What was the deal with serious programming books for the spectrum?

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What was the deal with serious programming books for the spectrum?

Post by Nomad » Sat Dec 30, 2017 7:52 am

Back in the day I had the basic books, and in fairness they would usually do what they said on the tin. But I notice while reading through the assembly books for the spectrum that.. they are mostly written by wide boys and autists. The classic books seem to spend chapters explaining basic computer science concepts (input output, cpu...), of course counting in binary.. talk about the z80 registers But then you get to the examples and unless I am taking crazy pills 90% of them are useless. Why would you write a book about a subject then not give an example for the guy that bought your book to try from the jump start?

There had to be a book, or a magazine series, secret society that informed commercial machine code programmers how to get busy and actually create a working program. Not some trivial register additions.

It seems bizarre that you had basic books that would go through a design process for a game project step by step and build up a readers skill throughout the book. But when it comes to these assembly titles they seem to be just a bunch of generalism, some very shallow commentary taken from the Z80 Sibex book and a bunch of trivial examples.

The Complete Spectrum ROM Disassembly was useful, but for the most part the books seem to be useless. How did anyone learn from these things back in the day?
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Re: What was the deal with serious programming books for the spectrum?

Post by Ast A. Moore » Sat Dec 30, 2017 8:17 am

Nomad wrote:
Sat Dec 30, 2017 7:52 am
How did anyone learn from these things back in the day?
You’re confusing learning with getting information. Learning is a skill like any other. Some people are willing to hone it, others expect to acquire it magically from books. Books provide information. Information is not knowledge. Turning that information into knowledge is only possible if you are willing to learn, and are capable of learning.

I’ve always found those books extremely useful insightful.
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Every man should plant a tree, build a house, and write a ZX Spectrum game.

Author of A Yankee in Iraq, a 50 fps shoot-’em-up—the first game to utilize the floating bus on the +2A/+3,
and zasm Z80 Assembler syntax highlighter.

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Re: What was the deal with serious programming books for the spectrum?

Post by Ralf » Sat Dec 30, 2017 10:24 am

Well, I can tell you about my own experience. It will be different than yours as I'm from Poland and many things were different here but I guess I can relate to some things that you say.

In Poland we didn't have many books about assembly and the ones that existed were often bad in the way you describe. A lot of basic stuff like add register to register and a lot of boring stuff (for me being 10 years old) like solving some mathematical problems. I remember one book even gave implementation of Karatsuba algorithm ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karatsuba_algorithm ) on about 10 pages of assembly code without a single comment. Brrrr ;)

Some of them also tried to be universal - about Z80 programming and not Zx Spectrum programming. So you didn't have anything dealing with Spectrum display it was just calculations on numbers which felt very dry and impractical as you say.

I believe (and know in some cases) that these books were written not by game developers but by some kind of mathematicians and other guys working in education. And I fully agree, these guys can often be pretty theoretical and boring ;) Writing an interesting, useful book is not not a matter of your knowledge but also your personality, maybe even in bigger part. Can you talk in an intersting way, do you have sense of humour, can you keep it simple and so on.

And going back to British books, I noticed that most of them were written in early days of Spectrum, around 1983 and 1984. The goals were more basic and simple then. Average guy just wanted to write a clone of Frogger, Space Invaders or Pacman. And these books often gave examples how to write these simple types of games.

Finally, beibng able to writing a good Spectrum game had a commercial value then. You wouldn't reveal your secrets that you learnt with so much effort so somebody paid a small money for a book and had it all on the plate to start writing his own games. Yes, you had to discover stuff on your own.

Actually it's the same today ;) Books and internet can give you only a start.
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