Popularity of I6

Not having been active in this forum for a while, I’m surprised at the number of questions being posted about I6. I’m curious whether there’s a reason for this. Not that I object to it … I wrote my first game in I6, but that was more than 20 years ago.

Is it because the compiled code is leaner? Is it just about showing off your programming chops? Are there problems with I7 that haven’t been addressed?


There’s a spate of people writing Z-code games to run on 8-bit machines (original C-64s, etc).

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Also otisdog has been checking the I6 manual line-by-line for errors.

Ah. That makes sense, I guess … although I confess I’m surprised that there are any C-64s still extant anywhere in the world. Once in a while I wish I still had my old Kaypro, which was the machine I discovered IF on, but really it would only be for nostalgia value.

I still have an operational C64. The keyboard is abominable! I don’t know how I ever used that thing. I have also built several retro Z80 computers in my recent retirement. They are actually quite functional when running CP/M. The first thing I load on them for testing is a series of text IF games.

Retro computing is quite the thing right now.


I guess I can understand that. In electronic music (my main field) I have certainly seen an enthusiastic embrace of retro hardware. This has been going on for some years now, thanks in no small part to Dieter Doepfer’s creation of the Eurorack format. I’ve also seen people releasing deliberately retro software recreations of old hardware synths and even older electronic instruments – the Farfisa compact organ, for instance.

But these retro machines make sound, and the idea is that the sound has certain distinctive characteristics. A retro computer wouldn’t have any distinctive characteristics with respect to output, would it?

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Well, I don’t think emulated video or sound is ever exactly the same as the real deal. In the case of the C64’s sound, pretty much every single SID chip was unique anyway, due to manufacturing uneveness, so every real C64 sounds a bit different even if playing the same audio.

I’ve got a souped up Apple IIGS which I originally got in 1990. Basically I’ve replaced all the bits that broke, or were prone to breaking over and over, with modern solutions built by engineers in the Apple II community today. For instance, the original monitor started to smoke a couple of years ago. I bought a VidHD card that renders the video signal digitally and puts it out via HDMI.

I also got sick of the 5.25 and 3.5 floppy drives getting dirty from mouldy disks (sooner than most other Apple II owners, apparently) and there are multiple replacement solutions available there, too. I bought another card called the CFFA3000. Card goes in the computer and a USB stick in a slot in the card, and it pretends it’s all the disk drives and formats you want.



It is very difficult to do anything other than text through a serial port on retro 8 bit computers. (Which is OK for text based IF)

Speaking of music, at times I would like an all tube guitar amp. Then again, cost, weight, and maintenance are issues. Maybe an H & K GM Deluxe?

I got tired of lugging around an old Apple II and gave it away before I left Kansas. My C64 is remarkably good. I did add a solid state floppy drive. I just can’t bring myself to buy a cassette tape drive, but I have been tempted.

My current recreations are based on 780s and one CDP1802. Fun…

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Yeah, I think you’re lucky to have a functional C64! They were just never brilliantly made.

I’ve still got my family’s Apple II+ in the cupboard. And I bought the same pair of cards (video and usb storage) for it, too. But unlike the IIGS, I get afraid every time I turn it on that another thing will start issuing smoke.


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I6 is 100% free software and has more translations than I7. I6 code is largely language-agnostic, so we can ask questions in English and share the code.


I still have a lot of working C64 stuff that I am planning to sell because I’m moving and downsizing.

I don’t think it’s rare to find working C64’s though. A large number were made.

One thing that no one has yet mentioned is I6’s visual and syntactic similarity to C and Java and other representatives of that branch of the ALGOL programming-language tree. For people with a programming background, visual similarity and having already trained their brains to parse that kind of source code can be an incentive to pick I6 over I7 or other options.


True, but that doesn’t explain why forum discussion of I6 has shot up in the past year. The syntactic differences between I6 and I7 have been known for fifteen years, and I7 remained more popular for most of that time. I expect it is still more popular as a development tool.

The current activity of the PunyInform/Dialog/etc retro community is the explanation for the current forum ratios.

Also, not to repeat myself, but otisdog really has asked a lot of detailed questions!


I don’t know why you find the CBM 64/VIC-20 keyboard abominable. (pls kept out that british competitor out of this debate, for sake of keeping cool the debate…) but in late 70s and early-to mid 1980s people was more accustomed to mechanical/electromechanical typewriters, so the keyboards of the time (icl. the celebrated IBM type M) have long and “hard” contacts.

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.

They certainly do.

It’s possible, but inconvenient, to replicate (let’s say) a 40x25 non-proportional character layout in some modern interpreters. Easier in many cases to just drag a disk image into an emulator and get the (more-or-less) real deal.

It’s harder to replicate the “ooh, something’s happening! I did a thing that worked!” loading delay from disk on modern hardware, but you get it in an emulator or on real old hardware.

I am a terrible programmer and I just cannot get at all interested in I7. It looks like I’m being asked to chant at the computer for what I want. That makes me bad with all of the alternatives, but at least it doesn’t feel oogy. (And yes I am also in the category of aged eccentrics who looks askance at the idea that a “hello world” game should take up over a quarter-megabyte of disk, or whatever it’s up to these days.)

In no particular order or sequence, over the past few years these happened:

  • The revival of DAAD, a late-80s format which was itself the successor to some popular formats of the mid-80s
  • More cross-pollenation between this scene (which has generally been focused on the best-available tech of its day) and Euro-dominated retro adventure scene which has stayed pretty true to its 8/16-bit roots.
  • The release of the Infocom code and ZILF getting over the tipping point to “usable by normal human beings, for some definition of ‘normal’”
  • The niche commercial releases of retro-styled games with marketing that plays that style up as a feature rather than a punishment
  • The development of the lightweight I6 libs, which stem directly from some of the above
  • And yes Dialog too.

(and, tons of Commodore 64s and 128s survive to this day and work just fine. It was the 16 and +4 lines which self-destruct if you look at them sideways. The original C64 breadbox keyboard is kind of brutal in retrospect because the angle is basically “the opposite of ergonomic.” This affected a lot of Commodore design in the Tramiel era. I remember talking to an ergonomics expert a couple of decades ago, when laptops were starting to creep in as a de facto choice for office desktop computing, who groaned “they’ve reinvented the Commodore PET, and that was the worst design in history!” or something along those lines. Oh, and then there’s the SX64’s mushtastic keyboard which is indeed a crime, but usually people mention that specifically if that’s what they mean.)


Yes, that’s a better summary – thanks.

Also note that ZILF, Dialog, PunyInform, etc are under active development, whereas I7 hasn’t had an update in that period. Thus more discussion.


It is not the mechanical keys that are the problem. I still remember the early IBM keyboards that probably weighed 5 lbs or more. I use a “klacky” Happy Hackers keyboard for daily use. It is the C64’s key placement and key combinations that I have issue with along with it’s terrible ergonomics. Great computer, terrible keyboard. But, it is just my opinion and everybody has one.

The only British computer I used at the time was a Sinclair that I sold through a bookstore I owned. Talk about horrible keyboards!

I must admin my primary computer these days is an RPi but I didn’t even think about that…

Even after decades of PC keyboard use, I still have the muscle memory of the quote key being SHIFT-2 and the @ and * keys being on the upper-middle right.

I never had any issues with the layout, or ergonomics. Not that the word ergonomics was in my vocabulary back then.

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Well, I suspect that exists also a “visual cue”: under VICE I always end mistreating the poor pgUp key…

fos1: so, you understand why I have warned about rekindling the ancient EU religion war between the two major 8-bit computer this side of the “pond”… and, side note for mike, EU keyboard have " under shift-2 :wink:

Back into IT… Perhaps I should note that the usage of UK spelling in Inform 6 (e.g. initialise () has contributed to Inform’s acceptance in the retro-adventure scene (fittingly, I should add: Infocom’s Trinity become dear to UK/EU adventurers because recognise True Football, accepting “football” as synonym for “soccer”
(Of course, here “soccer” is considered a (dialectical) synonym of “football” :wink: )

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.