[Coco] Linville's ramblings on assembly vs machine code

Gene Heskett gheskett at shentel.net
Mon Jul 10 10:02:16 EDT 2017

On Monday 10 July 2017 04:24:42 RETRO Innovations wrote:

> On 7/10/2017 1:20 AM, Dave Philipsen wrote:
> > Ok, so the list seems rather quiet so I'll try to stir the pot a bit
> > here.  On the CoCo Crew Podcast John Linville rambled on for about
> > nine minutes telling us how machine code is essentially the same as
> > assembler and there's no reason to even try to learn it as it's
> > simply a different (and more difficult) way of 'saying' the same
> > thing.
> I was surprised it merited a segment on the show.  The attempt to show
> the debate "a distinction without a difference" seemed itself "a
> distinction without a difference" :-).
> I know quite a few developers, and I've never heard of this debate. I
> think developers do make a distinction between ML and ASM, because
> there are times, as you note, when you're not in front of an
> assembler, and you need to make changes.  And, there are times when
> knowing how the code will assemble into opcodes allows finer control
> over the resulting program.  So, to distinguish the two ways of
> looking at the code, we use ML and ASM.
> I think a more apt analogy is scientific names for plants.  Noone goes
> around complaining about /*Taraxacum officinale */in people's yard,
> but lots of folks either love or hate a yard full of common
> dandelions. Still, knowing the common plant's scientific name allows
> one to crossmatch it with similar plants in other countries, whereas
> the word dandelion loses the distinction.  Only stuck-up scientists go
> around chastising people who don't use the scientific name, and we
> tend to ignore those folks and not invite them to parties.  But, if I
> got a rash from one, I'd for sure ask the scientist for the complete
> scientific name, so I could be sure I was researching/understanding
> the correct plant.
> Jim

I can't argue too strongly about it Jim, but would state that some of the 
first code I wrote was infinitely easier to write since the board in 
question had a native "hex monitor", but no assembler so I looked up the 
nemonic in the cpu's manual, and typed in, on a 16 key pad, the hex code 
to perform the action. And I wrote, for the RCA 1802, a very handy 
utility for commercial production at KRCR in Redding CA, a tool to add, 
a digital academy leader on a completed commercial tape, and lay down 
the audio tones that synchronized the series playback of those tapes so 
that a complete 4 or more commercial station break was initiated by a 
single button push. The finished utility could handle commercials from 
10 seconds to 2 minutes long, and made the maintenance of a professional 
looking tv station running on the starvation income of a market 160 or 
so station much easier to maintain.  And it all fit, with room to spare, 
in the $400 memory kits 4k of static ram, including the mapping of the 
digital characters to drive the display video. I still have a broadcast 
audio cart with 2 or 3 copies of that software, and a hand typed paper 

This was in late 1978.  The iceing on the cake was when I was in the 
neighborhood in 1995, I called the station, found the CE I was the ACE 
to was still there, and he confirmed that in 1995, they had yet to find 
something to replace it with that worked as well, so it was still in 
many times a day use. 17 years is a phenomenal lifetime for any piece of 
broadcast electronics with the exception of transmitters and towers.

Transmitters, an expensive item, are generally maintained until a newer, 
more power efficient technology comes along, which essentially never 
happened in the vhf band, so the NTSC transmitter WDTV was using was 
made in the late 1950's saw nearly 50 years use when it was turned off 
for the last time at midnight June 30, 2008, signing on with a new hidef 
transmitter at 00:01 1 July 2008.

Cheers, Gene Heskett
"There are four boxes to be used in defense of liberty:
 soap, ballot, jury, and ammo. Please use in that order."
-Ed Howdershelt (Author)
Genes Web page <http://geneslinuxbox.net:6309/gene>

More information about the Coco mailing list