A Sunday grumble

GIVE IN & DROP OUT OR WHAT?

The following is not a sensible message meaning that I'm not necessarily going to act upon what the title suggests, I'm just frustrated.

As far as I'm aware there are no Spectrum websites that make allowances for inexpert users although WoS is the next best thing to that ideal.

This message arose out of my frustration with Facebook which is an application I loathe and have never been able to come to terms with or understand how to get the best out of it.

It just simply makes no sense to me, especially the constant stream of 'friend' requests from people I've never heard of. I joined up originally years ago and then stopped using it after a very short frustrating experience and was not at all pleased to find I couldn't banish either it or myself from it.

So when I tried to learn more about the Next from their website I wasn't happy to discover my Facebook account had been reactivated because the info I sought was being addressed therein.

My next complaint which is really the same topic, being the lack of sources for asking silly questions without getting snarky responses, is that there seems to be no one in the same league as myself willing to message back and forth because most if not all the regulars are streets ahead of me and often reply with info that may as well be in sanskrit for all the sense it makes.

Its not just my ignorance either, massive though that is, its their assumptions that cause them not to consider that helpful advice like 'at least try and get used to Cspect while you're waiting for your Next' means nothing because they never even bother to explain what Cspect is or where to get it.

Some bloke called Remy got offended, I think, because my comment on his tutorial was 'clear as mud' which I then justified by explaining my circumstances, ie pretty damn ignorant of the Basics of any and all computer use that isn't a simple Windows program requiring no jiggery pokery with folders and path names and stuff.

The other Speccy website I haunt is Spectrum Computing which doesn't have or encourage a forum for what WoS calls Chit Chat. Its very much confined pretty much to those with a lot of experience who are competent programmers and in some cases expert who, incidentally, in my experience as a teacher make for the worst instructors precisely because they know so much they have forgotten what its like to be starting out.

What I need is somewhere like here where I can intermingle 'how the hell do you do this' along with conversational red herrings that may stray off topic but then might just as easily start off casual and then devolve into technical stuff.

This frigging rigid, you must ask THAT question in THIS forum and no going off topic, doesn't suit my way of thinking or writing which tends to flit haphazardly hither and thither like a butterfly amidst a floral display.

The reason why I praise the original Spectrum so highly is because it was accompanied by two very good, well written, detailed manuals that made it possible for a patient neophyte to achieve some pretty good programming by being persistent and working through the examples of the various commands and how to get the best out of them.

They even printed out the graphic screen position map in both pixels and characters to help you plot your positions when working out where to put a graphic and how to move it.

It seems to me that the majority of users on the two websites I mentioned are quite at home with machine code which is up there in the stratosphere as far as I'm concerned.

A man has to know his limitations and I cannot understand what machine code does or how it does it, I'm not even at home with POKES and the PRINT USR commands that most people trot out at the drop of a hat!

Although I'm not stupid, at least I think not, I'm old enough that my brain doesn't catch on as quickly as it did 30 odd years ago when I wrote my Speccy programs to achieve a good grade in my college finals. I was jolly proud of that achievement but it took me nearly a year to achieve under quite a lot of pressure.

Then came the Amiga which was a whole new ball game and way past my programming skills to use its powerful sound and graphics. Then came the inevitable PC and DOS command line stuff and finally Windows 95 after which I thankfully gave up using the computer as a tool and my small store of knowledge became increasingly irrelevant.

Okay and then here comes the Next. Oooh! says me, now finally I'll be able to try my hand at a more powerful Basic that will have a manual to help me and possibly even give me the ability to try some sort of Amiga like sound and graphics.

That should see me until its time to shuffle off this mortal coil. One last chance to achieve something worthwhile, a good task to get my teeth into but without outside help and feedback its probably going to prove too much for me.

So maybe I should just admit defeat and wave the white flag, if only I had someone to talk to who would be on the same level and able to be my sounding board and vice versa of course.

Comments

  • Hi So you are basicly a Basic man. Thats good. Most of my stuff is too.
    And you feel like that 'oldy' , waiting for the correct bus to arive next at that crossroad, and then a scouting flip comes near and tosses you to the other side off the road since... you are waiting for that bus next to the crossroad...
    but you want that BUS and not a nice person dropping you at the other side off the that road.... which you probably passed at first just to get to that busstop!
    hmm.
    well stay foot, stay basic!!
    my old website http://home.hccnet.nl/c.born/ has changed to http://www.cborn.nl/zxfiles/ so just click it and select a file
    Thanked by 1mik3d3nch
  • Thanks Crisis - good analogy about the boy scout and the bus stop!

    Me and Basic - a short explanation. When I went to college as a mature student aged 30, one of the pre-requisites was a mandatory course in Basic which I was really excited about as I'd long wanted to get my hands on a computer.

    However it was disappointing partly because we used dumb terminals which were slow and because there was no graphics at all just text. So I went to complain to the head of dept. and he handed me a Spectrum with an expression like it was a dead rat saying "This is a micro computer, its yours for the duration, see if you can do anything with it and we'll consider you have done the necessary course work."

    Next I stopped off at a newsagents and bought one of every magazine they had that mentioned Sinclair or Spectrum and then took my Speccy and mags home prepared to do a lot of research.
    What with adverts, type ins, articles and readers letters it was a good way to find out what I needed to know and once I opened the Spectrums box I discovered the Basic manual which really helped a lot.

    For some reason, possibly obstinacy, I just couldn't get my head around machine code and god knows I've tried! I've read several books about the way the Z80chip works, but it just seems to be beyond my comprehension despite several people doing their best to help me get started.

    The thing is that I like Basic, it makes sense to me being very much like English which is a great help understanding what the commands do, well, some of them anyway. To be enjoyable a computer has to suit me and my way of thinking not the other way round. Besides, its not as if I have to do any programming except as recreation.

    I used to enjoy it when my son was living at home because he was much quicker picking up on how to do things but I was better at coming up with ideas about things to try, so the two of us had a lot of fun discovering what we could do with the computer.

    On my own, my wife has no interest in it at all, programming isn't much fun, you need a partner to bounce ideas off and to help each other to achieve something working together. I could go on a lot longer about this but I'd better not.
  • I vote you stick at it, and don't be afraid of sticking with BASIC... You are certainly not alone in your sentiments about finding machine code alien... Iv been involved in a couple of gaming projects with Climacus and have little clue myself about machine coding - its simply not my thing... Iv helped with graphics, sound, music conversion, map design, presentation, and game design and testing, but never got to gripes with machine coding... Iv often obsessed over looking for solutions to abstract problems, but always resorted to the easiest tools available to me for solving them, which has usually been BASIC, or basic-like... Iv written map tools, sound tools, interfaces for commandline tools and other things, all using BASIC, or some script like language... Fundamentally, like you, Iv always been more inclined towards using readable higher level languages rather than low level programming... Iv used QBasic for tool design, AutoScript for GUI interfaces and FreeBasic, all because they are readable and come with extensive examples and documentation out there... Without that extensive material, Id be lost...
    I barely get much free time these days, but if I did, Id be finishing off graphic projects, map designs, and writing out game ideas... My point is, there are plenty of ways a person can create and contribute to projects without having to actually get involved in direct coding...
    Modern spectrum setups these days are sometimes overwhelming in terms of capacity and functions, but there is also a flip side to that too... Since the creation of esxdos and DivIDE type storage tools, those of us who know only BASIC have been spoilt now with the advent of dot commands (".")... The addition of dot commands to regular basic (eg: .playpt3, .midiplay, .czspeak, etc), combined with near instantaneous loading of data from an SD card (almost as fast as the +2 RAM drive, loading stuff from the M: drive using LOAD! commands), has given BASIC users functions and abilities that they previously could only dream of... While some might argue that taking advantage of such features breaks with pure compatibility for 48k tape users, I think modern users can make a case for setting the bar a little higher now that so many ZX users rely on DivIDE type devices... In short, more can be accomplished these days by BASIC only users than from back in the day... Relying only on BASIC in no way need handicap the quality of your work or projects now...
    I suspect the ZX NEXT will overwhelm you initially, but in a good way... Out of the box, it will have more than enough functions and clever abilities for you to explore, and its BASIC will cover pretty much everything you could ever want to do with the machine...
    I do however sympathise with your experiences in trying to gather information on the machine in advance... I also suspect that CSpect isn't quite as user friendly as other emulators you have probably used in the past. I have it on my system too, and find it quite complex and user unfriendly... To be fair, it has to be complex to pull off what it does, and there isn't much else out there that can do an accurate emulation of the NEXT, since it is itself a modular and complex machine (I mean, it also has a RpiZero attached to it?!?!?)... I suspect the emulator is likely more complex than the machine it emulates, and could probably do with some simplified configuration setups and presentation tweaks...
    Personally, I could never justify spending that much money (to my wife) on a NEXT, so certainly see that as a luxury machine... I do however have something of a fetish with my ZX Uno machine, and have been trying to understand the intricacies of TR-DOS with my russian made ZX PentEVO. Both are powerful machines, capable of lots, even with sticking to BASIC alone... I think accepting that one will always be "overwhelmed", to some degree, is part of the journey and pleasure of owning a machine (any machine really). Much of my time (when I have it), is spent merely tinkering and exploring, rather than finishing anything - I don;'t think that is unusual... Your not unusual in that way... Feeling intimidated by the abilities of others, is also not unusual... Sometimes, Im pleasantly surprised when a brilliant programmer can't even draw good looking space invaders... It gives me a small bit of satisfaction to know that, although I can't program, I can still add something occasionally to a project that might be of some use, or help...

    Keep on keeping on... :)
  • The Spectrum Next manual (which includes details about the BASIC) is available for download.

    Mark
    Thanked by 1mik3d3nch
  • In my job, I see / experience people being overwhelmed and feeling intimidated by the abilities of others all the time. And my job has nothing to do with programming.

    This happens in any situation where there are complex systems. Especially if the complex system is significantly different from the experiences people have from elsewhere in life.

    Most often in my job, it’s apprentices, or people new to our industry that are completely overwhelmed. But other members of staff, including long serving members, also experience it if working on something they don’t often work on. But unfortunately some won’t ask for help and will try to blunder on regardless.

    Computers and especially computer languages also have complex terminology which can make it more difficult.

    If you are trying to learn on your own, or you come up against an unexpected problem while working on your own, it can be extremely frustrating. As you feel like you have run into a brick wall. You look left and right, but all you can see is the wall disappearing into the distance. With no apparent way through or round it.

    If you do become stuck, it’s definitely worthwhile talking to others about it.
    Similarly use the forum to also discuss ideas. The person that does not ask the ‘silly’ question and stays stuck in front of the brick wall, is the one that is being silly...

    Oh, and on the subject of machine code / assembly language, Mike, you probably have not noticed it, but machine coders are often asking other machine coders for help with something on forums.

    Mark
  • 1024MAK wrote: »
    The Spectrum Next manual (which includes details about the BASIC) is available for download.

    Mark

    Thanks Mark I found it right after I'd posted that last message, though why its not in the Files I don't know. Also that 7z zip is a royal pain at least until you locate an unpacker that does the job seamlessly.
  • MARK, I've noticed and admired how you are the one most often to come to the fore when people are having electrical problems with various Speccy's both here and at S.C. From which I deduce that you may be an E.E. possibly a British Telecomm employee? Just a guess, not that it matters.

    What I was dropping hints about with elephantine grace in my original Sunday grumble post, was to see if there might be any takers willing to back and forth with me on developing my Basic skills in the hope of getting something SPECtacular out of my Next when it eventually arrives. From his reply it may be that Crisis is a possible co-conspirator.

    Also, not looking for a pity party but to be perfectly honest, at my age (73) almost all possible 'friends' (real or a la Facebook) are drying up at an alarming rate and perhaps the age gap betwixt myself and the average Spec chum, is responsible for the general lack of back and forth banter which could be a possible entry point to something more engaging such as helping others develop useful pieces of program data such as UDG's, for example.

    I'm rather fond of those little buggers and can happily spend hours with graph paper and pencil designing objects to be used in a game such as 'springs' and a couple of years back I designed a tank for someone who is no longer around, of which I was quite proud.

    With the Next I'll definitely have another go at that object and with its much faster Basic might try and add some suspension movement and track sounds along with a revolving turret and a gun that really fires! Its fiddly little stuff like that I enjoy doing and its programming such details that gives me the most pleasure.

    Once or twice I've responded when someone put out a request for aid but to date no one took me up on it which I attribute to being because nobody knows me or perhaps I've not portrayed myself in a positive light by some of my remarks or maybe people are too polite to say that I'm a boring old fart best left alone to mumble his inconsequential observations and not one of 'us'.

    C'est la vie but thanks for your responses.
  • I wish I could help, but my BASIC skills are terrible heh. As for the UDGs point, I have plenty of graph paper which is handy when bored to doodle on. None of it ever gets to the speccy, but it keeps me outta trouble lol
    So far, so meh :)
    Thanked by 1mik3d3nch
  • polomint wrote: »
    I wish I could help, but my BASIC skills are terrible heh. As for the UDGs point, I have plenty of graph paper which is handy when bored to doodle on. None of it ever gets to the speccy, but it keeps me outta trouble lol

    If that is such grid paper with 1 cm blocks, perhaps you could make a 300pdi scan?
    such paper is getting oldfashioned, or its to long ago i was on school.
    my old website http://home.hccnet.nl/c.born/ has changed to http://www.cborn.nl/zxfiles/ so just click it and select a file
  • Crisis wrote: »
    polomint wrote: »
    I wish I could help, but my BASIC skills are terrible heh. As for the UDGs point, I have plenty of graph paper which is handy when bored to doodle on. None of it ever gets to the speccy, but it keeps me outta trouble lol

    If that is such grid paper with 1 cm blocks, perhaps you could make a 300pdi scan?
    such paper is getting oldfashioned, or its to long ago i was on school.

    It was this that I bought, haven't done anything in it yet, not had time :/

    https://amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0993474438/
    So far, so meh :)
  • edited September 15
    Crisis there should be no problem in obtaining graph paper to suit your purposes. Any stationery store or art supply store carries various types and sizes either in sheet form like computer paper or in book form because childrens schools use graph paper books for teaching things like geometry, graphs, etc.

    You're in Holland, aren't you? If you really do have a problem finding what you need I could send you a book of graph paper no problem.

    When I was in a hurry to get some I drew up a grid using Windows Paint - dead easy - and printed out a few dozen sheets, you could do likewise I'm sure. Oh and another good thing is that if you use Paint you can fill in the pixels with the mouse, its quicker and easier than doing it by hand.

    If you really need help I'll do my best to get you sorted, I can send an email with that paint file, for example?
    Post edited by mik3d3nch on
  • mik3d3nch wrote: »
    What I need is somewhere like here where I can intermingle 'how the hell do you do this' along with conversational red herrings that may stray off topic but then might just as easily start off casual and then devolve into technical stuff.

    Actually, WoSF has been one of the few places where discussions are allowed to devolve into banter and tomfoolery even on technical topics. Admittedly, I have seen ban-hammers and topic lock/deletion happening a bit too much in the past few years and I attribute this to people getting more grumpy with age. However, the forums still remain quite relaxed and friendly place to visit on the whole. I think that's why I'm still around after 18 odd years. Whelp!
    It seems to me that the majority of users on the two websites I mentioned are quite at home with machine code which is up there in the stratosphere as far as I'm concerned.

    On the contrary. The majority of users aren't machine code wizards. Most of us know a bit of BASIC I guess. Some of us know assembly code (I rate myself a beginner for example, as in I can read and write simple stuff). Then of course, there are a couple of absolute wizards at assembly and everything speccy, but we only let them out twice a week or so just to show that we are a serious retro community.

    I encourage you to not give up on us. If the answers you get to your query don't seem at the level you like, don't be afraid to ask more questions. When answering queries it's not easy to judge how much information is enough. Sometimes it's just easier to point to an existing source of information instead of repeating it. I find that people generally appreciate if you demonstrate that you have tried something first before asking questions. It saves people time trying to eliminate the possibilities one by one.
  • edited September 16
    Now I wanted to reply much earlier, but I'm a very slow reader and by the time I've finished writing, there are already 10 replies each with many many wall of text, and I have to read more. So I am never really able to reply on this.
    mik3d3nch wrote: »
    What I was dropping hints about with elephantine grace in my original Sunday grumble post, was to see if there might be any takers willing to back and forth with me on developing my Basic skills in the hope of getting something SPECtacular out of my Next when it eventually arrives.

    Have you seen my latest BASIC game tutorial in the Development board? Perhaps that's a place to start. While it does have somewhat machine code, 90% of the code is in BASIC, and it really is the easiest way to go writing games. A Tip is always to just write the most of the code yourself and then ask someone to do see if they can help with the rest. (Of course that doesn't mean that "the rest" is easy to write, or even possible at all. But that's something you just need to have more experience in, to be able to decide on that.)
    Once or twice I've responded when someone put out a request for aid but to date no one took me up on it which I attribute to being because nobody knows me or perhaps I've not portrayed myself in a positive light by some of my remarks or maybe people are too polite to say that I'm a boring old fart best left alone to mumble his inconsequential observations and not one of 'us'.

    I guess that "once or twice" just isn't enough. Especially for you, who writes many, many threads with even more text. It's incredible amount of work for me, if I'm going to read through thousands of lines and you only mentioned it once or twice. ;) It's really like finding a needle in ten haystacks.

    And to be honest, it took me many posts from Crisis before I realised he really had problems with a 15 lines BASIC game. Fortunately he writes a bit less verbose so I can read quicker. And why I decided to actually to write that tutorial.
    It seems to me that the majority of users on the two websites I mentioned are quite at home with machine code which is up there in the stratosphere as far as I'm concerned.
    and
    Although I'm not stupid, at least I think not, I'm old enough that my brain doesn't catch on as quickly as it did 30 odd years ago when I wrote my Speccy programs to achieve a good grade in my college finals. I was jolly proud of that achievement but it took me nearly a year to achieve under quite a lot of pressure.

    Let's start with one thing first, I don't believe anyone here is good in machine code. Some of them are good in assembly (language). It's incredibly pointless to learn about things like "1,0,64,201" (a random piece of machine code I just made up). But some people can tell you what "ld h,64; ret" does (assembly). So it's easier if you just use 'assembly language' instead of 'machine code'. (Yes I know everyone uses both names, but if you like machine code, I could just give you a list of random numbers.)

    As for learning assembly, it's just a lot of work. Basically just like learning every other laguage; I'm currently learning Japanese, and that's also hard for me. And you won't need most of it anyway, how often do you use ASN or ERASE in Sinclair Basic anyway? And that's not all, you'd have to learn how the Spectrum works, how the screen is built up by bytes, how the beeper or music is being made, how to set up interrupts. Learning one without the other is just a bit of a waste of time. (In the end you probably only need about 20 commands to do most of the things.) What I wanted to say is, it has nothing to do with intelligence, after all, even a machine can understand it. It's just a lot of things to learn, and if you ask the wrong question, you'll learn a lot of useless stuff and getting nowhere.

    Go and look at that BASIC game tutorial (with the emphasis on game) and see how much you can understand there already, and then ask questions. And yes, the questions will go all over the place, but that's because everyones knowledge about making games is different. You'll need to ask the questions that you need.

    Good luck!

    (Edit: I've added the tutorial in my sig.)
    Post edited by Timmy on
    Thanked by 1mik3d3nch
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