6502 Geek Memories

6502 book front

When I was tidying up earlier, I came across this book. I remember unpacking it when we moved in but I’ve not looked at it properly in years. Maybe decades?

Looking inside the front cover, I bought it on the 28th of April, 1983. I actually remember buying it, I was excited because I wanted to delve into assembly language on both my Dad’s Apple ][e (and maybe any BBC micros I came across).

I think you can pretty much tell how much of a teenage geek I was at 16 by my choice of leisure reading matter. I was fascinated by computers and although I already had a fairly good grasp of Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, I wanted to get down to the nitty-gritty and, apart from twiddling with ferrite cores, 6502 assembler was the nittiest-grittiest path on offer.

I got quite handy with assembler. I wrote a little drum machine program for the Apple and even a very rudimentary word processor. Bear in mind when I say ‘rudimentary,’ you should probably hear ‘magnificently spaghettified kludge of uselessness.’ I don’t think WordStar had anything to worry about.

Looking through the book, I missed my programming days. I gave up eventually because my crapness at maths became too crippling. I remember the exact time: I’d just finished writing a little program to map a BBC Micro keyboard into the equivalent of a musical keyboard. I was quite pleased, the main subroutine was quite short. Then the lad next to me, a proper maths whizz, showed me his equivalent code and it was about half as long. He’d solved the pitch values mathematically whereas I’d just gone at it with arrays. His program was a fine pair of gold tweezers whereas mine was a rusty sledgehammer.

Nowadays, my geekiness is limited to tweaking. I can follow reasonably simple PHP but anything truly hardcore loses me. Even my hexadecimal has gone quite rusty. And I can only remember powers of 2 accurately up to 65,536. Useless!

The book’s pages are yellowed with age now and I had to be careful I didn’t break the spine when I was scanning the inside. As I flicked through, I noticed there were tests all through the book, like this one:

6502 test

One thing hasn’t changed in the last 22 years – my handwriting is still shite.