Thursday, September 04, 2003

Those of us old enough to remember the glory days of Acorn & Sinclair (Timex in the US, oddly enough) have oft lamented that it's phenomenally hard for beginners to learn how computers REALLY work at a low level these days. Back in the day, we had widespread access to cheap'n'cheerful hardware with 8-bit CPUs and 64K of RAM - and an assembler, and hobbyist books, magazines and user groups to support us. Consequently, many of us grew up writing Z80 and 6502 assembler code, or, if we were lucky, PEEKing and POKEing our way through "low memory" with BASIC to see what we could make the machine do.

These days, I don't even know who produces an assembler for whatever x86 or PowerX chip is in our sleek, desktop machines (Metrowerks, maybe?) - and I wouldn't know where to begin if I wanted to actually do some simple graphics ... WinOpenHandle() this and WinRefreshBuffer() that ... eek. You could make these machines do SOMETHING visible by saying:

20 GOTO 10


(and if you wanted extra points for style, you could throw in a CLear Screen instruction at the beginning)

So, in the light of all this nostalgic wistfulness, I found the following statement very interesting: "Our goal here is to teach electrical engineering and low-level, highly optimized programming". All this, and hardware too, for a projected $99.

It's almost enough to make me want to commandeer the small TV from my mum's bedroom and get coding again ... almost.

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