The Commodore 64 Enigma   Leave a comment

The Commodore 64 Enigma

Bueie1d

Can anyone see a Commodore 128 computer, three electric guitars, a music keyboard,  a large satellite dish or any paintings in this builders’ mess?!

Since the destruction of my way of life by a wicked property developer and evil landlords who wouldn’t rent to me I have been considering what to do next. I think that suing the property developer is an option, due to his agreement confirmed in SMS text messages to give me a week to pick up any belongings I may not have been able to remove before the Bailiffs turned up, then the total mess shown above, which the builders caused by moving all my belongings into one of the four rooms, burying it under who knows what, as well as mixing it up in a quagmire of furniture and electrical appliances.

 

Normal service for this blog has now resumed, because I’m typing this post on a new (refurbished) laptop, onto which I’ve installed Linux Mint 17.3 Rosa with KDE Plasma Interface, looking quite like Mac OSX. I’m also in some better accommodation, with a WiFi connection, although the place isn’t as good as the flat I was evicted from. During the last few weeks I’ve cooked my first microwave meal since January, as well as cooking my first Chili con Carne since January and have been making cafetiere coffee for the first time since January too.

 

Unfortunately, the original version of this document was done on my Android phone, using the app Notes, which works fine whenever you haven’t got an Internet connection, although Microsoft Office online and Google Docs don’t always work without a connection, but then I happened to press my thumb down on the end of the document, which made it Select All then immediately Cut and the whole text was deleted without trace, so Android users should watch out for that!  

 

I lost most of my belongings including my Commodore 128 because of the eviction, so I ‘ve been considering how I can get another Commodore 128 or if not what I should do. The problem is that since I bought a Commodore 128 a couple of years ago this model of computer seems to have become rarer and more expensive than it used to be. I could always use a Commodore 64 emulator such as VICE, but that feels like cheating and encourages the use of development packages which simply weren’t available to bedroom programmers during the time period 1984 to 1985 when I owned a Commodore 64. I’ve just installed WinVICE onto Linux Mint and it runs under WINE.

 

I bought my Commodore 128 from eBay Germany. Most Commodore 128 computers which I’ve seen on eBay recently seem to be located in the United States instead of Germany or elsewhere in Europe, so this creates problems for me, due to the fact that they wouldn’t be compatible with my EU 230V 50Hz mains power supply, as well as the difficulty of finding a compatible TV or monitor, meaning an NTSC TV or a 60Hz monitor. Of course, while the Commodore 128 and Commodore 64 were being produced, the mains power supply in Britain was 240V and 220V on the Continent, but this didn’t make any real difference. This situation with it being more difficult to buy a C128 has led me to consider the possibility of buying a real Commodore 64 computer instead!

C64G1

A Commodore 64G

 

If I bought a Commodore 64 computer it would have to be a Commodore 64C, instead of the older bread bin model which I had before. Even a Commodore 64G model wouldn’t be different enough.

Commodore64Beige

A breadbin C64 with beige function keys like the one I owned

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASfAPOiq_eQ

How The Enigma Machine worked

 

My  whole experience with the C64 makes me think of the WWII Nazi encryption machine The Enigma. Both machines produce incomprehensible code and both were created by evil people. The Commodore 64 is truly an enigma, due to Commodore manuals which hardly mention the graphics screen, online BASIC V2 courses which claim that hires graphics is beyond their scope, etc. It could be said to be a follow up to the Enigma machine, although the Enigma could be easier to understand, because it uses much older, therefore simpler technology than the Commodore 64, such as rotary wheels instead of chips, but don’t forget that lots of memory locations on the C64 can be either ROM or RAM.  Commodore left people to guess about lots of facilities. I previously wrote that it was impossible to access 64K on the C64, because that was one of the many mysteries which Commodore created, leading people to think it was impossible, as well as a big secret on how to detect the joysticks, as Sheldon Leemon wrote in a “Compute!” book. Even so, using the whole 64K on the C64 requires programmers to turn off not only the BASIC ROM, but also the Kernal, and the Character ROM to free up 16K, then they have to make up some kind of replacements for the contents of those chips in their actual program, like reinventing the wheel. For more details see http://www.atarimagazines.com/compute/issue32/112_1_COMMODORE_64_ARCHITECTURE.php

 

Another big problem with the Commodore 64 is that its built in BASIC V2 can’t deal with hexadecimal numbers, so that all the numbers to PEEK and POKE seem to be almost random, but when you see these numbers in hexadecimal instead of decimal, it immediately becomes clear there’s a pattern to them. Atari BASIC can’t handle hexadecimal numbers either, but doesn’t require nearly as many PEEK and POKE commands as Commodore BASIC V2.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmrtU7qsccM

“You Might Think” demo (1984)

 

TMR continues to post notes about demos and produce cloned versions of them, but this isn’t relevant because there were no demos in 1984 except perhaps one I’ve found called “You Might Think”, which was music only. Apart from this, he doesn’t explain how to get to that level of programming, but admits that it’s not for beginners. The only clue from him is that if you tried to program the C64 in your bedroom for long enough, then you’d succeed. Music was the very kind of thing I was hoping to do on my C64, but Commodore and Jack Tramiel made it impossible for me, although it was fairly easy to fry chicken breasts even with the pan spitting fat at me, bake cakes from pre packaged mixes with instructions on the back, etc, etc.

ToshibaMicrowave

The same model of Toshiba microwave my family used for several years

 

I had a few frustrating times while learning to cook, but nothing as bad as the C64. I thought that when cracking eggs into a pan to fry it was just pure luck whether the yolks broke or not, but then I found that you have to hold them not too high up from the pan when cracking them to avoid them breaking. If you start frying two eggs within seconds of each other, then they’ll be ready at the same time, so long as you remove the first egg from the pan first, unlike trying to play polyphonic music in Commodore BASIC V2, for example, where it seemed impossible to get the different sound channels to keep time with each other. Unfortunately, my Mum’s wrong instructions about how long to wait to defrost a chicken breast from the freezer or how long to defrost it in the Toshiba microwave caused me to miss the pilot episode of the sitcom “Mr Merlin”, which was never repeated, but there were no real disasters. The microwave in question had a digital display which was actually printed on rotary wheels instead of the more modern LED displays, but this was much better than just a dial with times printed round its edge because the cooking times could be programmed very accurately. We used that Toshiba microwave for several years, instead of having to sell it ASAP. This was because the manual wasn’t gibberish and it didn’t have to be programmed in Japanese or Commodore BASIC V2! If it actually did have to be programmed in Japanese or in Commodore BASIC V2, then you can bet there would be some smart alecs out there saying they could do it, so that in some way proved that anyone could do it. BTW, I advise everyone reading this to set an alarm if you’re drinking strong alcohol while boiling some rice in a saucepan, otherwise you could fall asleep, then wake up to a burning smell, and ashes in a ruined saucepan!

 

One way of “fixing” the Commodore 64 could be to plug in an Assembler cartridge so that it boots into the Assembler, but then you’d need to read some articles or books about some Assembly Language/Machine Code which produces some graphics and/or sound effects, which there didn’t seem to be many examples of back in 1984 when I was struggling with this. Quickly filling the text screen with occurrences of the same character, like in “Your 64” magazine, wasn’t much use. I don’t remember ever hearing of or seeing “The Commodore 64 Machine Language Book” by author Lothar Englisch for Data Becker/Abacus, which was certainly an eye opener for me when I downloaded it last year. More about this amazing book in another post soon.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIK3OYnD9MY

Sebastian (1968)

 

I think that code breaking, such as that done by Alan Turing and his team on the Enigma machine is inspiring. There have been plenty of films and documentaries about Turing recently, so above is a link to a half remembered Dirk Bogarde film called “Sebastian” I once saw, which could be a big inspiration to people trying to work out how the hell anyone could program the C64.

AlanTuing

Alan Turing (1912-1954)

I hope I’ll be inspired by the example of Alan Turing and his team to crack the Commodore 64 enigma!

 

 

 

Advertisements

Posted May 20, 2016 by C64hater in Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: