C64IntroBASIC2Part 2 of the course I’m writing about

In his latest “debunk”, TMR has claimed that he hasn’t even looked at the program listing of the C64 BASIC V2 game “Wasp Shooter”, so this means that he can’t or won’t comment on it. It was the ONLY example of how to write an arcade game in this whole course, even though it was limited to character graphics. I think this is like a language course which only deals with one social situation, then tells you to work out for yourself how to deal with other social situations from that one conversation! Now for the rest of “An Introduction to BASIC”.

Before I go any further, I should point out that I started learning Commodore BASIC V2 at about the same time as starting to learn BBC BASIC, so this helped me realise that something was wrong. If I’d lived in the USA, read “The Compute! Gazette”, “The Transactor” and avoided reading about other computers, then I might never have found out there was anything wrong with Commodore BASIC V2 on the C64. I think this is what may have happened to lots of C64 owners in the USA.

Unit 24 tells the reader more about the logic operators AND OR and NOT, evaluating conditions, CBM ASCII codes, ON…GOTO, ON…GOSUB, END, DEF to define a formula, as well as storing and retrieving data on cassette or disk using PRINT#, INPUT#, and GET# . This unit goes on to tease the reader by showing a method of saving screens of character graphics onto tape or disk, but of course this method only works with screens made up of characters and there’s no information at all about using hires graphics in this entire course! A program to teach Morse Code is vaguely described, but not a single line of such a program is listed. This is followed by a problem to design a computer dating program, based on 9 pieces of data, including two hobbies, to determine if people are compatible or not.

Unit 25 is about designing programs, “tramline grammar”, probability, and adventure or maze games. There’s hardly any mention of program design, then there’s an explanation of “tramline grammar” as a method of constructing phrases and sentences. Probability comes in as a way of helping to choose the next word in the phrase or sentence. This is followed by an adventure or maze game which starts with the message “Your mission is to rescue GEORGE the space pioneer from the clutches of the evil GRAFFS, who inhabit the planet of ARCNODE. You are approaching the planet in your spaceship. Do you a) land or b) wait and observe?” The adventure has only 9 locations. The player is always asked to select a or b in answer to a question, instead of a compass heading, and it seems impossible to rescue George. This section warns readers that such a program can easily grow to take up all the available RAM unless it’s planned using a flowchart.

Unit 26 has a sprite demo program which is designed to make the reader think that using sprites on the C64 is easy, but reading this program reveals that it contains about 29 POKE commands! Of course Atari BASIC also requires POKE commands to use sprites, but it can redefine characters with just a few POKE commands, use POSITION x,y:PRINT to position them and, LOCATE x,y,c to check which characters are where. Other computers can do similar things with their user defined graphics or UDGs, while I don’t think MSX BASIC or Commodore BASIC V7 require any POKE commands at all to use their sprites!

Unit 26 is followed by an “Afterword”, congratulating the reader for making it this far and making the unbelievably false, TOTALLY misleading statement “the version of BASIC you’ll find on different machines is generally a little different and usually inferior to Commodore BASIC”!! Of course, no mention is made of which different computers have a BASIC “inferior” to Commodore BASIC, which is just an antique 1977 version of Microsoft BASIC with its own, very complicated Commodore filing commands added on. This “Afterword” and it seems the whole course, was written by someone signing himself “Andrew Colin Glasgow, 1983”, so obviously he should have been well aware of Sinclair BASIC, BBC BASIC, Applesoft BASIC, Oric BASIC, Dragon/Tandy BASIC, and Atari BASIC before making such a sweeping statement, but obviously ALL of these BASICs, except Sinclair BASIC and Atari BASIC, use a syntax the same as, or very similar to, Microsoft BASIC and ALL of them have commands for COLOUR, GRAPHICS and SOUND!!!!

Finally, in the APPENDIX of all places, there are some programs that actually play music! The tunes are a monophonic version of “In Dublin’s Fair City”, and a three note polyphonic version of a tune called “The Arrival of The Queen of Sheba”, by classical composer Handel. It says that no book had so far been written explaining how to use the C64 SID chip in detail, but advises the reader to consult the crappy, clear as mud, Commodore 64 Programmer’s Reference Guide! After the program to play “In Dublin’s Fair City”, which seems to be only about 1-2K long with only 33 lines of BASIC including DATA statements giving the frequency of the notes and their length, to make matters even worse, the author claims he has had to invent his own unique music notation to save RAM! The notation is very confusing, because it seems to use most, if not all, of the letters of the alphabet, as well as some other symbols. He points out that it’s not the same as the “VIC Super Expander” sound commands, although this was for the VIC-20, not the C64, which would mean nothing to most readers of this course, because Gail Wellington of Commodore said in a video I posted about The Earl’s Court computer show and MSX on the ITV series Database that most of their customers were new computer owners, not upgraders. He doesn’t even mention that the “VIC Super Expander” is a better version of BASIC, which Commodore refused to build in to the VIC-20 or Commodore 64 either. After this, the author claims that it’s not possible to use all three channels of sound on the C64 in BASIC and get them to keep time with each other while playing music. He claims that this requires Machine Code and also insists on using his own unique music notation! The program to play this tune somehow manages to use hexadecimal as well as decimal numbers in different lines of DATA statements, as well as the author’s own custom music notation, making it as confusing as possible! I have never seen this notation used in listings printed anywhere else. This program was the one I told the Commodore 64 Group Leader at my computer club I was going to adapt to play a tune of my own and he replied “I admire your dedication”. The SID synthesiser chip was the main reason I bought the Commodore 64. I tried to adapt this program to play some three channel polyphonic music of my own, but I failed miserably, due to the deliberately confusing music notation and Machine Code. After this, I was stuck programming only monophonic music on my C64! This made me realise that there had been no point me getting a Commodore 64 in the first place and I wished I’d gone for an Acorn Electron with BBC BASIC instead, because at about £200 that was cheap enough for my miserly Dad, although the BBC Micro was far too expensive at £399.

That’s all for now! Look forward to the final instalment in this series about the very misleading and disappointing course “An Introduction to BASIC”, coming next week!!

Posted September 30, 2014 by C64hater in Uncategorized

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