Enough of the flowery stuff (and I haven’t touched a drop all night even
though it’s Christmas. Shows how long ago this was written.) I got out the
instructions and didn’t understand half the words in the book as it was written in
‘foriegn’ disguised as English. But I understood the circuits and layout diagrams, so
I assembled it. A PSU was hastily designed on the back of a fag packet and the parts
procured. Three days after my escape from Chesham I switched it on and it worked (no,
no problems at all). Well it worked. Now what do you do with it?
I fumbled through the manuals and discovered that the ‘T’ and ‘M’ commands
worked and that I could alter locations within the memory and then redisplay what I
had done. I tried to understand the big program in the software book, as an example of
what to do (it turned out to be a listing of the monitor, but I don’t remember that I
realised this at the time). But there was no clue here. Everything was utterly
incomprehensible. Well this was a fine start. #200.00 worth of computer I couldn’t
use, when the punters who had paid their deposits saw it, I’d be a likely guest at a
lynching with me as main participant. My govenors would be at the front of the crowd
making sure the knots were tight, as it was I who had recommended that XXXXX’s buy the
darned things in the first place. I had to make it do something to prove to the
customers, who would be collecting in a couple of weeks, that they hadn’t spent a
couple of hundred quid on a pile of electronic junk, and that they really didn’t want
their money back.
Don’t try to be too clever, Dave (Very friendly guy, calls himself by his
first name !- Ed.), little steps are always the easiest. First define what it is I
intend to make it do.
Always know what it is you intend to do. I was told once that the definition
of the ‘Genius Level Programmer’ is someone who writes a program, tests it to find out
what it does, and then writes the specification. None of us are geniuses, so keep it
simple, and always know what you are about.
So I have about a week to prove that it will do something, but what? How about
making an asterisk blink on and off on the screen. That would prove that I had some
control over it. So think!!!
First of all it’s necessary to get some idea of the syntax of the machine
instructions. Read and reread the Z80 technical manual. Machine instructions are
written in mnemonics. That means it’s supposed to make it easy to remember. This is
true of some, like ‘LD’ stands for ‘load’. But others are impossible. Who would know
that “DJNZ’ meant ‘decrement, jump not zero’ unless I had just told you. I think it’s
done as a convenient shorthand and saves cramped wrists when hand assembling programs.
The first thing about the instruction codes is that they are split into groups, 8 bit,
16 bit, load, logical, arithmetic, etc. Another thing is that when dealing with a
‘from – to’ type instruction, like a load, the destination is always first, the source
is always last. So LD A,C means load (remember from the last episode this actually
means copy) A with C. Or literally, fill A with a copy of C. That load instruction its
known as a ‘load register direct’ instruction. Think about it, it’s sensible. Another
one is to ‘load register immediate’, that is don’t copy the data from anywhere, just
put it there. These Zilog people seem to use ‘n’ to represent the data, so LD A,n
means load A (destination first again, notice) with ‘n’, whatever ‘n’ might be. An
interesting group of load instructions is the ‘load register indirect’ (a less
sensible definition I think), this is where one of the main 16 bit register pairs, HL,
DE or BC is loaded with a 16 bit address, and then a register is loaded with the data
‘pointed at’ by the 16 bit register pair. LD A,(HL) is one of this group. The brackets
round the HL indicate that it is indirect, and it is the contents of the location
pointed to by HL which we are interested in. Yet another of these instruction types is
the ‘load ext addr’ where the idea is to either load an address location with the
contents of a register, or vice versa. So LD A,(nn), two ‘n’s indicating a 16 «bit
address, means fill A with a copy of the contents of address ‘nn’. Note the brackets
again indicate that it is the contents of the address we are interested in, and not
the address itself. There are two other types, ‘indexed’ and ‘implied’. I’ll let you
work those out for yourself.