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DavidC

COMAL 80 and the C64

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 I recently discovered COMAL for the Commodore 64 and I am really enjoying it.  It is a fantastic language for a beginner.  I have been searching the intraweb for any and all .pdfs that I can get my grubby little hands on.  One book eludes me.  "Commodore 64 Graphics With Comal"  by Len Lindsay.    Does anyone have the .pdf that they can share with me?   I tried all the usual places.  No luck...

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Posted (edited)

Yes, I saw that.    I will take that leap if a PDF is truly non-existant.   Comal should have been the built in language for the C64,  it is so much better than the standard BASIC...in my opinion. 

 

Edited by DavidC

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Yeah some of those old books are difficult to find even in PDF format.  I hadn't heard of Comol before. 

 

I found this post on Lemon64:

https://www.lemon64.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=57133&sid=43a761ffa484431c2b204e8080afda27

 

And it has a Comol Collection which looks like it includes PDFs..

 

http://tinyurl.com/ofucjhc

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Posted (edited)
23 minutes ago, Gray Defender said:

Yeah some of those old books are difficult to find even in PDF format.  I hadn't heard of Comol before. 

 

I found this post on Lemon64:

https://www.lemon64.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=57133&sid=43a761ffa484431c2b204e8080afda27

 

And it has a Comol Collection which looks like it includes PDFs..

 

http://tinyurl.com/ofucjhc

Yes sir, I saw that on Lemon as well.  It is a very nice collection of Comal books, magazines and .D64 as well as a .CRT.    It is missing that one book.   It must be pretty rare. 

 

Edit.  The .CRT has a lot of other good stuff on it as well...

Edited by DavidC

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Turtle graphics, way better than Terrapins LOGO, much faster in Comal.   Sprite control without all the PEEKS and POKES.   Why Commodore did not latch on and make Comal the standard language is beyond me..  Of course, I just discovered it myself about two weeks ago.    Structured programming,  this would of changed everything...but what do I know.   Other than,   I like it! 

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16 minutes ago, DavidC said:

Turtle graphics, way better than Terrapins LOGO, much faster in Comal.   Sprite control without all the PEEKS and POKES.   Why Commodore did not latch on and make Comal the standard language is beyond me..  Of course, I just discovered it myself about two weeks ago.    Structured programming,  this would of changed everything...but what do I know.   Other than,   I like it! 

Probably because they'd have to pay for a licence for it and Jack Tramiel hated paying for stuff... Hence why they milked that PET Basic as long as they could.

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42 minutes ago, Badaboom said:

Probably because they'd have to pay for a licence for it and Jack Tramiel hated paying for stuff... Hence why they milked that PET Basic as long as they could.

Yeah, you ain't wrong about that.  The flat rate he payed for Commodore BASIC...Oh well.   That was then, this is now.  30 years later...something like that.   

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How much different is COMAL from BASIC when it comes to the syntax? I've used COMAL once as a kid but can't remember if it just is a superset or more different. While each BASIC version has its own peculiarities, they're somewhat translatable which means if Commodore suddenly would've thrown out their modified version of BASIC which as noted they had paid an one off license fee for, all older software as well as programs from competitors would be harder to translate. In particular in the beginning of the C64, a lot of VIC-20 and PET programs were converted and improved audio-visually.

 

Another thing to consider how much space it takes. The C64 roughly has perhaps 9K for a programming language including parser and interpreter. From what I can tell, COMAL 80 ver 2.0 on cartridge form has 4 banks x 16 kB (or if that really is 6 banks, a bit uncertain about that). It quickly suggests that Commodore should've packed in the COMAL cartridge with the computer instead of building in the ROM. Otherwise the motherboard would have to be redone and even more internal ROM bank switching adding than it already has. Also the cartridge came with a supplemental floppy disk which you may or may not need to use. If the floppy disk was required, suddenly the C64 would change from a $595 computer to a $1095 computer with the drive included. Perhaps many customers bought a floppy drive anyway so it made little difference, I understand that tapes only briefly were popular in the US at least.

 

There also is COMAL ver 00.14 on floppy disk which doesn't include a cartridge but instead eats RAM so you only get 12K programming space instead of 30K. I'm not sure that would have played well, if Commodore's new mammoth computer the C64 had 64K RAM of which 12K available to the programmer. Most competitors would have laughed at Commodore for that. Obviously you still would need that ~$500 floppy drive even with the cartridgeless version.

Edited by carlsson

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Can't argue with that logic.  It would of been cool if they bundled the cartridge though. The floppy disk that came with it was mostly tutorial stuff and demos I believe.

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IIRC, Commodore didn't even bundle the user manual with the C64, at least not at the beginning. I think they started to include it a little later.

 

I found a Swedish brochure from about 1984. The disk version of COMAL ver 00.12 cost 595 SEK ~= $85 (minus VAT = $69). The cartridge version of COMAL ver 2.0 cost 1395 SEK ~= $200 (minus VAT = $160). Prices may have been lower in the US, but we're basically suggesting Commodore would have bundled a software package worth $150+ with the computer, in order to provide a better programming language.

 

Simons' BASIC cost 595 SEK at the same time, and frankly would've been a more useful bundling as it just extends BASIC with commands for graphics, sprites, sound and programming aids. I'm sure there were retailers who indeed did offer various bundles.

 

For instance I have an internal brochure from August 1984 where retailers could purchase a C64, 1541 and Simons' BASIC for 4535 SEK + VAT (5599 SEK), on which they could add their own margins to the customer. The expected margin was around 40-45%, but some retailers may have gone as low as 5-10% margin and sell by volume. At that point in time, a loose C64 could be had at the cheapest for 2995 SEK incl. VAT plus another 3000 SEK for the floppy drive. If the seller was willing to only have 7% margin, they basically could've sold the bundle at 6000 SEK and seemingly to the customer given away Simons' BASIC for free.

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Wow, the disk version 00.14 was freely distributed here in the US. When the cartridge did come out, Version 2.0 or whatever, I think that was around $125. 

 

As a matter of fact I was randomly going thru some .d64's  of AHOY! magazine this afternoon and I was surprised to find they put Comal 00.14 on side two of their magazine disks.  June, July and Aug. (or thereabouts) of the 1987 issues.  Funny that I randomly found them after starting this thread...lol.   It's a cool language.  I dig it.   I have the .CRT on my BackBit Cartridge along with pretty much everything else, Simons Basic, 64Forth, all kinds of stuff to mess around with, depending on my mood.   Fun to play with. 

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COMAL was a great language, and a significant step up from PET BASIC 2.0. Named procedures, IF . . . THEN . . . ELSE, several types of loops, PRINT USING . . . COMAL was my first experience with a truly structured programing language! Thanks to my time with COMAL, I learned C without really breaking stride.

 

DavidC is right that a bundled C64 + COMAL cartridge would have unlocked a lot of the C64's capabilities.

 

I wonder if there would have been a market for education? As carlsson notes, Commodore and the home market were very price-sensitive. But the education market was less so. A C64 + COMAL cartridge would have unlocked a lot of programming capability for about $600. It could have competed with Turbo PASCAL at the low end, at least for a while.

 

 

 

The Amazing Adventures of Captain COMAL.pdf

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Hm, perhaps the license changed between ver 00.12 (1984) and 00.14 (1987 ??). Programming books in COMAL were sold separately anyway. But honestly it doesn't surprise me that a product distributed for free in one market would be charged $70 + VAT in another market.

 

On the other hand, the limitations of BASIC forced a good number of people to learn assembly language. Many probably found it a road block and lost interest, while others learned the inner workings. I have a feeling that on computers with better high level languages, fewer people would feel obliged to learn assembly language. Also people tend to complain about all those POKEs into a lot of memory addresses you need to memorize. What they forget is that the exact same POKEs translate into assembly language as pairs of LDA / STA, no need to relearn the entire computer. If you had all those DRAW, PLOT, SPRITE, SOUND, JOY etc commands, the inner workings would be completely new to you when you started to dig deeper. Thus I consider the limited BASIC partly as fortunate for when you were ready to move ahead.

 

I don't know how strong Commodore were in the educational field. I know they had a vast library of software for it, plus of course the Educator 64 computer, but I understand that in the US, Apple pretty much had established themselves in the schools and e.g. in the UK, Acorn BBC won the procurement for a school computer which put them in pole position. Elsewhere on the European continent there may have been more variation though. But yes, COMAL was in some places used as an educational language so in that respect you're correct. For instance the Swedish school computer Compis was a 80186 featuring CP/M and COMAL, with optional Pascal for the professional users.

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9 hours ago, carlsson said:

Hm, perhaps the license changed between ver 00.12 (1984) and 00.14 (1987 ??). Programming books in COMAL were sold separately anyway. But honestly it doesn't surprise me that a product distributed for free in one market would be charged $70 + VAT in another market.

 

On the other hand, the limitations of BASIC forced a good number of people to learn assembly language. Many probably found it a road block and lost interest, while others learned the inner workings. I have a feeling that on computers with better high level languages, fewer people would feel obliged to learn assembly language. Also people tend to complain about all those POKEs into a lot of memory addresses you need to memorize. What they forget is that the exact same POKEs translate into assembly language as pairs of LDA / STA, no need to relearn the entire computer. If you had all those DRAW, PLOT, SPRITE, SOUND, JOY etc commands, the inner workings would be completely new to you when you started to dig deeper. Thus I consider the limited BASIC partly as fortunate for when you were ready to move ahead.

 

I don't know how strong Commodore were in the educational field. I know they had a vast library of software for it, plus of course the Educator 64 computer, but I understand that in the US, Apple pretty much had established themselves in the schools and e.g. in the UK, Acorn BBC won the procurement for a school computer which put them in pole position. Elsewhere on the European continent there may have been more variation though. But yes, COMAL was in some places used as an educational language so in that respect you're correct. For instance the Swedish school computer Compis was a 80186 featuring CP/M and COMAL, with optional Pascal for the professional users.

 You have a valid point.  I had a TI99 with Extended Basic when I was a teenager. The CALL SOUND, CALL COLOR, CALL SPRITE, ect, was what I was used to.  When I finally picked up a C64 I was well into my 30's. I was totally lost and confused when I tried to make simple animations.  It was very frustrating.   I think that is the major why I like Comal, and Simon's for that matter.   It opens up the power of the 64 without the complexity of the POKES and PEEKS. Makes it fun to experiment and play around. At least for me.  

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