C64 Programmer's Reference Guide Commodore Business Machines, 1982
The seminal book on programming the C64 bringing a mixture of core graphic and sound techniques along with a good reference guide to BASIC keywords, the C64 memory map and other aspects of the breadbin’s hardware.
Look across any forum on the C64 and you will always see this given as an answer to “what book should I buy to learn to program the 64?” It gives a gentle introduction to programming in general before dipping directly into a BASIC vocabulary reference. This is followed with a walk through various graphic techniques on the 64 including sprites, character design, multi-colour mode, bit mapping and smooth scrolling. The chapter ends with a more in-depth look at sprites with the following chapter delving into the wonders of the SID chip.
The final two chapters get deeper into the machine: firstly with a reference guide to assembly language and a breakdown of kernel routines and the C64 memory map. Lastly the book looks at input and output to various devices including printer, tape, disk and the RS-232 interface. There are also routines for using game paddles – niche!
The appendices have a similar in-depth to-the-point style, finishing this weighty tome with more handy go-to references for programmers. There’s even a fold-out schematic tucked away at the back – no scrimping here!
At c. 500 pages this is a hefty introduction book indeed. And while you would certainly need further books to expand your knowledge, this is one hell of a starter for anyone wanting to know a bit more about the Commodore 64.
Buyer’s Guide You should expect to pay between £5 and £15 for this on eBay depending on the condition and whether or not the schematic is still attached. It's usually available on Abebooks, but often around the £50 mark - wait for it to come up on eBay.