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Say what you will, but I find developing software for a Commodore 64 overwhelmingly more satisfying than developing software for a paycheck, even if it is deep-embedded work, despite (or, perhaps because of?) its anemic ecosystem.

The entire C64, which is what we'd consider a "system on a chip" these days, is described in a 700-page manual, half of which is dedicated to BASIC. So, really, you're getting a 350-page technical reference manual, and about half of that is reserved for the ROM KERNAL routines. So, figure, on the order of 175 pages of actual hardware description.

Today, with the SoC I'm tasked to work on, I have thousands upon thousands of pages to wade through, spanning multiple spec sheets by different IP vendors. Worse, these IP blocks can all be configured differently, so I have to sometimes reverse engineer how the SoC implemented the IP block.

I am just too old-school for today's world. That's all there is to it.

OH, and that's not all. When shit hits the fan, do I have access to the device for debugging? No. No, I do not.

Instead, I have remote debug servers, which must connect to remote simulation servers, which gather waveforms in the most obtuse and difficult to navigate module tree I've ever laid eyes upon. I still haven't found the transmit and receive pins to the UART. They're there, but they're not labelled anything I can recognize, and no amount of looking at waveforms has shown data coming in or going out under program control. Baffling.

And all of these servers all connect to license servers, and must be reserved because they each cost the company upwards of $1M, and so must be shared with other employees doing the same things I am. And as if that weren't enough, some of these tools must be run under Windows, others under Linux, and they all must inter-operate over the most finicky, and in my opinion thoroughly untested, remote procedure call or otherwise network interface that I've ever had the displeasure to use.

Homebrew hacking is where it's at, folks. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

@vertigo Upon reading "I find developing software for a Commodore 64 overwhelmingly more satisfying than developing software for a paycheck" I immediately began imagining a workplace which presented you with a new, boxed C64 every week instead of money, and you coming home and happily placing it atop a growing pile of other C64s.

@vertigo I miss programming my BBC Micro ("Acorn Atom" for US readers)

@vertigo Hey, cool, I was just thinking about writing a blog post called The Second ReNESance talking about modern NESdev. The C64 seems to fit somewhere in here too. Was its popularity in Europe compared to the explosive popularity of the NES in most of America? (Brazil notably excluded)

@JordiGH I'm not entirely sure how to answer your question.

The C64 was, and still is as far as I know, the best-selling home computer ever manufactured until it was finally discontinued in 1994, with 17 million units sold world-wide.

It had decent competition from the Apple II family of computers, but its popularity utterly eclipsed the Atari 8-bit line-up in the USA.

The C64 was legendary in both the USA and the EU markets.

@vertigo I want to argue that the NES made video games a commercial reality again after the market crash of the early 1980s. I am wondering how true this is worldwide or if the C64, the ZX Spectrum and other platforms would have carried on the video game market without the NES.

@JordiGH It would have carried it on without the NES easily. Being a general-purpose computer, it was not subject to the video game console market crash.

@vertigo But would it have made video games mainstream? The NES sales were huge. The NES spawned breakfast cereals, animated series, novelisations, game shows, movies, magazines...

And yes, lots of games were made for the C64, but was the market size comparable?

I suppose I should look up sales numbers myself. From my part of the world the NES was everything. I barely was aware of the existence of a C64 because a friend's ham radio granny had one.

@JordiGH I don't have answers to your questions. Those are questions best answered by someone who worked for Commodore's marketing department.

Though, I must admit confusion over why this is important to you. It really seems to me like you're trying to seek external validation that the NES was a superior platform or something.

The impact that NES had is irrefutable. There's no question about it. But, posing hypothetical questions like, "If the NES hadn't arrived a year after the C64, would it have been as big a hit," (to paraphrase) seems to have significant evidence to support that thesis. I'm not sure what further qualifications to the question would help to establish.

@JordiGH More precisely, the games spawned these alternative media outlets. The NES was just the vehicle by which the games were delivered.

Had the NES never arrived, and had the C64 filled its shoes, then it's entirely likely we'd still have breakfast cereals, animated series, etc.

Only the vehicle for game delivery would have differed.

@vertigo Not looking for external validation, just trying to understand if the video game crash really needed the NES to recover from or if there already were other avenues already in motion to fill that void. I have a very American point of view so I wonder what it was like around the world.

@JordiGH Ahh, I have a better understanding of what you are looking for now. Thanks for the clarification.

Unfortunately, I still don't have the answers you're looking for. I think all of that information is kind of muddled up in history. 😞

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hackers.town

A bunch of technomancers in the fediverse. Keep it fairly clean please. This arcology is for all who wash up upon it's digital shore.