A pseudorandom number generator (PRNG), also known as a deterministic random bit generator (DRBG), is an algorithm for generating a sequence of numbers whose properties approximate the properties of sequences of random numbers. — Wikipedia: Pseudorandom number generator
I describe in this blog post how I adapted a BASIC example, but also the code for an RND function of an emulator. The c-simple-emu6502-cbm project has the guess2 example. You have to guess a number between 1 and 100. If the number you enter is too high, you get a hint, if it is too low you get a hint as well. When you have found the number, the number of guesses is shown, and you can guess a new number.
Here is the original code:
10 PRINT "I'm thinking of a number between 1 and 100" 15 C=0 20 X=INT(RND(1)*100+1) 25 G=0 30 PRINT "GUESS";:INPUT G 40 IF G<=0 OR G>=100 OR G<>INT(G) THEN PRINT "TRY AGAIN":GOTO 30 50 C=C+1 60 IF G=X THEN PRINT "YOU GUESSED IN "C" TRIES":GOTO 10 70 IF G<X THEN PRINT "TOO LOW, TRY HIGHER" 80 IF G>X THEN PRINT "TOO HIGH, TRY LOWER" 90 GOTO 30
This example has two bugs:
- 100 is not possible as input.
- The program comes up with the same “random” numbers.
100 is not possible
This is a simple bug. In line 40 it should be
G>100 instead of
G>=100, otherwise 99 is the last valid number, but 100 could be a possible number to guess.
Pseudo Random Numbers
When I run the following for loop in a fresh started cbmbasic, c-emu6502-cbm or VICE instance I’ll get the following five numbers. This happens every time — when I restart the C64 BASIC interpreter.
FOR I=1 TO 5: PRINT INT(RND(1)*100+1): NEXT 19 5 83 56 90
Do you know the games or tests where you have some numbers and you should come up with the next number? So what is the next number? If you want, you can guess the number 🤔 and answer on this tweet or send me a direct message. I will answer (manually) with ‘too high’ or ‘too low’.
Maybe you have already found a pattern with these five numbers and know more than 19, lower, higher, lower, higher? Another possibility is to know the algorithm behind this pseudo random number generation. The Ultimate Commodore 64 BASIC & KERNAL ROM Disassembly document has some sources that explain the C64 BASIC assembler code, including the algorithm of the RND function:
;PSUEDO-RANDOM NUMBER GENERATOR. ;IF ARG=0, THE LAST RANDOM NUMBER GENERATED IS RETURNED. ;IF ARG .LT. 0, A NEW SEQUENCE OF RANDOM NUMBERS IS ;STARTED USING THE ARGUMENT. ; TO FORM THE NEXT RANDOM NUMBER IN THE SEQUENCE, ;MULTIPLY THE PREVIOUS RANDOM NUMBER BY A RANDOM CONSTANT ;AND ADD IN ANOTHER RANDOM CONSTANT. THE THEN HO ;AND LO BYTES ARE SWITCHED, THE EXPONENT IS PUT WHERE ;IT WILL BE SHIFTED IN BY NORMAL, AND THE EXPONENT IN THE FAC ;IS SET TO 200 SO THE RESULT WILL BE LESS THAN 1. THIS ;IS THEN NORMALIZED AND SAVED FOR THE NEXT TIME. ;THE HO AND LOW BYTES WERE SWITCHED SO THERE WILL BE A ;RANDOM CHANCE OF GETTING A NUMBER LESS THAN OR GREATER ;THAN .5 .
But how do I get a different random value? As you can read in the above comment about the RND function and also in the C64 Wiki: RND, the RND function starts a new sequence of random numbers when it receives a negative parameter. I use -23 as parameter, but for the guess example nothing really changes. The application asks for different numbers, but always the same ones.
X=RND(-23):FOR I=1 TO 5: PRINT INT(RND(1)*100+1): NEXT 93 83 91 2 31
In the C64 Wiki: RND you can see the entry
X = RND(-TI), where
TI is the
TIME variable. The negative value restarts the random sequence and since the timer always has a different value, the random sequence is also different at each start. For this I add a 19th line to the guess2 BASIC program:
This works for the cbmbasic project, but not for the c-simple-emu6502-cbm project. Why?
cbmbasic returns e.g. the value 3704360 for
PRINT TI and this value changes every time. The c-simple-emu6502-cbm project, on the other hand, always returns 0.
A look at the Ultimate Commodore 64 BASIC & KERNAL ROM Disassembly documentation shows at the ROM address 0xE09C of the RND function that when 0 is passed as a parameter, the timer is called to use its value. Like in the C64 Wiki: TIME, this has something to do with the CIA (Complex Interface Adapter), whose values can be read at 0xDC00.
Bug 3: RND(-TI) / RND(0)
To have a closer look at it I set a breakpoint in the C64-BASIC-iOS-emu6502-cbm app when reading the memory. The breakpoint is at line 334 of the
GetMemory function with a condition to stop when
addr equals 0xDC04. This is the ‘TIMER A’ address of the CIA interface. I ran
X=RND(0) and the debugger stopped. Then I went through the code step by step and found out that the
GetMemory function returns 0 at the end. Problem found and to solve it I return for the memory addresses 0xDC04, 0xDC05, 0xDC08 and 0xDC09 some bits from the
TIME C function. Therefore
RND(0) will have a different value.
Bug 4: TIME$
Let’s go back one step; the reason why
RND(-TI) doesn’t work is because
TI returns the value 0 and this causes
RND to be called with 0.
RND(0) again reads the values from the CIA interfaces, but all of them return 0 — before I fixed it.
What happens if
-TI returns the time?
RND(-TI) would already be initialized with the time value and would immediately provide a different random sequence without calling
A look into the Ultimate Commodore 64 BASIC & KERNAL ROM Disassembly documentation shows at the position 0xF6DD the RDTIM (read real time clock) function, which writes three values from the TIME address into the registers A, X and Y. The TIME address is located at the RAM position 0x00A0 to 0x00A2 (see software jiffy clock, updated by KERNAL IRQ every 1/60 second at the Zeropage).The cbmbasic project has already implemented the calculation of the values. I just have to look inside the
GetMemory function if address 0x00A2 is read and then write the time data into the corresponding RAM. The
GetMemory function returns the appropriate values.
As a result,
PRINT TIME$ writes the current time in the format HHMMSS. Also the
RND function with the call
RND(-TI) gets the current time and can return random values.
As I already wrote in my previous C64 blog post, I really like to look at the assembler code of the C64 and 6502. The book Ultimate Commodore 64 BASIC & KERNAL ROM Disassembly is a nice collection of the C64 BASIC and ROM code.
I created a pull request for the c-simple-emu6502-cbm project and also adapted my iOS app. You can read more about Random Numbers - In Machine Language For Commodore 64 or take a look to Commodore’s “Inner Space” to see some ICs.
… and don’t forget to guess the number on this tweet.