DE DEBUNKING “WITHOUT MUCH WARNING”   2 comments

DE DEBUNKING “WITHOUT MUCH WARNING”

This is in answer to TMR’s post http://c64crapdebunk.wordpress.com/2014/04/23/without-much-warning/

PCToday-84-02“Personal Computing Today” magazine, February 1984 edition, showing the Oric 1, Atari 400, Sinclair Spectrum, and Memotech MTX computers, which all had BASIC dialects far more advanced than the Commodore 64!

First of all. I think I should briefly de debunk some recent debunks by TMR which aren’t worth their own de debunks. First of all, some Acorn Computer staff in London told me that there was software which enabled the Acorn Electron to produce 3 channel sound. I never planned to attempt this in Assembly Language/Machine Code. A famous two page Acorn Electron ad promoted it as using BBC BASIC, the same language as used in most schools. Secondly, I was searching really hard for some techniques that would enable me to program graphics on the Commodore 64, but I never even heard of “The Transactor” until a couple of years ago. Interestingly enough, also in the same Transactor Issue as the “Graphics Utility”, there was a program Superkey-64, that upgraded the C64’s facilities to enable it to enter whole BASIC commands by pressing a combination of keys, like a Sinclair Spectrum or an Acorn Electron already had built into ROM! There was also an ad in Volume 4 Issue 3 for something called a “Stringy floppy”, which basically sounds quite like a Sinclair Microdrive, but bigger! To sum up “The Transactor” magazine, it’s all about the history of Commodore computers, written by expert enthusiasts, from the first PET, subsequent later PET or CBM models (brand name changed due to a complaint by Philips) and that if you understood the earlier Commodore computers, then it should be child’s play to understand the VIC-20 and the Commodore 64. Of course, this magazine was running for some time before it was available at newsagents in Canada and the USA instead of just by subscription, and I don’t remember ever seeing an issue in London, as in Britain, not London, Ontario! I now think it should have been sold at all shops selling Commodore computers in Britain.

As usual, TMR, who first learnt to program on a Commodore VIC-20 instead of the much more complicated C64, has tried to undermine and dismiss my posts, this time about the fact that most Commodore 64 buyers were unaware that they were getting a computer which couldn’t be programmed in the way that nearly all non Commodore computers could be programmed, by which I mean programming simple graphics, sound, and games in the BASIC built in on ROM. This was because they hadn’t read or heard any warnings about it.

As far as I remember with my amazing memory, back in 1984 there was a serious lack of magazines not dedicated to one make or model which published computer reviews. I’m not counting American magazines which were available, because they featured nearly all American computers, due to trade protectionism. I thought I should probably buy a computer made by a British/European company. It was only the Commodore 64’s and Atari’s “synthesizer chips” that made me consider otherwise. No computer magazines in other languages seemed to be available, due to language censorship. There were magazines published mainly monthly, about various makes of computer, which included one or two reviews in each issue, as well as “What Micro?”, where obviously the title is self explanatory. Other magazines included “Personal Computer World” or PCW magazine, “Personal Computing Today” (including BASIC listings with hints on conversion to other BASIC dialects), “Your Computer”, “Computing Today”, “Practical Computing”, “Computer Choice”, which seemed to be a buyers’ guide I never read, and “Big K”, mainly about games. Apart from this, there were the weeklies “Popular Computing Weekly” and “Personal Computer News”. You can find some of these magazines on http://www.archive.org . After buying a Commodore 64, then for as long as possible, after buying an Amstrad, and an Amiga, I usually bought “Popular Computing Weekly”, but not “Personal Computer News”, which I don’t think was very popular. “Popular Computing Weekly” later launched a purely games based spin off, which may have been called “Computer Gamesweek” and later faced competition from the newly launched “New Computer Express” until the weekly computer magazines nearly all died out, leaving just monthlies, apart from “Micro Mart”. I think it would probably have been a good idea to try and get hold of a back issue of the general consumer magazine “Which?” if they had ever done one specialising in computers, but that would have taken more time and effort, so I just bought magazines which were readily available, from newsagents.

Of course, various computer journalists either didn’t know much about computers but had been told by their publisher to try and write about them after reviewing video recorders, or they were experts who had built kits and been using computers since about 1978 or even earlier, who thought “BASIC is for wimps!”, or they were open to suggestion and persuasion by computer manufacturers, or perhaps they just didn’t care, so all this could easily explain why not many warnings were published about the Commodore 64 with its crappy BASIC V2. If it had been a car or motor bike with a very complicated, or crappy driving system compared with other cars or bikes, or a brilliant hi fi system, but with controls so complicated that most people couldn’t use it, then it would DEFINITELY have been mentioned! Perhaps the manufacturers of the car or motor bike with this crappy or complicated control system could have sold an adaptor or upgrade to people who had bought their vehicles to fix the problem for let’s say £50, or how about £150? Sounds like “a nice little earner”, as Arthur Daley the conman in the classic ITV series “Minder” might say. This series was on ITV while I owned a Commodore 64.

The early Commodore 64 KERNAL ROMs were buggy, as mentioned by “The Transactor” in Volume 4 Issue 2 Page 21. They were summed up as “TAB and SPC”, “Prompt Suppress After CONT”, and “Screen Editor Crash”. The screen colour RAM setup was changed and the INPUT command also had a bug, as described in the article “The INPUT Glitch” in Volume 4 Issue 5. This means that if the question in your INPUT command is longer than 39 characters, then you get the error message “?REDO FROM START”. I think I learnt I was supposed to use a PRINT command to print the question, instead of embedding it in an INPUT statement at all. Apart from this, the use of the C= key when loading from cassette was also changed. Of course, various other computers brought out before and after the C64 also had different ROM versions and the manufacturers gave programmers guidelines about using jump tables and techniques to avoid so that their software would still run on later ROM versions. These computers included the Atari 8 bit range, the Sinclair Spectrum, and the Amiga, which was largely a follow up to the Atari 8 bit range.

As for Commodore BASIC versions, from what I’ve read BASIC 3.5 and BASIC 7 can run BASIC 2 programs unless certain PEEKs and POKEs are used. BASIC 3.5 only appeared on the C16, Plus/4, and C116, which had incompatible hardware to the Commodore 64. I can load Commodore BASIC V2 programs on my C128 in BASIC V7 and list them, but they won’t always run, because POKEs to certain VIC-IIe chip and possibly also SID chip and even other chips’ addresses aren’t allowed, only to “shadow registers” at different addresses, as well as there being some interference from the improved BASIC screen editor with its Escape codes, which occupies the popular addresses for Machine Code programs starting at $C000/49152. I think this proves that there was no need for Commodore 64 owners to ever have suffered BASIC V2 hell!

Finally, I’ve found another Commodore 64 warning in the February 1985 issue of “Personal Computing Today”, which came up in a Google search and is on http://www.archive.org . I actually remember from seeing the pictures used that I actually bought and read this issue in 1985. It was too late to save me from buying a Commodore 64, but from the tone of the article called “Hardware Factfile”, starting on P74, this was a regular feature and contained information they’d published before. I don’t know how I managed to miss out on reading this. Their Commodore 64 review included the very damning sentence “One of the most versatile of the home computers, the CBM64 is renowned for its graphics and sound, but these functions are not easy to use, and require extensive use of the PEEK and POKE commands”. They also said about the Commodore 16 that it “has an advanced BASIC, received favourably by software houses and educationalists”, while the BBC Micro has “Excellent operating system and BASIC language employing procedures”, also that the Tatung Einstein has “very good, powerful BASIC”. Nice one, “Personal Computing Today”! This may have saved THOUSANDS of people from buying a Commodore 64!!!!

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Posted April 24, 2014 by C64hater in Uncategorized

2 responses to “DE DEBUNKING “WITHOUT MUCH WARNING”

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  1. Hi there, I enjoy reading through your article.
    I like to write a little comment to support you.

  2. Thanks a lot for that! I hope you are genuine and you make some more comments in the near future.

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