Friday, March 13, 2020

New Hi-res Graphics for Commodore 64

Dust off that Commodore 64.  It's time to play with graphics old school. In the highest resolution available to your Commodore 64 -- 320x200 in beautiful monochrome and up to 16 colors (limited to two per 8x8 cell -- foreground and background).   That's more than twice the resolution of your first generation Palm Pilot, and more colors, so cool!


So what shall we draw first on our Commodore 64?  I vote for a circle.  Since I'm running the show here, I get to pick my favorite one sided two dimensional object.  Just a little trigonometry in play here.  Ah, takes me back to high school in 1982.  Good times!

10 REM HI-RES CIRCLE, DAVEVW.COM
20 COLOR 1, 15, 0, 14: REM GRAPHICS COLORS: LT GRAY ON BLACK, LT BLUE BORDER
30 HIRES 1 CLR: REM SWITCH TO GRAPHICS AND CLEAR
40 PI=3.1416: REM OR USE PI CHARACTER
50 R=90: REM RADIUS
55 C=1: REM COLOR
60 FOR A=0 TO 2*PI+PI/30 STEP PI/15: REM LOOP THROUGH ALL THE ANGLES AND MORE
70 X=R*COS(A)+160
80 Y=-R*SIN(A)+100
85 PLOT COLOR C
86 C=C+1:IF C=16 THEN C=1
90 IF A=0 THEN:PLOT 1,X,Y: REM PLOT POINT FIRST
100 IF A<>0 THEN:PLOT 1 TO X,Y: REM ALL OTHERS ARE LINES

110 NEXT


Pretty cool.  The code fakes a circle with 30 lines (see the different colors!) using SIN/COS to get the coordinates. (Hint: to get out blind type HIRES 0 and RETURN, or just make a syntax error and that will return to text as well.  Or use STOP+RESTORE, or power cycle as a last resort).

But what?  You don't have the COLOR, HIRES, PLOT keywords in your Commodore 64 BASIC?  Shucks, time to install HI-RES FOR C64.  Better yet, let's just dive in to learning the new keywords by launching LOADHIRES.

Insert your HI-RES FOR C64 disk.   I wish I had a time machine.  We could dial back to 1982 and look for it in your favorite computer retailer shop, or mail order house.  If it only existed then.  I probably could have sold this for something.

Except we are in the 21st century now.  We have Internet and everything.  You're not reading this on a BBS are you?   Just download the HI-RES FOR C64 disk image (open source!) and run in your favorite C64 emulator (VICE 3.3 r35872 or later recommended as that's what I'm running).  Or just copy to a floppy or such (SD for use with SD2IEC, pi1541, etc.) and run in your real C64 or C128.  (I personally use ZoomFloppy to transfer to my 1581 on 3 1/2" floppy to run on my C128[DCR].)


Hi-res is a software extension to Commodore I wrote over the course of about a year (June 2019 - March 2020) to continue my retro vibe, and close the loop on a project I had embarked on in the early 1980s.  I realized my dream!  Achievement completed.  Okay that is pretty priceless.

The keyword commands that you can learn about in the interactive documentation shown above, include:
HIRES
COLOR
PLOT
RECT
PATTERN
SHAPE


I'm not going to explain how to use them here.  Run the interactive documentation and learn there.  Move the cursor up and down, and press return for a demo or more information.  The demos show the capabilities of this hi-res system and utilize its keywords.

Now I'm going to use this remaining blog space to continue to rant about my Commodore programming memories...

Now I started on a PET at high school school.  And soon afterwards bought a VIC-20 for home with my own money.  I didn't get a Commodore 64 until about 1986, and a Commodore 128(DCR) in 1987.  With limited funds available prior to the C128, my only graphics capabilities was from purchasing a Super Expander with 3K RAM for my VIC-20.  While I was underwhelmed by some specifics of the Super Expander product (after shelling out about $60), having access to graphics was way cool and I did use it along with my math studies.  But then I outgrew BASIC programming in 1982 and branched into 6502 assembly.  I used HESMON to code 6502 machine language to develop a graphics package I could call into from BASIC using SYS commands.  I remember adding ability to parse commas and numbers to get arguments to my hi-res routines.

And since this was a VIC-20 and not a C64, there were no sprites to speak of.  So I wrote my own
shape routines to copy portions of screen to and from memory.   And wrote my own character editor, and wrote my own routines for 40 columns text.  Unfortunately I haven't recovered any of those programs for tape and disk yet.  Here's hoping!  Finishing this project has been in the back of my mind for more than 35 years.

But I did one better.  I rewrote the high resolution package from scratch.  Well, actually I had some help starting out, so can't take all the credit (more on that later).  And this time targeted the C64 instead of the VIC-20.  Modern equipment and upgrades, you know!  Well, the C64 is a better more popular target for now, and has pretty good resources available (64K vs. 5K), except my VIC-20 Golden RAM 24K expansion board is laying around here somewhere.  But the VIC-20 isn't running.  So yeah, back to the C128 in 64 mode or more technically, the VICE emulator.

Okay, so Paul Soper posted on Reddit a link to his blog post of plotting a math function.  And I was in the retro mood so I ported the BASIC code he posted directly to machine code.  So I could pretty much replace the BASIC GOSUB routines with SYS commands.   The result was a little messy for passing values in A,X,Y registers, but it worked, and the graphics init and clear were much faster.  I posted the response to a comment in Reddit and on his blog.  Thanks again Paul!   And Paul credits the book The Graphics Book for the Commodore 64 as a source for his program, so thanks also to Abacus Software!

So to make a long story longer, I patched BASIC vectors to add the keywords.  This is not something I had accomplished in the 80s.  But with PDFs of Commodore manuals accessible at my fingertips to search and reference at whim, and more determination, and more senior engineering experience and confidence, I was able to accomplish the complete task in a professional and ideal manner.

Here are the successes of hi-res summarized:
  • supports graphics screens across the memory map (except zero page, and not where character rom gets in the way)
  • can switch between multiple graphics screens.  Supporting both hardware screens, and software swapped color tables, depending on addresses used.
  • default graphics screen is under KERNAL ROM
  • alternate graphics screen and color table is under BASIC ROM and I/O
  • So two screens without taking away any BASIC RAM!!!
  • machine code is from $C000-D423 (or thereabouts).  Utilizes more than 1K of RAM under I/O using banking, so not taking away any BASIC RAM.
  • Shape routines can copy any size portion of hi-res screen to/from RAM, and combine using GET/PUT/AND/OR/NOT/XOR.  This is leveraged to also support filling rectangular area with 8x8 pixel pattern, and plotting character strings to hi-res screen.
  • Hi-res patches SCRLEDIT in RAM so it will list the new tokens correctly.  Scroll up and down through your BASIC programs with F1/F7 using software I published in Compute!'s Gazzette.
  • assembly compiled using ACME.  Developing 6502 Assembly using Microsoft Visual Code editor, and builds into a running VICE instance.   And vice has built in machine language monitor with symbol table loaded built by ACME.   Very nice edit+build+test+debug cycle for development!!!  So glad not developing in the 80s anymore.
  • Machine language interface is also there.   Load up A/X/Y with correct values and JSR to $C000 as entry point for all the routines.  See source for details.
  • There are actual comments in the source code!  Gasp!  Don't worry, the BASIC interactive demo source is almost indecipherable in comparison.
  • Writing the assembly code was fun!
  • Writing the BASIC code to drive the demo was so much of a chore it wore on and dragged on for months.  Finally it is done.  I'm done with it too.  I'm sure it's done with me too.
Finally there is a joke screen (easter egg?) at the end of the interactive demo.   Cursor down to my website name, and press RETURN.  You will get a fun prompt.


It's up to you to find out what happens if you brave disagreeing with this statement.  Press y or n, it's up to you!

So what do you think of this?   What would you do different or add?  Having any troubles with it?  Do you want to know more of a particular aspect of this software?   Do you have a Commodore computer to dust off and get running again?  What was your favorite vintage computer?

Enjoy!

Links: