Some computer programs I wrote and got published, "back in the day".

Years ago, I wrote a few utility programs for use on the Commodore 64 computer. I sold them to RUN magazine, which was a popular Commodore computing magazine from 1984 to 1992.

One of the programs made the cover of a RUN magazine issue. The really short programs were printed as type-in programs in the magazine itself. The longer ones were published only on the ReRUN disks they sold with each issue, as they were usually far too long to type in by hand.

Creative Micro Designs bought the magazine's rights to the ReRUN disks when RUN went out of business. CMD is still selling these disks today. You can buy copies via CMD's web site; see their online catalog. Stop by their site to see what other neat Commodore stuff they have, too. (Sorry, but I cannot provide copies of these programs myself. CMD owns the rights, and I respect that.) Below are explanations of what these programs did and why they were special.

Pack Rat 64
One of the programs I wrote and sold was called Pack Rat. What it did was to read every single sector on a 1541 disk, and mark the BAM (block allocation map) according to whether it found any data in it, no data at all in it, or any read errors there. This was used to find all the free space on a disk that was truly safe to use. This was great for early copy protection schemes that left much of a diskette blank, but you could not normally use any of it due to fear of overwriting some hidden data or having the (intentional copy protection) read errors interfere with your new data.

Automenu 64
Figuring that the next step in filling a disk with programs was the need for a menu, I wrote two of them. I also wrote a program that automatically created autoboots for any program you wanted. Together with Pack Rat (above), these three programs allowed you to create easy-to-use, fully menu-driven disks full of programs. I wanted the average home user to be able to do what only hackers had done before, so my programs were written to be very easy to use, both during disk creation and disk use. (As luck would have it, the next three are all on one ReRUN diskette....)

Automenu 64 is a Commodore 64 disk menu program that you simply copied to any disk. That's all you needed to do to set it up. Seriously. Automenu automatically reads the directory of any given disk after you started the program up. The trick was, after figuring out how to load up the program you chose, it took itself completely out of memory and pretended you had typed in the load instructions by hand. This gives it the best possible compatability record. My tests only found three programs it would not load well, and they were all difficult loads no matter what you did.

Generic Diskmenu
The only real drawback to Automenu was its size. It was not huge, but it did take up 30-some blocks of disk space, which sometimes was not an option. (On a nearly full disk.) So I made a second menu program, that created very tiny menus. How tiny? It usually let you set up a menu for five programs, using one disk block to store itself! Kinda neat little trick to that, actually; it used the "dynamic keyboard" method to make a batch of one-line loaders, in pretend Basic.

Autoboot 64
Autoboot 64 allows you to create autoboots. What this means is a tiny utility program, whose only job is to load up another program. Commercial disks use this technique all the time. It really does make using a disk-based program much easier to use, and seems much more professional.

Profiler 64
I also wrote a program I call Profiler. It allows you to speed up any of your Basic-language programs, by showing you what lines of the program are taking the most time to execute. You could find the slow spots, see which were doing OK as is, and tweak accordingly. This is a fairly advanced tool, for serious speed improvements, while still writing in easy-to-use Basic. Profiler ended up being a cover article, which was pretty neat at the time. It sure made my day! (Honesty and fairness don't permit me to take full credit for this program; the core routines came from a similar program for the Commodore PET computer, once published in the Transactor magazine.)

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