DEBUNKING “WHAT’S THAT COMING OVER THE HILL?”   Leave a comment

DEBUNKING “WHAT’S THAT COMING OVER THE HILL?”

C64GRerrorThe error message from one of my first type ins which confronted me in 1984

Recently, TMR of the blog http://www.c64crapdebunk.wordpress.com has had the cheek to try and undermine my amazing exposés of just how bad the Commodore 64 is by “debunking” them, so here’s my debunk of his debunk of “Frankenstein’s Computer”.

The Commodore 64 is made up of mismatched parts. The reason why the parts are mismatched is that the BASIC and Kernal ROMs have no commands or routines to deal with the VIC-II graphics chip or the SID sound chip. To sum up, the Commodore 64 ROMs are hardly any different to the Commodore PET ROMs, so on that basis the Commodore 64 thinks it’s a Commodore PET. This makes it “Frankenstein’s Computer”.

IMG_20140711_033932A close up of the same error message

Commodore started a price war against all other computer manufacturers. This was partly in revenge for Texas Instruments selling cheap calculators instead of just selling chips to other manufacturers. I think that instead of this, they could have made a deal, by setting up a cartel like in the series “Dallas”, to roughly fix the prices of their computers. This shows that even JR Ewing wasn’t as ruthless as Jack Tramiel.

The term “off the shelf components” just means chips that were available to any manufacturer, so they didn’t have to develop their own custom chips. One of these chips was the Texas Instruments 9918 video display processor, which was used in lots of computers and games consoles. It was used in the Memotech MTX computers, the Tatung Einstein, and the original MSX standard computers. The way it was used in those computers was by the manufacturers providing their own BASIC commands and ROM routines to use it, so this meant it wasn’t mismatched.

TIMEX is a company which changed its name, as well as taking over previous companies, but its origins are firmly in the USA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timex_Group_USA . It seems that at one stage it’s set up a Dutch holding company, but that doesn’t make it Dutch! Commodore did something similar, so people didn’t know if they were American, Canadian, or Bahamian!

C64Frankenstein2“But I’ve typed in the listing exactly as printed!” was what thousands of readers of “Your 64” issue No. 1 were thinking

Unfortunately for Atari, although they’d issued programmers’ guidelines about using jump tables guaranteed to remain the same on future ROMs instead of diving into the ROM wherever they liked to save 2 bytes or whatever, some programmers ignored this, making their sofware incompatible with the Atari XL ROMs. There was a third party program to fix this, as well as Atari’s own “Translator” disk. Several years later, the Atari’s descendant the Amiga would face the same problems with the Kickstart 2.04 ROM suddenly being fitted to the final Amiga A500 models to be produced, as well as the Amiga A500 Plus. This was because programmers had been up to similar dirty tricks on the Amiga 1.3 ROM.

Of course, the Amstrad CPC range of computers used “off the shelf components”, which were already tried and tested technology, so by basing their BASIC on an already existing version of BBC BASIC for the Z80 second processor on the BBC Micro, as well as the same 6845 graphics chip as the BBC Micro, they managed to produce a nicely integrated design, unlike the Commodore 64! The Amstrad CPC range was also seen by Spectrum owners as the “Super Spectrum” computer which Sinclair refused to produce. Other companies, such as Elan with their Enterprise, and MGT with their Sam Coupe also attempted this, but were too late. Meanwhile, Sinclair was bankrupted and sold all their technology to Amstrad, who repackaged it as the Spectrum +2 and +3 versions.

The reason why Commodore BASIC V2 doesn’t accept hexadecimal numbers is that it’s an 8K BASIC and this facility was only built in to later BASICs with at least 16K. For this reason, Atari BASIC doesn’t accept hexadecimal numbers either. Of course, hexadecimal numbers are accepted by Amstrad’s Locomotive BASIC, as well as by MSX BASIC. In later issues of “Compute!” magazine they had a new version of their MLX Machine Code checker for the C64 which accepted hexadecimal numbers and checked each line before accepting it, so there wouldn’t be any mistakes.

Of course, some C64 programmers triumphed in the face of adversity, but some of these programmers had learnt 6502 Assembly Language on other computers, such as the Commodore PET, Commodore VIC-20, Atari 400, 800, or XL, Apple ][, Acorn computers, or even Microtan or Oric computers. TMR has confessed to learning on a VIC-20. Other programmers read books by authors who had the benefit of learning 6502 Assembly Language on other computers. These authors include Jim Butterfield, David Lawrence, and Paul Roper.

So, to sum up, the most important paragraph in this article is repeated below.

The Commodore 64 is made up of mismatched parts. The reason why the parts are mismatched is that the BASIC and Kernal ROMs have no commands or routines to deal with the VIC-II graphics chip or the SID sound chip. To sum up, the Commodore 64 ROMs are hardly any different to the Commodore PET ROMs, so on that basis the Commodore 64 thinks it’s a Commodore PET. This makes it “Frankenstein’s Computer”.

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Posted July 19, 2014 by C64hater in Uncategorized

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