BUYERS’ GUIDE LIARS!!!! (PART 3)   Leave a comment

BUYERS’ GUIDE LIARS!!!! (PART 3)

TI994AThe Texas Instruments TI99/4A

Leaving the Commodore 64 out of it for a moment, I recently got a big shock when a Texas Instruments TI99/4A programmer told me that the built in TI BASIC had no commands for hires graphics or sprites! This is in spite of it also having a built in Graphics Programming Language (GPL). I now know that Texas Instruments wanted to control who could write software for the TI99/4A, much like later dedicated games consoles, meaning crippled computers. The TI99/4A graphics available from TI BASIC are actually character based graphics (32 columns of 24 lines), using commands which make them easy to redefine and position horizontally, as well as vertically. AFAIK they’re all preceded by a CALL , then what follows is either CHAR to define, VCHAR for vertical positioning, or HCHAR for horizontal positioning. Of course, each command is followed by a list of parameters. CALL COLOR is used to set their colours and CALL SCREEN(N) is used to set the screen background colour. Luckily, TI99/4A owners were spared all the PEEKs and POKEs of Commodore 64 BASIC V2, because no such commands or their equivalents are even available on the TI99/4A. Unfortunately, for some time it was also impossible for members of the public to write Machine Code programs on the TI99/4A, because they were denied the necessary software tools, unless they worked for a software house contracted by Texas Instruments, or had paid them a large fee to develop software on cassette. Eventually, an Assembler cartridge came out which allowed TI99/4A users to write their own Machine Code programs, though. As you’ve probably guessed, there’s no mention of these restrictions in “The A-Z of Personal Computers”. They wrote that the TI99/4A comes with “Basic, Internal Graphics Language”! Obviously, a few very clever programmers somehow eventually managed to bypass these restrictions of TI BASIC as explained on http://tigameshelf.net/tibasic.htm . The official TI Extended BASIC added commands for sprites, as well as to run Assembly Language programs, but unlike with Commodore computers, it seems this may have been the only extended BASIC available, then various commercial programs were actually written in TI Extended BASIC!

Of course, Microsoft were constantly improving their BASIC, but potential computer buyers were given no indication in the magazine “The A-Z of Personal Computers” about which computer’s BASIC was written in which year, or how many commands or keywords they had. This gave buyers no idea of the nightmare they were in for with Commodore BASIC V2 on a computer it wasn’t designed for, which even tries to print error messages on the graphics screens, that come out as coloured squares! I think they should have written something like “Commodore PET BASIC (1977)”, “Commodore BASIC V2 (1977)”, “Microsoft BASIC (1977 version)” or even “Commodore PET BASIC V2 (without commands for colour, graphics, or sound)”. Obviously, they should only have been reviewing the computers themselves and any software which was built in to them, or supplied with them, not any software which could be bought to improve them.

P1230297What the A-Z of Personal Computers had to say about Atari XL computers

Obviously, my Dad, as well as my Mum to a lesser extent, made the final decision that I should have a Commodore 64, instead of a BBC Micro, an Atari 400, 800, 600XL, 800XL, or some other computer. My Mum said words to the effect “It’s that or nothing!” about the prospect of a Commodore 64 without its user guide. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I’d said “You wouldn’t buy a washing machine without a manual would you? Well, this is much more complicated!” My Dad bought the two part C64 course “An Introduction to BASIC” before we left the shop, anyway. This was all because of what I called my Dad’s IKB or IKBA (I Know Best Attitude), but which is generally known as an ITA (Ivory Tower Attitude). This means that whenever I write here about what my Dad said or did, it’s totally relevant to the situation. My Dad hadn’t read any books about computers, or “The A-Z of Personal Computers”, so he didn’t really know what he was talking about, although he liked to think he did, because of his IKBA. What he “knew”, or thought he knew was Atari=games, you must buy a computer with a proper keyboard (which this magazine called a WP type keyboard instead of a C for calculator type keyboard) because there were lots of job opportunities in “Word processing…Word PROCESSING!!”, which he said with an IKBA stare, and it should have as many K as possible, but he shouldn’t pay any more money than he absolutely had to, so roughly £200 was the limit, because there were lots of computers available for £200 or less. This type of thinking meant that the Sinclair Spectrum was a rubbery keyboard piece of crap, employers would reject you if you told them you had experience on Atari computers, the BBC Micro was overpriced and didn’t even have enough RAM, but the Commodore 64 was an ideal small business computer, even though he had no intention of buying me a disk drive to go with it. I think that Commodore were actually targeting gullible people like my Dad.

That’s all for this installment! More about “The A-Z of Personal Computers” soon!!

ElektraGlideAtariXL“Elektra Glide” (1985) shows ehat the Atari XL computers are capable of

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Posted May 29, 2014 by C64hater in Uncategorized

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