Tuesday, November 29, 2022

How Machine Language Works

I was fortunate that I got interested in computers really early, back in 1975, which was a couple of years before computers like the Apple II, Commodore Pet, and TRS-80 came out.  I was also fortunate that someone I met lent me a computer that he had built from a kit, which was an RCA Elf.  This computer was so primitive and had so little memory, only a quarter K of RAM, that you had to program it with a calculator-like keypad inserting numerical instructions into specific memory locations.  I was able to master this just enough to get a working knowledge of machine code programming.

There was a saying going back to this time period that if you knew how to program in machine code then you had a much deeper understanding of how computers work.  I learned several machine languages, and this proved very useful to me in getting jobs in the video game industry and being able to do those jobs.  When I went to work for Xanterra in 1999 to do Gameboy Color programming, I sort of hit the ground running because I already knew how to program Z80s, which I had learned in the 1970s.  The owner of the company was impressed enough with my skills that he gave me a raise after my first week.


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