64’ER MAGAZINE   Leave a comment

64’ER MAGAZINE

64er_1984-0464’er magazine’s first issue cover from April 1984 (04/84)

Now for a story about the magazine 64’er, which TMR can’t even read, apart from the program listings!

This magazine, by the company Markt & Technik (who also published “Happy Computer” magazine, as well as various books), started in Germany in about April 1984, which was the same time I got a Commodore 64, but due to language censorship and lack of distribution, I don’t think I ever heard about it until 2012 or 2013. A full, scanned archive of this magazine is now available online at http://www.64er-online.de/download/ , although all the advertisements have been covered up. I think it’s with the publisher’s permission, but if you’re interested I advise you to get it while you can, just in case!

In Britain during the 1980’s, only a few German language magazines were allowed to be distributed anywhere, but 64’er wasn’t one of them, although it’s possible it may have been sold in a few very obscure newsagents. This was in spite of books teaching German being widely available. There were plans to make the main German ARD TV news “Tagesschau” available using some pre Internet technology, but this idea was rejected by a TV presenter with the sentence “What would be the point of it, when so few people would understand it?” The answer was of course, that more people would have understood it if it had been available http://www.tagesschau.de . The “Tagesschau” was shown occasionally as part of the BBC German news series “Heute Direkt”, as well as the Austrian “Zeit im Bild” and the East German “Aktuelle Kamera”. The listings in 64’er magazine were for the Commodore 64, VIC-20, and C16/Plus 4 computers, which would also have worked on those computers being used in Britain. Japanese MSX computer magazines were available from the shop “Japan Centre” in London.

The magazine title 64’er isn’t hard to understand, even for non German speakers. If you owned a Commodore 64 you were a “64’er”, because Commodore was the first company to release a “home computer” which came with 64K on board, but by the time this magazine started Atari and some others had followed suit. Interestingly enough, a sequence of commands which is supposed to give access to the whole 64K, although it claimed to make it look like the C64 had died, didn’t actually work on my C128 in C64 mode! I just got the “READY.” prompt. This magazine was also a 64’er and had the title masthead in a C64 type rainbow. It was mainly about the C64, although other Commodore computers, such as the “VC-20” (standing for VolksComputer, meaning VIC-20) and the newer C16, Plus/4, and even the original concept C116 with its calculator type keyboard, were also featured early on, as well as the C128 from 1985.

Unfortunately, Commodore soon managed to seize 50% of the home computer market in Germany, so 64’er magazine was devised as a way of helping people who found themselves in the traumatic situation of owning a Commodore 64 or VIC-20, while the lucky owners of other makes of computer could carry on reading “Happy Computer” by the same publisher instead. 64’er magazine got onto the subject of extended BASICs right from the first issue! Amstrad wasn’t active in Germany at this time, but luckily, the company Schneider licensed the Amstrad CPC464 for sale in Germany as the Schneider CPC464, then later the CPC664 and CPC6128 as well, to save more people from the fate of owning a Commodore 64.

In Germany there’s a popular attitude that computers and other devices can be completely uncovered and even reverse engineered, as shown in the series of Data Becker books republished in the USA by Abacus. 64’er magazine was another example of this. The staff all seemed to think “Let’s FIX the Commodore 64!”

Even in the first issue of 64’er there are articles pointing out that the built in C64 BASIC V2 was severely lacking. These articles featured fixes for C64 BASIC V2, including in Issue 1 (April 1984) “Strubs” (a structured BASIC pre compiler) and Simons’ BASIC. However, what was even more amazing was that Issue No. 2 (May 1984) included in the Simons’ BASIC Part 2 article short C64 BASIC V2 listings showing how to turn on the graphics screen, plot points and draw lines, although this was supposed to be just to demonstrate how much easier it was in Simons’ BASIC. The BASIC V2 listings certainly didn’t require marathon typing sessions like in Boris Allen’s book “Graphic Art on the Commodore 64”, though. These programs (not counting REM lines) took just 10 lines to turn on the graphics screen, an additional 8 lines to plot some points, and another 18 lines of BASIC V2 to draw some lines on the screen. Unfortunately, these listings were all subroutines which required some variables to be defined before calling them up. This meant it wasn’t straightforward getting them to work, as I recently failed to do.

Not only that, but 64’er magazine had a policy of correcting any mistakes in listings in the following issue! They started publishing some amazing type in program listings right from the beginning. Even in their second issue (May 1984) on page 88, they published a listing which enabled Commodore 1541 disk drive users to change the name and ID number of a disk without reformatting it! That’s something that even the C128 software “The Servant” from 1992 can’t do! They also ran a series about doing graphics, starting in issue 1, to try and teach Commodore 64 owners about their graphics hardware and how to use it, although of course with computers by anyone except Commodore, all they’d have to do was type in a program of about 1-3 lines using about 3 BASIC commands. It only took them until part 3 in this series to explain to readers how they could plot points, comparing it to waking up Sleeping Beauty, which is actually “Dornröschen” a German story. They demonstrated this with a short listing to plot a sine curve, similar to the example in the very poorly written “Commodore 64 Programmer’s Reference Guide”. However, unlike the Programmers’ Reference Guide listing, I found it a simple matter to replace the SIN function with a definite coordinate for y, so that it drew a line from left to right! Amazing stuff!!!!

This magazine also had a series, published over several issues, called “Assembler ist keine Alchemie” (Assembler isn’t alchemy), starting in their September 1984 issue (09/84), which continued over several issues and was very high quality. It was later published separately as a book, which sometimes appears on eBay.

Later on, there were some even more astounding listings, such as “Hypra Load” in the October 1984 issue (10/84). This Machine Code program speeded up the Commodore 1541 disk drive by several times, although, inevitably, some software would overwrite it, causing the disk drive to reset to its normal, slow speed. This caused a big stir wherever people were able to get hold of this magazine, such as German speaking parts of Europe, Denmark, and the Netherlands, but not Britain, where it was unknown, so unlucky C64 owners in Britain who could afford disk drives had to pay out even more money for Jiffy DOS or Dolphin DOS instead. Disk drives for the C64 were more popular in Germany than in Britain, possibly due to larger disposable incomes, or cheaper prices, but I don’t know what the prices were because all the ads in this magazine have been covered up. It seems that in the USA, packages including the C64 with a disk drive were heavily discounted, but according to “Compute!”. the original C64 designers made the commands LOAD and SAVE default to tape, because they thought most C64 owners would be using “Datasette” tape drives instead of the more expensive disk drives. “Compute!” published a Machine Code routine called “Disk Defaulter” to fix this. This means that Commodore’s original masterplan was to leave C64 users with BASIC V2 instead of a replacement language or compiler loaded from disk!

Also in the December 1984 issue on page 30, there was an article about copying the Kernal ROM contents to RAM, editing them to improve the OS, then burning this edited version onto an EPROM and replacing the original ROM. The example given deleted the cassette routines (the portable Commodore SX-64 computer ROM was also missing these routines) and pre defined the function keys. Later on, a Dutch company were selling modified C64s with ROMs that had speeded up LOAD and SAVE routines, as well as predefined Commodore DOS commands on the function keys, which they claimed were compatible with 99% of all software.

Staring with their Issue 01/85 (i.e. January 1985) 64’er magazine began publishing listings with checksums for each line, produced by their own published checksum type in programs! One of these was for BASIC programs, while the other was for pure Machine Code. They even accepted hexadecimal numbers!

I’ve only read the issues of 64’er magazine up to the point when I sold my Commodore 64. There were a lot of good articles about how to program or even fix the Commodore 64 and owners of that computer should have noticed from the masthead that it was about the C64. Unfortunately, it wasn’t published by Commodore, so it was yet another example of Commodore letting other people fix their mess instead of doing it themselves!

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Posted April 28, 2014 by C64hater in Uncategorized

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