philipp's blog

What, me worry?

philipp's blog

One of my earliest programming memories revolves around a listing1 that I found in an old issue of Mad Magazine. I must have been around 8 or 9 years old when I have entered the whole listing, character by character, line by line, hour after hour.

The Listing

The listing was supposed to output the image of Alfred E. Neuman, accompanied by the iconic sentence: "What, me worry?"2

The actual listing was about 150 lines of code which all looked something like this:

500 DATA -27,-11,-23,-6,-28,-13,-22,-6,-20,-5,-12,-5,-27,-14,-26,-13
510 DATA -38,-29,-42,-28,-40,-28,-50,-16,-8,13,0,13,-29,4,-29,9
520 DATA -50,-17,-41,-28,-49,-17,-50,-8,-8,12,0,12,-28,5,-28,13
530 DATA -50,-15,-49,-10,40,-26,42,-17,-4,9,-21,14,5,48,2,44

These little things called bugs

After typing it all in, I finally entered the command to execute the code - RUN - and was greeted with:


I compared the offending line with the listing, character by character, and I had typed it all correctly - yet it didn't work, and since I didn't understand anything in that listing I had no way to fix it. I ended up crying my eyes out on the lap of my mother3. This is how I learned what bugs4 are.

Needless to say, I never saw Alfred E. Neuman on my Commodore.

  1. A listing was the 80s equivalent of a magazine CD. It was the source code for a short program, which you needed to type into your machine by yourself. A Magazine CD is something they've put later in magazines, containing sharewares, demos and sometimes full versions of games and other programs. This was before you could simply download it all online.

  2. When I researched the listing, I found out that it apparently took 20 minutes until the C64 was finally able to show the picture in all its glory.

  3. Who was probably questioning her choice of getting me a C64 at that point.

  4. It was more than two decades later when I learned that this listing was indeed buggy, and corrected in the follow up issue of MAD, which I never read.