What Is Best In Life #17: POKEs

Yeeeah, boyyee!

Back in the good old 8-bit days a straight POKE was a single byte write to a single memory location, replacing the decimal representation of an instruction or value with one more advantageous to the player.

I’m not going to list classic POKEs here since I’d just have to google ’em up first and that makes a liar of me, because despite being quite short (usually 8 digits, 5 comma 3), few of them were memorable. That said, I know a bunch of C=64 people or BBC Chuckie Egg lovers are liable to pop up (POKE up?) in the comments to prove me wrong.

On the Z80-based Sinclair Spectrum, which was my 8-bit platform of choice (a.k.a. love of my life) most POKEs took one of the following forms:

  • POKE nnnnn, 0 – replacing a DEC A [DECrement Accumulator] with a NOP [No OPeration] for infinite whatever
  • POKE nnnnn, 201 – inserting a RET[urn] instruction before any deleterious effects were enacted
  • POKE nnnnn, 255 – why start with 3 lives/turbos/energy when you could have THE MAXXX?

In the early days, before custom loaders became the norm, it was possible to insert these POKEs yourself as BASIC commands before the game ran. Latterly White Hat hackers would write programs to circumvent the loader and insert them. These programs were provided by the mainstream semi-official magazines for manual input or on their cover tapes for ease of use.

Some jammy gits had a Multiface (as in “multiple interface”) which served a similar function to the Game Genie, i.e. provided a mechanism to manually alter code when a game was running. These days of course most emulators will have you covered on that front.

For what it’s worth my “hacking” exploits back-in-the-day extended as far as the following:

  1. Giving myself N lives in a demo version of Ruff’n’Ready
  2. Extensively altering the physical map on a demo of Julian Gollop‘s Lords Of Chaos

Take it as read that you will hear about my equally-unedifying but more-recent retrogame hacking efforts eventually.

WIBIL #17: beating that game you always wanted to beat by hook or by crook is best in life

This post is dedicated to Retrolechuck who reminded me that Chase HQ was a thing and was awesome to boot

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Da22 says:

    Ah you cheating little rascal, it’s the original Konami code right there. I always remember reading about them and not having a clue how to perform said POKE. I’m sure we were donated a multiface by our game programing uncle, had a nice red button on the top and fitted to the back on the 128k..?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. stevenger says:

      That’s the one. Well, technically there was a regular model for 48K and the Multiface 128 which was what you had there. Might even have been a +3 version, I forget. Pretty cool, you could do all sorts with them in theory, had 8K ROM and 8K RAM so you could install a disassembler, etc. Mostly used for POKEs and easy piracy though, I suspect.

      Some emulators even let you use the Multiface ROMs to emulate them too. Tres cool!

      Liked by 1 person

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