INMC 80 News


October–December 1981, Issue 5

Page 63 of 71

Gèt sömè ŜTYLÈ !


by Rory O’Farrell.

When writing programs, one is of course anxious to get the program finished and running as fast as possible. This is very understandable, but it leads to trouble. In one’s haste to get running, one usually omits one very important item – COMMENTS! Comment your program fully. If in assembler, use as many comments as possible, and if in BASIC use REM statements. Use such comments or REMs also to space out the program and make it more legible. Admittedly in BASIC the REMs can slow down the speed of execution of the program, but they can always be removed with a Toolkit (.K Command in Henry’s, as reviewed in INMC80 no 2). If intending to do this, please, please don’t GOTO or GOSUB a REM statement, or you will have errors when you try to run the program. In machine language, the comments will slow the assembly slightly, but they will not effect the runtime speed. In any event, make sure that you have a fully commented or REMed tape of the program to file.

Another point of style. Use Manifest Constants as much as possible. If in machine language you wish to designate the Top Line of the Screen, don’t write LD HL, 0BCAH. Instead use an EQU statement at the program start:


and in the program


Should it now prove necessary for some reason to change the line, e.g. using the second line instead, we need only change the EQU statement, like this:


and the assembler will change all occurrences of TOPLIN to point to the correct line. No chance of missing a LD HL,0BCAH inadvertently. Similarly, common values such as for carriage return (0DH) and backspace (08H) should be declared in the same way» This makes the program more readable, and consequently helps cut down on the comments. It also has side effects. Suppose one writes a program to accept 8 digit numbers, and to sort them into order. Obviously, such a program will have a number of occurences of the number 8. It will occur wherever backspaces are processed, as one ought to be able to make and correct an input error fairly easily, and it will also have 8s in the counting loops. Some months after writing this program, you decide, for reasons best known to yourself, that you wish to modify this to process 13 digit numbers. “No problem”, you say, “I’ve just got to fly through the program and change all the 8s to 13s.”

So you are sitting down at your trusty Nascom, changing 8s to 13s with gusto, and the phone rings. It is a) the hospital to say that the baby has arrived, b) the bank manager to say that you can have the extra overdraft, c) the Prime Minister to ask you if you’d accept a Peerage (delete as appropriate), so you have to answer. After a long conversation, you return to your patching. Where were you? Was that 8 a backspace or an entry length counter? Is that 13 (or 0DH) a carriage return or an entry length counter? HELP! All this could have been saved if you had used manifest constants at the top of the program (or didn’t talk to a) women, b) bank managers, c) Prime Ministers).

Page 63 of 71