RAIN MAN’S COMPUTER   Leave a comment

RAIN MAN’S COMPUTER

Rainman1 A loading screen for a non existent game based on Rain Man

Rain Man was a film released in 1988, starring Dustin Hoffman as “Rain Man” or Raymond, who had some kind of autism, and Tom Cruise as his estranged brother Charlie, who only remembered him as his imaginary childhood friend “Rain Man” after Raymond had been placed in a mental institution. It was based on the true story of Kim Peek (1951-2009), who was autistic and could memorise whole books.

During this film, the character Raymond/Rain Man demonstrated his amazing abilities to memorise lists of facts and figures. His brother Charlie found out about this and was amazed when Raymond was able to tell a waitress her phone number when he found out her name, because he had memorised all, or at least a large part of the local phone directory. It’s exactly this kind of ability which is required to program in Commodore BASIC V2 on the C64, unless the programmer just sticks to text based programs.

Rainman2Kim Peek memorising the contents of another book

According to surveys, about 1-2% of people are autistic. This means that when the Commodore 64 had sold 1,000,000 units it’s likely that at least 10,000-20,000 of C64 owners were autistic. The figure was probably higher than this, because once autistic people or their families had heard about the Commodore 64 and all the PEEKs and POKEs required to program it using its built in Commodore BASIC V2, then this would have made it more appealing to them, because they knew they could gain respect by programming it. Of course, their programming needn’t have been limited to Commodore BASIC V2. Obviously, once the C64 had sold 2,000,000 units then there were likely to be at least 20,000-40,000 autistic C64 owners, creating a big enough pool of C64 programmers to write plenty of software, so that explains how some people could program lots of graphics and sound in Commodore BASIC V2, while most Commodore 64 owners were limited to coloured text programs, possibly sometimes with a few sprites and monophonic music, because these facilities were easier to program than hires graphics.

I don’t know how many PEEKs and POKEs are required in Commodore BASIC V2 on the C64 to do the things that could be done by less than 100 commands on Sinclair Spectrum and Atari 8 bit computers, but the number of memory locations has to be multiplied by at least 16 or even by 256 to account for all the numbers that could be POKEd into those locations. This takes us into a realm of hundreds or thousands of numbers to remember.

As for me, I’m not autistic at all and I prefer to remember words and images rather than numbers, so that explains why I couldn’t learn to program graphics or sound using Commodore BASIC V2 on the C64.

An update on the situation of autism and programming has recently been re published by http://www.slashdot.org on the page http://developers.slashdot.org/story/14/07/09/131243/normal-humans-effectively-excluded-from-developing-software , in which a programmer called Johnathan Edwards says “The way things are today if you want to be a programmer you had best be someone like me on the autism spectrum who has spent their entire life mastering vast realms of arcane knowledge — and enjoys it. Normal humans are effectively excluded from developing software”.

I think that sums it up. I rest my case!

In the near future you can look forward to some more posts about drawing lines, and some news about extending or replacing Commodore BASIC V2, as well as Microsoft Extended BASIC on the Commodore 64!

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Posted July 11, 2014 by C64hater in Uncategorized

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