on disk! Other cheaper, turtle graphics software is available for the C64, though!

I think that what this book sets out to do could have been achieved much more impressively by listing a well commented Machine Language and Assembly Language programme which extends the limited Commodore BASIC V2 with a DRAW command that can work with a sequence of LOGO type commands, as in Tandy and Dragon BASICs.

Boris Allan is a columnist for the magazine Popular Computing Weekly.

THE COMMODORE 64 PROGRAMMER’S REFERENCE GUIDE (COMMODORE AND HOWARD W SAMS & CO. INC)

According to Commodore this book is supposed to be more or less the Bible of programming the Commodore 64, but I’ve found it doesn’t live up to that description.

Two examples of hires graphics using the SIN function to draw a wave, as well as a circle, are given, but there aren’t any more examples of hires graphics!

Sprites are also covered, including one shaped like a hot air balloon, as well as another one of a dancing mouse. Unfortunately, after going over these listings in detail, I have no real idea how they work.

There are a lot of numbers representing memory locations given. These numbers are in decimal, as well as Hexadecimal, as used in Assembly Language/Machine Code, but not accepted in Commodore BASIC V2!

Assembly Language/Machine Code is covered briefly, but doesn’t feature any colour, graphics, or sound. The sections which do cover these subjects are all in quite cryptic equations in Commodore BASIC V2. PEEK and POKE commands are required for anything to do with graphics or sound. It’s as clear as mud!

One chapter gives a list of about 40 routines in the Kernal ROM which can be called by the user. Details of what these are and how to call them up in Assembly Language are given. One of this which amazed me was PLOT located at 65520/$FFF0 which allows the user to set the text cursor VERTICAL coordinates as well as the horizontal coordinates!

In short, I wonder what the authors of this book were on when they wrote it?

SECRETS OF THE COMMODORE 64 BY P CORNES AND A CROSS (BERNARD BABANI PUBLISHING LTD)

This book contains a lot of useful information about the C64, especially considering its small size and low price of £1.95!

There are none of the usual Commodore control characters embedded in PRINT statements. Instead of this, the authors have used the PETSCII/ASCII codes for those characters, then put them into FOR…NEXT loops. You can even set the X and Y positions of characters to be printed!

There’s an extended BASIC for you to type in, which provides you with 9 extra commands, mainly for graphics. This was featured in Issue No. 1 of Your 64 magazine, although their instructions for inputting in were wrong. If you don’t feel like typing in all that pure Machine Code using a BASIC loader, then you can send off for a cassette priced at £4.95. It’s a pity the program WASN’T listed in Assembly Language as well, complete with comments.

I think this is an excellent book, especially for the price!

MACHINE LANGUAGE FOR THE COMMODORE 64 AND OTHER COMMODORE COMPUTERS BY JIM BUTTERFIELD (PRENTICE-HALL)

As the title suggests, the Machine Language routines in this book are compatible with various older Commodore computers, including the PET and VIC-20, not just the Commodore 64. Even the newer Commodore 16 and Plus/4 are covered although this book was written before they were released. This is possible, due to compatible processors and ROM routines that exist on all these computers, as well as notes about different memory locations to do the same thing on different Commodore computers, such as the screen RAM location, etc.

This book really is an eye opener giving the reader a good grounding in 6502 Assembly Language, as used in all Commodore computers mentioned above! The approach given is based on the lowest common denominator of PET 2000/4000/8000 range of computers, because it seems all the examples would run on those computers, as well as the Commodore 64. Unfortunately, due to this approach, there don’t seem to be any routines in this book for colour, graphics, or sound on the Commodore 64, because the PET computers don’t have those facilities. I think this book would prepare the reader to take things further with a book specifically covering Commodore 64 colour, graphics, and sound, though.

Author Jim Butterfield is a computer pioneer from Canada, who first used a mainframe computer in 1963, then after a break, he bought a KIM-1 6502 CPU based computer by MOS in 1976, BEFORE that company was bought out by Commodore. He is a long standing Commodore PET user and the Editor of the US magazine “Compute!”, covering various makes and models of computers, which was formerly called “The PET Gazette” and was dedicated to Commodore computers only.

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Posted December 6, 2013 by C64hater in Uncategorized

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