One of the advantages of hacking a Commodore 64 now, as compared to when it was current hardware, is that information sources are so much easier to find. The web is full of useful pages of programming information and digitized versions of out-of-print vintage stuff – so now I’m going to spam you with a few of them!
First up is my #1 reference for C64 programming projects: an actual physical book! The Commodore 64 Programmer’s Reference Guide is an authentic artifact of the 8-bit era. They don’t make computer manuals like this anymore. It covers everything from the 6510 instruction set to the pinouts of the VIC-II chip. The coolest part, though, is the complete fold-out schematic for the C64. I think this book really highlights the difference between the 8-bit era and the modern, increasingly walled-garden era of computing. There was a time when every home computer user was a hobbyist, and was expected to do a little coding. There was a time when, well, you kind of had to. There are PDFs of this book available here, but I’ve found that I can look things up in my dead tree copy more quickly than I can with the PDF on my iPad.
Next, there’s the Ultimate Commodore 64 Talk. This is an hour-long presentation by Michael Steil from 25c3, a German hacking conference. He manages to cram an overview of the entire machine into this talk, including the 6510, graphics, and programming techniques. It’s an amazing overview. And if you like this one, he inspired someone else to do an Ultimate Atari 2600 Talk a couple years later.
Finally, there’s the C64 Codebase Wiki, which has a wealth of information, some of it quite sophisticated. Quite a bit of the information here is from programmers in the demo scene. While the Reference Guide tells you about everything the C64 was designed to do, this site includes some information on graphical tricks the designers never intended.
To be honest, up to now I’ve been purposefully avoiding some of the stuff on the Codebase, simply because I wanted to have the fun of working it out for myself. That’ll only take me so far, of course, and I’m going to be delving more heavily into this material in the future.
So if you want a little more background on the things I’ve been talking about the last couple weeks, now you have some things to look at. And next time, I’m going to have something completely different to talk about.