C64IntroBASIC1The packaging for Book 1 in this torture course

I got a Commodore 64 without the accompanying user manual, because my Dad was such a miser, trying to save as much money as possible. He totally rejected my request for a BBC Micro at £399, because there were other computers available for under £200 and he didn’t know anything much about computers because he hadn’t read any books about them. As the package he insisted on buying didn’t contain any instructions on how to use it, he bought me a course called “An Introduction to BASIC”, which was published by Commodore. It was made up of two books with accompanying cassettes.

This article is only Part 1, written entirely from my memories of this disgusting, obscene Commodore BASIC V2 programming course, but the following articles will be based on me re reading downloaded copies of it.

When we got home from this disastrous shopping trip, I managed to plug my Commodore 64 into an large old B&W TV, turn it on and load some programs from this course, and perhaps also from another tape I’d bought. I used it with this TV for a large part of the time, although I also had a broken down portable B&W TV and was sometimes allowed to plug it into our main large colour TV. I remember that the first or one of the first programs I loaded was some kind of demonstration of graphics and sound, so I was really keen to know how to program something like that myself. I set to work on studying “An Introduction to BASIC”, so I could find out how to do this, as well as compose and play my own music.

One of the early programs I loaded from tape or typed in from the book was about buying bottles of drink. I later managed to edit this program so the user could also buy glasses of drink, instead of just bottles. This was the first program I wrote! It gave me a sense of achievement and made me wonder what I’d be able to do by the time I’d finished this course. Little did I know that the policies of Jack Tramiel (who had left Commodore a few months earlier, just after showing new Commodore computers with the more advanced BASIC 3.5) were set to prevent me from ever learning to program anything much on the Commodore 64 except text based programs, because he was even more miserly than my Dad!

Some of the propaganda in “An Introduction to BASIC” said that the Commodore 64 used Microsoft BASIC, which Commodore thought was better than other versions of BASIC because it used colons to separate commands on the same line, while some other BASICs used backslashes. This is total crap, because I’ve never ever seen a BASIC which used backslashes to separate commands on the same line, while the Sinclair ZX81 could only have one command per line, Atari BASIC and Sinclair Spectrum BASIC also used colons to separate commands on the same line, but both of them used a non Microsoft BASIC, while a certain magazine had already described the BASIC on the C64 as something like a subset of Microsoft BASIC with its own filing commands. Of course, while I was studying this course, lucky Dragon, Tandy, and Spectravideo owners, as well as MSX users in Japan only at that point were having a whale of a time programming in current or at least recent versions of Microsoft BASIC.

I learnt from this course how to use commands such as LOAD, SAVE, PRINT, INPUT, READ, DATA, GOTO, GOSUB, IF…THEN, NOT, RETURN, RESTORE, GET, and PRINT TAB(n). As these commands were the ones which just popped into my head, they must be the most important ones. I also learnt the disgusting, filthy PEEK and POKE commands, which were never intended by Microsoft to be used to control all colour, graphics, and sound facilities of any computer, but my reward at the end of studying all of this was a few programs right at the end of Book 2 dealing with the all important colour, graphics, and sound which I so desperately wanted to use! I felt cheated and betrayed. The more articles in the computer press I read about why this was, the angrier I got.

During my time struggling with this totally f*cked up version of BASIC, my Dad with his I know best attitude, although he knew next to nothing about computers, made stupid, pathetic comments such as “You’re trying to run before you can even crawl!” and “Let me know when you get onto the maths”, but obviously if I’d had an Atari computer, or even the cheap Dragon which the conman in the shop had tried to sell us, then I COULD have run before I could even crawl, although my programs might have fallen over or crashed spectacularly in a sea of amazing multicolour graphics and a cacophony of sounds.

That’s all for now. Look forward to the next instalment in this series about “An Introduction to BASIC”!

Posted September 18, 2014 by C64hater in Uncategorized


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  1. Respectfully, but your dad was a prick. The C64 is a decent computer, but the Basic (until the 128 anyway) was crap and the graphics look like lego, big and chunky. But i’ve moved on to the Dragon 32/64 with Xroar and am having a far better time. (amusingly, none of the programs in Dragon User magazine even work on the 64)

  2. Thanks for your comment, s.p.! My Dad was certainly a prick, as his interference I described here demonstrates. It was like he thought he was buying a washing machine. He wouldn’t let me have a bike either! Of course the Dragon computers were more or less clones of the Tandy Coco, although some memory locations were changed for legal reasons. I’m not sure how many BASIC commands the version of Microsoft BASIC on the Dragon has, but I know it occupies 16K instead of only 8K on the Commodore 64. An interesting book about programming the Dragon is available on As for the graphics, different computers had different resolutions of graphics and different display modes. t’s easy on the Dragon to draw lines and play a little tune. The C64 has two graphics modes. These are the low resolution 160×200 which allows 4 colours in each character cell, while the higher resolution 320×200 allows only 2 colours (background and foreground) in each character cell, similar to the system on the Sinclair Spectrum, although the C64 also has sprites. The Dragon computers use the Motorola 6847 video chip, which has various display modes, some quite low resolution. The Acorn Atom computer also uses this video chip. I’d be interested in you pointing out some examples of programs in Dragon User magazine and why they won’t even work on the C64. Can’t they be converted at all?

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