10 PRINT "Hello MetaFilter" ..... 20 GOTO 10 .... RUN
November 11, 2018 9:19 AM   Subscribe

You've bought the "most powerful" computer - but what now? For over half a century (here's Star Trek from 1972), people have gradually entered a BASIC program, and ... hoped. Ruth from Sinclair Research explains entering a program on a ZX80 keyboard; a VHS guide to a ZX Spectrum keyboard. "After an hour or two of typing in BASIC code, my father would lean back from the computer, type RUN, and hit return." Greg reminisces about TRS-80 BASIC, while Morten remembers the trauma of a ZX81 ram pack. Listings for a 1K ZX80 game, ZX Spectrum zombie game, BBC Basic game, some VIC-20 code - and here's a budget planner. Or slowly create the MAD logo on an Apple. While on an Amstrad, BASIC became complex. For hardcore coders, some Z80 and some 6502 assembler.
posted by Wordshore (60 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
Nice tribute! Evidently someone at Google feels similarly: "wwwBASIC is an implementation of BASIC ... designed to be easy to run on the Web."
posted by Wobbuffet at 9:31 AM on November 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

The best foundation, in retrospect, was Computer 1 & 2 in 1982-1983 school year - BASIC programming on DoS 1.0 - who could have foreseen how much time we'd end up in front our screens?
posted by infini at 9:45 AM on November 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hello World
posted by CrowGoat at 9:58 AM on November 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

The Internet Archive also has scans of the entire "Compute" magazine!. I recently went back and ported Laser Chess to p5.js and had such fun reliving my childhood of typing in pages and pages of code.

One thing I had not realized is that the naming convention seems to be somewhat optimized for readability - variables names like CLock instead of Clock to avoid l and 1 confusion in the typeface. Unfortunately the programs are not heavily commented, so figuring out how they work can be frustrating. The hex dump ones are even more difficult to follow...
posted by autopilot at 10:00 AM on November 11, 2018 [6 favorites]

This page has all of the BASIC source code for Ahl's Basic Computer Games book although you don't get the real experience without typing in the code by hand and then saving it to a cassette tape.
posted by octothorpe at 10:10 AM on November 11, 2018 [11 favorites]

I've been impossibly distracted by reading the first edition of Sinclair User, from April 1982. I think I bought this at the time, despite thinking that 60p was a lot for a magazine.

The program listings are of interest and heck yes I did buy this as just remembered typing one of them in. But it's the adverts - which constitutes most of the content of the magazine - which I remember exciting me. Especially that advert for a 64K ram pack. Think I remember discussing it with the other nerd-kids on the school bus the next morning, to which the consensus was that 64K of memory was ridiculous for a home computer, and no-one could ever write a program large enough to fill it.
posted by Wordshore at 10:16 AM on November 11, 2018 [8 favorites]

...although you don't get the real experience without typing in the code by hand and then saving it to a cassette tape.

Edited for horror-realism and trauma (rated 18):

...although you don't get the real experience without typing in the code by hand and then losing the lot just before trying to save it to a cassette tape.
posted by Wordshore at 10:19 AM on November 11, 2018 [11 favorites]

I started learning about computers in the early BASIC era, mid-late 1970s. One of the platforms I was exposed to was the Commodore PET, the monochrome precursor to the Vic-20. My high school had 4 of them. In Jr high I took the after school bus to high school so I could have a couple hours on them. By the time I got to high school I was fairly proficient. As a mischievous social outcast without much intellectual challenge in class I began to develop my talents in predictable directions.

My masterwork was a PET emulator that would accept input & let you type in your program then gradually start to misbehave. If you LISTed your program it might print lines in reverse order or backwards. When you tried to RUN it might say "I'd rather walk". Attempting to access the cassette tape drive would earn you a taunt to use the disk drive instead. You get the idea. I'd slip into the lab between classes & quickly load my program onto all 4 then head off to class. Unsuspecting students would sit down & start dutifully typing in their homework assignment from the night before, only to be greeted with some cheeky text 20 or more minutes later. Somehow I managed to never quite get banned from the lab but I was quite the terror.

40 years later I'm employing some of the same skills on behalf of very large corporations as a part of their Red Teams, breaking into their computers & reporting on how I did it so they can close the holes.
posted by scalefree at 10:21 AM on November 11, 2018 [16 favorites]

I work in PHP and Javascript all day. That "enter and hope" feeling never goes away. There's a thrilling elation to placing characters in a certain order and then watching "magic" happen on the frontend.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:24 AM on November 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

...although you don't get the real experience without typing in the code by hand and then losing the lot just before trying to save it to a cassette tape.

I regret nothing.
posted by scalefree at 10:25 AM on November 11, 2018 [7 favorites]

...although you don't get the real experience without typing in the code by hand and then saving it to a cassette tape.

Edited for horror-realism and trauma (rated 18):

...although you don't get the real experience without typing in the code by hand and then losing the lot just before trying to save it to a cassette tape.

Flashy bastards who had cassette recorders. I had to type it in on a ZX81 every time I wanted to play it. I was six. It wasn't my fault.
posted by Iteki at 10:48 AM on November 11, 2018 [9 favorites]

A few years ago we converted programs to MP3 to play them on an Apple ][ via the cassette interface. Some other fun ways to distribute BASIC programs are the Flexidisc, a vinyl record with the programs encoded in the audio, and over the AM/FM radio broadcasts.
posted by autopilot at 10:53 AM on November 11, 2018 [6 favorites]


I’m too young for a lot of these magazines, but my nerd cred is that I learned BASIC at computer camp in Santa Clara when I was 12. Lots of memories of painstaking effort to display stuff at the right X and Y coordinates.

Also , I was scared to let anyone see me naked so I didn’t shower all week.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:02 AM on November 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

Oh, the good old Trash-80. It was always fun to go into a Radio Shack that had one up and running and do this:

20 GOTO 10
posted by Daily Alice at 11:40 AM on November 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

No one likes anyone who types "I'm too young to..." in regards to stuff which clearly happened just a very short while ago.

My outstanding memory of BASIC is spending an afternoon typing in an "adventure" game in the high school "computer lab" on the Franklin ][ clone only to learn that because at boot I had hit the PR code (#3?...can't remember) which disabled the disk drive, I wouldn't be able to save it to my precious home-made "double-sided" floppy.
posted by maxwelton at 11:53 AM on November 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

Ah, nostalgia. So many memories.

A recent experience really drove home how much things have moved on:

I stumbled on a cassette in a box in my attic which had on it a BBC Micro program that I wrote in nineteen eighty something. Among other things, this was an experiment with the idea of a mouse/icon/pointer interface which I had just heard of but had not the slightest chance of seeing. I did, however, have an analog joystick so I wrote this program with buttons on the screen to control it, and a pointer moved by the joystick.

Anyway - useless cassette, I thought. But on a whim I had a look round and realised that I could (a) capture the contents of this tape with Audacity, (b) run a piece of software to convert it to a bytestream, (c) save this bytestream in a file using a now standard (!) format for representing such things, (d) get a BBC Micro emulator running in a window on my desktop, (e) "mount" the saved file as a cassette and (f) load and run my program! This worked so well that when it started up and I automatically, without thinking, moved my mouse pointer over the emulator window and clicked one of my 198x BBC BASIC buttons, it worked exactly as expected - the analog joystick emulation mapped perfectly.

I feel old :(
posted by merlynkline at 12:03 PM on November 11, 2018 [36 favorites]

I had completely forgotten about playing Star Trek on the PDP-11 via terminals in the computer lab at school. My first computer was a Timex-Sinclair 1000 (about the same as the ZX81) and I definitely remember typing in code from the magazines of the day. Boy am I feeling old.
posted by rjd at 12:24 PM on November 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

merlynkline, that's amazing. I should try to get my HP 2000 paper tapes scanned to see if I can get the tic-tac-toe program I wrote in 1980 to run.
posted by octothorpe at 12:29 PM on November 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

This page has all of the BASIC source code for Ahl's Basic Computer Games book

Many hours of my childhood were spent typing these into my VIC-20. When we got it for Xmas, my aunt - a skilled typist - was drafted into entering a big game program from a magazine. It generated many syntax errors because she was so used to using the letter 'l' to represent '1', etc.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 12:33 PM on November 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

The things I remember from that age are mostly Apple][:
Having to flip a switch and reboot to choose integer or floating-point BASIC.
Putting a piece of tape on the volume wheel of the tape recorder to make sure the gain stayed right.
Loading Lemonade just to have it run the POKEs that loaded a sound playing routine so I could then load my program that played music. (That was the first thing I learned to do in 6502 on the Franklin clones that had a built-in assembler/debugger.)
Having a disk with a hidden disk-editor and knowing how to use it to make certain directory entries not appear. (Load the editor, change some directory chain pointers, save.)
There was this magazine/book that had a program that you typed in once and saved, then the rest of the programs were lines and lines of hex with checksums so you never typed in a line wrong only to find out much later.

Then it was on to AmigaBASIC with windows and menus and such. Had to write my own terminal program to use that RadioShack 300 baud modem so I could download a better terminal program that supported Xmodem.

Then it just went ballistic and on to Pascal, FORTH, 68k assembly, C, ...

posted by zengargoyle at 12:40 PM on November 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was introduced to programming near the beginning of my computer-support career, when we got some MS-DOS (version 3.x, I believe) PCs that came with GW-BASIC (I think? This was all 30-odd years ago so the details are fuzzy). I started playing around with it, eventually finding a program in a magazine or something that turned my computer's screen into a simple analog clock. When I showed this off to my boss he said "Great, now add a second hand." That started multiple rounds of puzzling out how to implement the suggested improvements, after each of which I'd proudly display my latest result only to have him suggest another one - markers for the number positions, then actual numbers, changing the shape of the hands, adding a decorative border, etc. I grumbled good-naturedly about it but by golly he did push me into learning far more programming skills than I expected to.

After we got tired of that I dabbled in Pascal and a tiny bit of C and took a COBOL class at the local junior college before getting sucked into a few years of fairly substantial dBase III projects for different offices in the state agency I worked for. That was as far as I ever got with programming; after I left that job I never did any more of it if you don't count the occasional SQL queries I do in my current job.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:48 PM on November 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

In 1982 I was in 7th grade and we had Trash-80s in our junior high (just that year changed to "middle school" but fuck that it was junior high). We learned how to make an ASCII art Space Shuttle "take off" in BASIC. It was awesome.

I wish there were a magical Babel-Fish-like translator for computer languages. What I wouldn't give to play The Fool's Errand (GAMES Magazine's Best Puzzle Game of the Year for 1987!) or 3 in Three on my shiny MacBook Pro.

(Anyone know a way to run Classic Mode on a 2016 MBP?)
posted by tzikeh at 12:49 PM on November 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

The Pet 2001 in the late 70's which my dad's cousin had from work was in my bedroom for a few weeks. It didn't take 1/2 that for me to write more code than would fit in 4k, and figure out chaining to another program. On a chicklet keyboard.
posted by mikelieman at 12:50 PM on November 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

tzikeh, it's not what you wanted but there is Rosetta Code which does the similar "here's the same problem/program in many many languages".
posted by zengargoyle at 12:56 PM on November 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Ooh nifty!
posted by tzikeh at 1:01 PM on November 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

...although you don't get the real experience without typing in the code by hand, ignoring the fact that it's targeted to a completely different BASIC dialect, because how hard can it be to port a program to a completely different machine? and YOLO, and then you finally just finish converting it to Applesoft and you find that you ran out of memory or something.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:21 PM on November 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

Holy crap I had the May 1982 issue of Sinclair User and definitely typed out Galaxy Patrol more than once.

Just tried to type it out again using the emulator here and it locked up on me just as I'd got to line 100.

Now that's good emulation.

Happy days.
posted by motty at 2:35 PM on November 11, 2018 [6 favorites]

David Ahl! HUNT THE WUMPUS. I had 2 of his books. I remember fondly having Family Computing. God that was such a chore. And half the time I didn't take the time to bother learning WHAT was going on (hey I was 6, my curiosity existed, but I still just wanted to play a game!)

Still need to digitize all my Coco Cassette and the other "cassette tape magazine"
posted by symbioid at 2:50 PM on November 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

So here's an epiphany of sorts that's come out of this post and the flood of memories it's surfaced.

One of those memories was that back when we were writing commercial software for the Commodore Pet, in BASIC, there was a trick you could do to add new keywords to the language, which was useful for easy access to little bits of assembler we would write to work around performance limitations and so on. An erstwhile colleague decided it would be amusing to implement a DONT <statements> UNLESS <expression> keyword pair, which was hilarious fun. Oh how we laughed. And then, years later, I learned Perl... (which has an unless keyword in the core language, that expresses if not).

And now I think I realise why I still like Perl so much - it allows me to run a large, complex application that serves millions of users at huge scale while feeling as close to those good old days as anything you're likely to find. I'm not sure there's anything else that can do that.
posted by merlynkline at 2:59 PM on November 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

The one cool thing the BASIC books from Tandy had a was a screen map so you could $MemoryLocation and plot it for your animations.
posted by symbioid at 3:14 PM on November 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Emulator update: hitting 'smaller display' and then 'larger display' unfreezed it and allowed me to finish typing out the listing.

brb playing Galaxy Patrol for the first time since 1982.
posted by motty at 3:36 PM on November 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

Near the bottom of this page are various Usborne coding books from around 1983 that can be downloaded as PDFs. Most are very introductory and are for e.g. BASIC, machine code, and writing fantasy/adventure programs.

Side-point: I took English language O-level a year early (1984 instead of 1985) and was the only person in that school cohort to get an A, which I directly attribute to many, many evenings figuring out sentence structures in text adventures I was half-assed writing. My English has definitely declined since; perhaps I should have stuck with the text adventures.
posted by Wordshore at 3:38 PM on November 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

My first memories from back then? A pair of 2114s.
posted by Devonian at 6:04 PM on November 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

Oh yeah. Lots of nostalgia here.

I first hit BASIC in 1979, when I was 12. Our elementary school didn't have any CRTs, but did have several dumb print terminals connected to a mainframe... somewhere, possibly maintained by the school district. I taught myself BASIC over many frantic and delighted hours, including some spent playing Star Trek. Once I walked home from school, very late, a pile of printouts spilling from my arms.

Over the next couple of years I migrated to (hideous) middle school and a better computer lab. I also infested a local Radio Shack and exploited as much keyboard time as the grumpy staff would let me. The first graphics program I typed in filled up a 40x40 (I think) pixel screen with snow, a la Robert Frost; 20 years later I moved to Vermont.

Like sevenyearlurk and others, I was obsessed with Ahl's Basic Computer Games book. Typed in many of those games with frustration and delight.
posted by doctornemo at 6:11 PM on November 11, 2018 [6 favorites]


posted by scruss at 8:21 PM on November 11, 2018 [7 favorites]

I came to computing relatively late in life. I think my new wife and I got an Atari 2600 not long after we were married in 1982, when I was 27. Less than a year later I had a Timex 1000, the American version of the Sinclair. A year or so after that I got a Commodore 64.

At first all I had was a cassette for storage, which worked okay, but I moved up to a disk drive as soon as I could afford it. Somewhere along the line the drive broke, and as I was unable to fix it, I went back to the cassette. I’d grown so addicted to “Silent Service,” the WWII submarine simulator, I actually ordered a copy on cassette from England, where you could actually buy high-end software on tape. It took a couple of weeks to arrive, and probably ten minutes to load, but it ran perfectly.

I had a 300 baud Commodore modem early on, but two guys in my computer club worked for Pacific Northwest Bell and scrounged up a 1200 bps modem. I had to dial with an attached handset, but no acoustic coupler required. That was some speed, man!

Eventually I moved up to PC compatibles, but portable computing fascinated me. I went through a Tandy M100, a Sinclair Z88, even an Epson PX8 CP/M laptop that never quite worked. Eventually I moved to PDAs, then tablet and smartphones.
posted by lhauser at 8:31 PM on November 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

Once Compute! Magazine published a complete word processor, whose name I forget, for the Atari 800/1200/etc.

It was almost entirely hexadecimal, entered as quoted strings in a BASIC program, and spanned probably 20 dense pages.

My father and I spent about a month taking turns typing the whole thing in, and then another week reading back and verifying the strings.

It worked, although it had a number of bugs we couldn't be sure were caused by our typing or not. I used it to do all of my school reports for a year.
posted by mmoncur at 10:00 PM on November 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

Oh my God, what are you doing? This may be the first multi-link post where I read and watch every single one. Honestly, z80 and 6502? You're crossing the streams!
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 10:13 PM on November 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

> z80 and 6502? You're crossing the streams!

Ha! Yes. That is literally the reason I never had a ZX81 or Spectrum. Having started with a Science of Cambridge MK14 and moved on to a Tangerine Microtan 65, while working a bit with the Apple ][, there was no way I was crossing to the dark side. Instead there was a failed dalliance with a Dragon 32 (surely the 68000 was the future?!) before a return to common sense with the BBC Micro, while I was by then employed to write for the Commodore Pet. When my employer took interest in these ridiculous new-fangled IBM PC things and I started having to work with them I actually changed jobs to work with the BBC Micro! What vision! Though it did mean that I got to work with the first Arm RISC machines, so that was something.
posted by merlynkline at 11:23 PM on November 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

Computer lab, TRS-80 Model III. If the teacher caught you playing games, he'd say nothing, but press the giant red reset button that I think Radio Shack designed just for that purpose. No disk drives, but a printer, so games were passed around by samizdat. Code compactness was crucial, because you needed time to type it in.

I wrote a game called Gate Crashers, which was like Space Invaders but they were people, and they didn't shoot back -- not my finest moment as a human being. Follow-on was a more fair game called Balazhneyeh, which used katakana characters (print chrs$(23) to switch to that mode.. what a random feature for a computer in 1983) as enemies that did shoot back, but the last one (ホ I think) was too smart and you always eventually lost.
posted by kurumi at 11:29 PM on November 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

If Klaus Jung is reading this, then know that I still think of you, sittiing there rapidly writing up a new game for us as we hung out in the computer lab waiting to play it.
posted by infini at 12:26 AM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

I cut my programming teeth on a TRS-80 Model III as well. To this day I have a near-Pavlovian nostalgia reaction to seeing line-number BASIC.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:35 AM on November 12, 2018 [5 favorites]

This thread is utterly incomplete without a link to Hey Hey 16k on YouTube, or the flash original on B3ta. You're welcome.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:16 AM on November 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

mmoncur, that program was Speedscript, also available for the Commodore 64 and VIC 20.

You had to type it in with their special machine language editor, MLX.

I typed it in on both platforms. Probably more than once.
posted by jdfan at 6:45 AM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

My friends were all like
But I was all like
thanks to a 43MB half height 3.5" Seagate IDE drive and DOS 4.01. The drive that meant we didn't have color until 1994 because holy crap a 286 with a hard drive and a full 2MB of RAM was nutso expensive in the 80s. Ran Wordstar like a boss, tho, even new fangled versions with the WYSIWYG preview that took a tenth the time it did to print out a page (5, I think, might have been 4)

Thanks to the Hercules card, it played Commander Keen and the like pretty well. Just very small (10") and very orange. Since DOS only included GWBASIC until version 5, I only used BASIC on the C64s (with only tape drives, mind!) and later the //c and //e at school. Eventually, they got a //gs. Getting a copy of Borland TurboPascal so I could actually write software that did things was not easy.
posted by wierdo at 7:48 AM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

(Computers other than PCs were rare in my town growing up thanks to the dominance of a particular industry that adopted them immediately upon release, BTW, so my early experience was weird compared to most my age)
posted by wierdo at 7:51 AM on November 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

1982. Small town in rural east texas, population 1800. 72 year old teacher talked the school into purchasing the "future of education, " and 20 young minds were introduced to that strange little box that replaced slingshots and bb guns in their lives forever.
posted by bradth27 at 8:02 AM on November 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

Getting a copy of Borland TurboPascal so I could actually write software that did things was not easy.

Turbo Pascal was a stop on my road too: PET 2001 Basic -> TRS-80 Mod I -> C64 -> PC/Turbo Pascal -> Servers/Perl...
posted by mikelieman at 8:11 AM on November 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

( my semi-colon key gets a workout. )
posted by mikelieman at 8:12 AM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

I cut my teeth writing Basic on a C64, though I had limited experience with an awful membrane-keyboard Atari 400 before that. I subscribed to both RUN and Commodore magazines but never got into typing in the programs, largely because they were mostly pages and pages of DATA statements that were impossible (for me) to understand. Plus it was boring. I had much more fun PEEKing and POKEing random addresses to see what happened and writing my own games.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:48 AM on November 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Somewhere, I still have my original AD&D Player's Handbook. Folded carefully into it is the (probably-now-unreadable) result of the first actual program I wrote, on my friend Brett's TRS-80: ten or fifteen sets of D&D character stats randomly rolled by the computer and printed out on his thermal printer in the proper order (Str, Int, Wis, Dex, Con, Cha).

My first computer was an Atari 800, where I "properly" learned Atari BASIC. Many, many hour typing in programs from Compute!, Antic or A.N.A.L.O.G. magazines and then screwing with various things to see what broke or changed.

It's because of this early experience that, even today, my perl scripts all look like BASIC programs.
posted by hanov3r at 9:17 AM on November 12, 2018 [5 favorites]

Another TRS-80 III here -- I still have mine, it lives on a shelf in my living room, the silver paint all worn off the shell just below the spacebar because of how much time I spent typing in code. I wrote my own little videogames, weak clones of Bump and Jump and Space Invaders using ascii characters and millions of loops to position everything and chunks of collision detection code I worked out myself. I tried entering games from magazines and books from the library but they never seemed to work right. But, all those programs set me up for where I am today, writing code for processing images and data.
posted by AzraelBrown at 9:27 AM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

My early introduction to programming in my senior year was a wonderful accident of timing - while I *knew* computers would be the future, I knew in 1983 that i could never become a programmer or sit around fiddling with syntax all day on those Trash 80s. So I ended up a liberated rara avis out of Bangalore University's engineering colleges with an H1B in 1998 granted by The Second City rather than the friendlyneighborhood noname Y2K bodyshop.
posted by infini at 10:01 AM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Borland TurboPascal

An academic-price copy of Turbo Pascal 6 was the first compiler I ever bought. Man, Borland made some good stuff.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 10:38 AM on November 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Friend of mine had a Vic-20 (1984 or thereabouts) and we'd spend every weekend typing in programs out of Compute, and playing the Omega Race cartridge that was far and away the best game ever on the vic. I am irritated at my past self that I never really took on figuring out how to program independently based on that experience.

My dad bought an original 3 color IBM PC with one floppy drive when I was in the 8th grade, did some BASICA programming but mostly played a Q Bert clone, and a pinball emulator.

High school CS classes in Ontario at that time used dedicated networked ICON boxes from unisys, that had a bunch of weird features including a track ball. Learned programming in pascal, I liked it a lot more than basic but it still didn't really light me on fire as an activity.

First year university (waterloo engineering 1990) was what felt like a HUGE step back using fortran 79, up to and including writing programs to make graphs, when lotus 123 wsywig was a thing that existed! Very annoying. I also remember we had to write a program to rate a resistor based on inputing the stripe colors, and would be graded on code efficiency with say 10 marks for 12 lines and less one mark for each addditional line. Some guy in EE figured out how to do it in 10 lines using logarithms, and of course everyone cadged a copy...so we all got 12/10 on that assignment!
posted by hearthpig at 12:04 PM on November 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

My mom bought me a BASIC how-to book when she bought our first Tandy 1000. It had complete games listed in the appendix. I must have spent hours typing them in. They never worked.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:51 PM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Flashy bastards who had cassette recorders.

For contrast: a fellow student bought one of those Apple ][ clone kits, but didn't have enough change left for a monitor or even a TV modulator. So he wrote, blind as it were, a shim that converted ASCII screen output as morse through the speaker.

At the other end of the scale was the housemate who not only bought that same kit[0], the case, *two* floppy drives as well as a colour monitor plus card. He also bought floppies per box of ten, the bastard.

[0] which he, sensibly, asked me to assemble, as his knowledge of soldering irons stopped at them having one end to hold, and one end not to hold.
posted by Stoneshop at 4:38 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

An academic-price copy of Turbo Pascal 6 was the first compiler I ever bought. Man, Borland made some good stuff.

TP3 with the Borland TP Database Toolbox (used for a record library catalogue), then TP4 (woohoo, overlays instead of chaining) with TurboPower's DB Toolbox and another for screen forms, TP5, TP6, Turbo C and then briefly Delphi.
posted by Stoneshop at 4:49 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

This was so much my jam that I didn't want to post anything substantial early on in case I screwed it up.

Though I'd had early BASIC games experience from the school PET (Dungeon, Star Trek, and a likely lost but probably-for-the-best type-in from April 82's PCW, Boot the Cat) and later in the school's BBC B lab, we didn't have a computer of our own until xmas '84. So, very laboriously, I typed in Smiley v The Grumpies from the first issue of Computing with the Amstrad magazine. And it worked! And I'd even saved it to tape — though with a dad who'd run a computer bureau, I was taught to do incremental saves to tape, noting the tape counter position every time.

And of course I did what you did with type-ins: I changed bits to see what happened. Sometimes they worked, mostly they didn't. Eventually the game ended up being called PRATMAN VS THE SPONS with a flashing green/magenta play area and the in-game beeps replaced with weird bonging sounds, for it pleased me so to do. And I caught the programming bug, eventually having type-ins of my own published.

For me, the highest form of the type-in art is the one-liner. This was a game or demo that fitted into one line of BASIC, so 255 characters or fewer. BBC BASIC was particularly good for this: it had its own special short codes for BASIC tokens so you could pack in more commands than you could later edit. For instance, N. Silver's “Asterisk Tracker” (link is palyable emulator; keys: enter to climb, space to restart) is a whole game in this:


There is a huge number of resources still out there: interpreters (cbmbasic [C64 BASIC in your terminal], PC-BASIC [GW BASIC, in Python], BBC BASIC for SDL, MatrixBrandy [Fork of Brandy BBC BASIC V for Linux, screamingly fast]), emulators (b-em
[BBC Micro], Fuse [ZX Spectrum], VICE [PET/C64/VIC 20/ …], the Internet Archive Software Library, the BASICODE collection, all the BASIC Computer Games typed in, a whole bunch of Amstrad type-ins, …
posted by scruss at 5:41 AM on November 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Having just encountered Rob Uttley, commenters on here may want to scroll through the pictures on his twitter content for regular nostalgia hits.
posted by Wordshore at 3:07 PM on November 22, 2018

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