OK, so first I find out that Quantum Link has been reverse engineered and resurrected, and then I find out there’s a darn good C compiler for 8-bit computers, including Commodore, Apple and Atari. It’ll even compile GEOS (the Commodore GUI) programs!

Quantum Link, for those of you who don’t know about it, was the precursor to AOL. Imagine an AOL Lite running in text mode using 16 colors and character graphics, and you’ve pretty much got it. Trust me, in 1986 we thought it was the coolest thing around.

I first used it in 1986 but didn’t actually subscribe until 1989. By 1989, of course, its popularity was on the decline because Commodore 8-bits were in their waning days, but it had had plenty of time to build up a great software library. I remember using the free hour or whatever it was they gave you per month to download as much PD software as I could, then I uploaded it all for credits to local BBSs. I built a huge software library that way. And I remember exchanging e-mail with the people who wrote every month in the Commodore magazines, which I thought was pretty cool.

And as far as programming 8-bit computers in C, I never got all that far with it way back when (assembly was so much more efficient) but I imagine today, with the compiler running on a PC with seemingly limitless CPU power and memory, it could probably optimize the code pretty well and generate something comparable to what at least an average assembly programmer would do by hand.

I remember those marathon sessions on the C-128, staying up well past midnight on Friday nights and knowing the system inside and out from both a hardware and software perspective–knowing where the chip was on the board and where it resided on the memory map. It’s just not possible to know the whole system that intimately anymore. I could program them, repair them, and I even designed at least one plug-in board for them (it either added another sound chip or a high-speed RS-232 port), although I never built the board. I wasn’t that confident in my soldering ability.

Maybe someday I’ll dink around with that stuff again. Part of me would really like that.