musicmakerCommodore’s own “Music Maker” from 1982

This is in answer to TMR’s debunk post

In my post “PROGRAMMING, USING, OR GAMING” I used a screen shot of a Commodore 64 music editor called GMC, because it looked primitive, with the default text and background colours, like some early C64 software. I had no idea it was released in 1990. I’m trying to limit my blog to the period early 1984 to April 1985, when I owned a Commodore 64. This is because I think that Commodore, like other computer companies should have provided users with the means to program the C64 at the time it was released, or very soon afterwards, instead of relying on someone else to do it for them later on. Atari provided Atari BASIC, supporting their hardware from the beginning.

When I bought a Commodore 64 I was convinced that I would soon be programming it to play music which I’d written myself and that I’d do this using the BASIC built in, then I could include this music in programs which also did something else. As I was leaving the shop, I asked the salesman “How do I access the synthesizer circuits?” He told me the filthy lie “It’s easy! You just use PEEK and POKE commands”. I had no idea this would be even more difficult than the geometry problems I used to be kept in for at lunchtime and after school, or even impossible. I think he deserved a prison sentence and to be POKEd with a sharp pointed stick, as well as me finding out where he lived, then having a PEEK at him naked in his bathroom, taking some pics and sticking printed copies up near his shop, with a caption saying something like “Have a PEEK and POKE at this shopkeeper. PEEK and POKE is easy!” After this he should have been sent to prison for fraud. All of this would have been a fitting punishment for saying “It’s easy! You just use PEEK and POKE commands” and him later refusing to refund the money. The whole situation was caused by Jack Tramiel, of course. I don’t think this would have happened at Silica Shop, but my Dad was just trying to save a small percentage of the total price of the C64. I think that Silica Shop staff would have tried to persuade us to buy an Atari with 100 free programs, but as they sold and knew about various computers, when they heard I was determined to learn programming they’d probably have warned me not to buy a Commodore 64, and certainly wouldn’t have made the outrageous claim that PEEKing and POKEing is easy! Apart from this, it also seems that Silica Shop may have allowed people to trade in their old computers, hence their limited stock of Atari 400 and 800 models.

I didn’t watch the TV series “Magic Micro Mission” or “Bad Influence”. I remember watching Database on ITV, “4 Computer Buffs” on Channel 4, “Me & My Micro” on ITV, “The Computer Programme” on BBC1 or 2, “Making The Most of the Micro” on BBC1 or 2, and “Anything We Can Do” on Channel 4. I think all these TV programmes influenced my decision about buying a Commodore 64, then later on replacing it with an Amstrad CPC. I also had a fantasy about travelling to Hong Kong, or somewhere else in the far east, buying an Apple ][ clone, complete with software, then bringing it back to Britain, which allegedly would even have saved money compared with just buying an Apple ][ from a dealer in London! Hard to believe, but it’s all explained in .

“Micro Live” was a BBC TV programme, which started with two specials in October 1983 and Summer 1984, but didn’t become a regular monthly series until October 1984, when I’d already been suffering in C64 hell for a few months. While researching which computer to buy to replace my C64, I wrote a letter to “Micro Live”, asking for a quick comment on air explaining the quality of Amstrad CPC sound, which was based not only on the popular AY-3-8912 sound chip, but also their very powerful ENVELOPE command, giving unprecedented control over it. I just got a letter back, which was inconclusive, perhaps because I mentioned what a presenter on another series had said that synthesizer chips should be able to produce sounds like breaking glass. Amstrad sent me a photocopy of several pages of their CPC464 manual explaining it. I’m worried that the ITV and Channel 4 have no copies of their computer programmes left and there’s hardly any clips on YouTube, unlike with “Micro Live”. Sadly, “Micro Live” co presenter Ian MacNaught Davies died in February 2014.

JohnBleasdale1John Bleasdale (1946-2003)

“Anything We Can Do” was difficult to find any details of but eventually I found . The main cast members were Helen Watson, John Bleasdale (masked as a robot in Doctor Who “The Robots of Death”), and Mike Halls, but I also found other actors and actresses by the names John Bleasdale and Helen Watson. It was a bit like a soap opera, based round a couple where the woman was a teacher, and the man’s Dad. It started off with the Sinclair Spectrum, which the Dad brought round and plugged into their TV, the BBC Micro being used at school, and what I think was the original Apple MacIntosh being viewed by the Dad, or at least something with a mono desktop environment that looked similar to an original Apple MacIntosh, but perhaps it was an Apple Lisa, or even a Xerox Star. I was very confused and thought the MacIntosh desktop environment was a database! A teacher even accepted this answer from me, but perhaps he hadn’t seen the series. I think this series was shown in early 1984, but made in 1983, so it would have been difficult to get a Apple MacIntosh for filming, or that could have been the very last sequence filmed. I remember that Mike Halls was talking about getting a computer with two disk drives, one for the program disk and one for the data disk. I had only seen this type of setup with an Apple ][, but it could have been some other kind of computer, such as a Commodore PET, or a CP/M machine.

I think that “4 Computer Buffs” was brilliant! It even featured regular short programs or demos from members of the public, including one written in Forth, with made up commands such as BANG TPL. Only a few clips are on YouTube, including the launch of the Atari ST and XE computer ranges, and a slightly inaccurate or biased review comparing the BBC Micro Model B to the Sinclair QL and the Amstrad CPC464. I don’t know why these three computers were chosen, but they were all widely available from chain stores and all had excellent versions of BASIC. I taped the episode with this review, then watched it with my parents. My Dad nearly had a fit over details of the Amstrad CPC464 keyboard. He was wearing glasses with bifocal, or even trifocal lenses, or perhaps a very old pair which no longer suited his eyes, then he got the idea that the reviewer said that if I got an Amstrad CPC464, or even the new CPC664 which I was waiting to be released, I’d be typing on a rubber mat instead of a WP type keyboard! I quickly told him the Amstrad CPC keyboard was about the same quality as the C64, which he claimed had “definite keys”, but he’d never used it. I then rewound the tape and corrected his error, which was that the rubber membrane was inside the keyboard. The reviewer had the cheek to say that Amstrad graphics were “let down by their resolution”, when in fact the Amstrad used the same graphics chip as the BBC Micro (the 6845), but set up with a border limiting it to 200 dots vertically, instead of 256. Lots of games were programmed to use the 160×200 16 colour mode, though. I later typed in a listing on my Amstrad CPC664 which turned off the border, like the BBC Micro, but I don’t know if it also increased the vertical resolution to 256. The Amstrad CPC range has a palette of 27 colours, compared to the BBC Model B’s palette of 8 actual colours, which it treats as 16 logical colours, including flashing colours and switching colours for neon sign type animation, but he pointed out that the Sinclair QL could only manage 8 colours. Here it is .

Of course, if even I managed to get confused enough to think that using any non games software on a computer was called programming, then lots of other people must have thought this as well, because tests have shown that my IQ is almost as high as Bill Gates, but I didn’t go to a private school where I could have the chance to use a computer several years before almost anyone else!

Games consoles weren’t designed to be programmed by the general public, because they had no keyboards or devices such as cassette or disk drives available to store programs. Some companies, such as Atari, and Coleco, made a keyboard and limited Atari BASIC language available, or Coleco’s clone of Apple BASIC for their consoles.

I didn’t and still don’t know how to suppress the Spectrum’s scroll prompt, because I’ve never owned a Spectrum. I think I’ve probably missed out by never owning one, so I hope to learn more about it in a really good emulator soon.

I used to write pithy graffiti on toilet doors and walls, but now I’ve moved on to more creative writing like this with replies via email, instead of two word graffiti replies, so that proves things like this happen.


Posted April 30, 2014 by C64hater in Uncategorized

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