Book Club: Commodore 64 Programmer's Reference Guide




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Video duration: 00:40:16
We take a deeply nerdy look at the Commodore 64 Programmer’s Reference Guide, an excellent book that was released shortly after the C-64 itself was launched.

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43 thoughts on “Book Club: Commodore 64 Programmer's Reference Guide

    8-Bit Show And Tell

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    If anyone has other printings of the C64 PRG, it'd be great to know:
    1) If the "Commodorf" typo (page 121) was fixed in the 2nd printing (we already know it is by the 3rd printing!)
    2) When the Z-80 & CP/M section was blanked out on page 368 and on (it was in the 9th printing, gone for sure by the 15th printing)
    3) Are there any other differences between the various first edition printings?

    Simon Pugnet

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    Thanks for reviewing this book, your video brought back a lot of memories! I remember using this book exclusively as reference when I built a C64 emulator quite a few years ago before I had reliable Internet access, which just goes to show how much useful information was contained within those pages.

    Roberto Ventilii

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    The C64 P.R.G. cost me a fortune for a teen-ager back then. But I wanted it so badly when I saw it in a shop. In Italy, for what I knew, was the only way to have a complete reference of the memory map and the ROM routines and this stuff was pretty rare to find. The italian edition we had was bigger approaching I guess the A4 size and thus very expensive.

    Michael Losh

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    Thanks for posting! I still have my original copy (1st ed. 3rd printing). I believe I'm of a similar age and was equally bewildered by sections of that book when I first got it in my youth. Now I wish everything in computers was as straightforward and well-documented!

    JSRFFD2

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    My local bookstore carried this book, but my local software store only sold games. Thus, I had this book long before I had an assembler or even monitor! I was therefore baffled when I read about 64mon. My first ML experience was with the Epyx Fastload cart, which could disassemble but not assemble! I didn't really "get" assembly until I ended up typing in a BASIC program for an assembler from a book. I wish I had had better tools earlier! Still, I was happy when I eventually bought the "64 assembler" via mail order, when this all clicked into place. I loved this book! Thanks for the detailed review.

    mh76

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    Love that book "programmer's reference guide". Learned a lot about C64 and 6502 assembler. But I had the version with a white front page and didn't used that spiral.

    C64 was and is still an amazing computer. My personal favorite. So much fun you can have with C64 if you are a programmer.

    Enrico Willios

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    Cool Videos nice greatings from germany 😉

    John Cornell

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    I remember buying the Machine Code for VZ200 book years ago and it had just the same problem, it went from ELI5 to Postgrad in complexity like an on/off switch. I never did glean anything from it, except a single POKE to make it go Beep

    Momentvm

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    These books were gold! Unfortunately, being over the iron curtain at the time, language and availability was always a problem. Polish books were either non-existent or really bad.
    What would be the Atari counterparts for these? "Mapping the Atari" ?

    Bruce Tungsten

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    Done watching the whole thing – very interesting!

    Mar Red

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    I'll admit, your video style took a little getting used to—Animated Hand teaches 8 bit computing. But I now see it's close to perfect as a way of presenting this information. Together with your voice, it's a great combination that makes your videos very easy and interesting to watch. Your voice and speaking style is very well suited for teaching, and being able to watch you type helps one follow along. Keep up the good work.

    Leonhard Euler

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    Why are PLOT and CHROUT good for game programming? Isn't it much faster to put the characters directly into screen RAM?

    Steve Hebert

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    Do you remember zoom copy for the c64? I believe it was the first fastloader that made c64 diskcopy fast. I remember it was translated from German but the translators missed the error codes so errors. So those were entertaining.

    There was a rumor at the time that it was copywrite material but everyone had a copy of it.

    MurderMostFowl

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    I remember reading through the instruction set and being so interesting in learning how many cycles each operation took and being weirdly obsessed with memorizing it all, even before I really understood what it all meant

    MurderMostFowl

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    I used the programmers reference guide so much as a kid that I had to tape the cover and first few pages back together so many times. Such great memories.

    Bård Baadstø Ildgruben

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    This episode was amazing!

    uncoolcentral

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    Fuzzy Bad

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    Interesting fact about the Z-80 cart section in the PRG! My copy has it, 1st edition, 11th printing (1984)

    Sumaleth

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    Is that a mistake on page 110:
    "Tip: Reversed characters are just characters with their bit patterns in character memory reversed."
    Should that be inversed? 🙂

    This was a foundational text for me as a kid too. I read it, and reread it, and reread it until I understood everything.

    Joe Cincotta

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    Still have my original copy. So awesome…

    Stefano Crespi

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    Thanks for sharing, Robin, this excursus is pure gold.

    Rancid Beef

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    You mention taking the book to college… I used to take my "Mapping the 64" and a binder with a disassembly print-out of the kernal and Basic ROMs to my college classes. When I was bored or had some downtime, I'd go through the code writing comments in the margin about what it was doing, using the Mapping book as a guide. I learned a lot about 6502 assembler and an ton about doing various tweaks on the 64. Fun stuff!

    Gregor Berman

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    I enjoyed watching this "nerdy" video as much I enjoy watching your videos focusing on programming. Plus I learned a few things I didn't know. Some might think "why do we need to know all those details?". Well, if someone asks that question, he/she is not "nerdy" enough. Plus learning new things is always great, even more when they are related to a great book for your favorite machine.

    Roy Batty

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    We have two of three same favorite commodore books, my third one is Inside Commodore DOS instead of the Raeto West one. 4th would be the complete commodore innerspace anthology Transactor book. I learned assembly from Jim Butterfield's book, what an awesome guy he was. – Fungus

    Diarrhea Latte

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    The Master Memory Map is another classic

    Jeff Johansen

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    I agree with you on the Definitive Guide. I printed and spiral bound my own copy of the for the VIC20 and plan to do so for the C64 too. And you are correct. Whatever the Commodore – nothing can beat the official Programmer's Reference Guides!!

    Ashley Williams

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    Just imagine making a detailed schematic like that of a modern component like a graphics card.

    Nigel Harrison

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    Nigel Harrison

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    @ 30:20 Commodore the Microcomputer Magazine available here https://archive.org/search.php?query=commodore%20the%20microcomputer%20magazine

    Nigel Harrison

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    Great further discussion on the CP/M cartridge here (and why it was pulled slow disk program load times for example) – with the great Jim Butterfield show and telling it via youtube video 🙂 https://dfarq.homeip.net/commodore-64-cpm-operating-system/

    8 bit gamer

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    Probably my most used book when i was coding the c64. i remember writing a sprite multiplexor and getting 128 sprites on screen. i had to count how many clock cycles each 6502 instruction took so i wouldnt slow down the CPU (under raster interrupt) too much.

    evileyeball

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    I hope Wayne was watching.

    evileyeball

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    One of my favorite Professors was a fan of scrunching. He passed away a few years back but I always remember him fondly when I hear things like scrunching.

    Soundfactory24

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    Nice explanation about the holy bible for true programming enthusiasts! That reminds me of my beginnings with assembler with the Commodore PLUS4 and its built-in machine language monitor. I have a book "C16, C116, PLUS4 ROM-Listing" from "Markt und Technik" (in German) with 435 pages, where the ROM list was printed out and every assembly line in all routines was documented line by line.

    Comchia 430

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    18:30 IIRC, Atari's notoriously bad system documentation was a significant factor in the Jaguar's demise, especially since programmers struggled to get the system's full potential unlocked.

    And, as somebody currently learning a bit about the 6502, this book looks fascinating. Thank you for the video!

    JustWasted3HoursHere

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    18:00 I totally agree that getting programming info out there is in the best interest of the manufacturer. Atari and Apple both have a long history of trying to keep this info to themselves or leaking it out bit by bit, but in the end it hurt them. In my opinion, not only should all of these 8 bit systems have readily available programming info, but that info should be included with the system, along with actual programming tools to get started right away! If a system has a large library of programs for it people are more likely to buy it. It's a win/win situation.

    J. Green

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    I have a 1st Edition 10th printing 1984. It has the censored material as well. Also have Commodore 64 User's Guide 1st Edition 2nd printing May 1983

    mPky1

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    I wonder how they built such a good looking formatted with refs etc book in 82.

    vcv6560

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    @Robin, indeed the R.C.West tome is such a jewel I bought the VIC version new in`85 even though my 64 was my main computer (later added a used C64 one) just because it was so rich of detail and too damn interesting to pass up. I hope the book club also covers Tool Kit Basic & Tool Kit Kernel by Dan Heeb. Nerd register Store $FF.

    Richard Hill

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    Perfect and awesome video Robin, thanks so much for publishing this from your Patreon channel. This is exactly the "nerdy" kind of content I love from your channel!

    chipacabra

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    Probably the closest equivalent for the Atari 8-bits was De Re Atari in 1982. Failing to support developers was always one of Atari's weaknesses, it's true.

    Tibor Zic

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    ? C64 was and is the greatest machine ever, keep up with it… love your episodes, and we send you cheers from Slovenia

    Harvy Ackermans

    (October 17, 2020 - 3:32 am)

    Hi Robin, I have the 11th printing of the PRG and it does have the Z-80 section and does not have the "COMMODORF" typo.

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