Yes, but did you have GOSUB?
May 14, 2004 3:34 PM   Subscribe

How I lost my childhood: It may seem hopelessly lame to many, but as as child I, and many others of the same time period -- the first children of the microcomputer revolution -- spent many hours in front of our shiny new home computers reverently copying in BASIC programs from source printouts in books and magazines. For some, myself included, this was the launchpad into a sexy, exciting, fascinating career as a professional geek. Now, the book that was one of my sacred texts during this time period, David Ahl's BASIC Computer Games, is available, scanned, online. [via Boing Boing]
posted by jammer (34 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I, for one, probably transcribed every single program in that volume, and its sequel More BASIC Computer Games, at least once. The lessons I learned about basic programming techniques, debugging practices, and the patience it takes to spend hours ferreting out the most subtle typos have served me well in my later career.

Even if most of the games sucked, in retrospect. Good times...
posted by jammer at 3:36 PM on May 14, 2004

God I spent so long with BASIC. My triumph was a random-number based horse racing game which allowed you to gamble on different horses and build up credits to... gamble more on random number combinations...
posted by cell divide at 3:44 PM on May 14, 2004

That is sweet - believe it or not, I've been looking for a good, authentic Hammuabi implementation for some time - alibeit not very hard. The best I'd found was a copy of some funky C someone included to explain their bizzare IF version. This is actually handy for a project I've wanted to work on for awhile, and I bet there's more in there I'll like.

Great stuff, thanks!
posted by freebird at 3:49 PM on May 14, 2004

I've been looking for a good, authentic Hammuabi implementation

Yeah. Hammurabi was one of the better games in that book (See also: Star Trek), and seeing this has me now thinking about doing up a web-based version of it.
posted by jammer at 3:51 PM on May 14, 2004

Great site.

This is the book that I needed to read when I was 13. I remember being vaguely aware at the time that, having more or less reached the limits of what could be done in BASIC on a C64, I was going to have to figure out how to program in machine language. I even remember seeing the cover of that book somewhere. Alas, I never got myself a copy, and within a year or two had lost interest in computers.

Oddly enough, 10 years later, I ended up in the video game industry anyway. But I never did learn to do anything useful in assembly.
posted by jeffj at 4:09 PM on May 14, 2004

Me too. My friend and I would spend countless hours entering lines like 2010 Data 232, 234, 2, 0, 244, 16, 34 from Antic Magazine.

The worst part was after spending hours entering code only to find that the game would lock up. Only to find it was due to a printing error in the magazine.

It did teach me a valuable lesson: save your work often. Even though saving to the cassette deck sucked. Upgrading to the 5 1/4 floppy was awesome.
posted by birdherder at 4:14 PM on May 14, 2004

I really wish I hadn't seen this post. I always wanted that book, and there's a box sitting in the storage room with my first computer in it (C64), and now I am feeling the urge to go blind and insane typing in some BASIC games. :D
posted by Orb at 4:16 PM on May 14, 2004

10 PRINT "Oh, I am exploding with nostalgia. Those were some good times, good times indeed."

20 GOTO 10
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:18 PM on May 14, 2004

I loved that book too. I already knew BASIC, my mom was a teacher in Windsor Ontario. They had a program (in the late 70's) where schools were outfitted with a few Commodore Pets. Teachers could bring them home for the weekend to learn about them, try out the educational games and so on. Most teachers brought them home to give their kids a leg up on things. For the first while I was addicted to the games, especially one called Dungeon. Hacking on that taught me how to program in BASIC.

Later I got my own machine, a TI-99/4A , then a C-64, various PCs and Macintoshes. At some point I purchased that book and typed in the programs.

There were a lot of excellent magazines at the time. BYTE especially, it had rather technical articles in it and I devoured them. More mainstream magazines like Compute and Personal Computing were also good though. They had programs you could type in. My personal favourite from that era were the Transactor magazines for the Commodore family.
posted by substrate at 4:24 PM on May 14, 2004

Why back when, I once found a printed program for some Rubik's Cube related program in a magazine. C. and I started typing the program into the Radio Shack computer at the back of the math teacher's classroom, hoping to get the whole thing typed in in one class period. We got about 10 minutes into it when the teacher noticed what we were doing, at which point he took the magazine away and stated that the computer was there for learning, not for simply typing in program lines we found elsewhere. I obviously still have some bitterness towards that teacher.
posted by gluechunk at 4:24 PM on May 14, 2004

Remember the good old days of code that was absolutely inpenetrable unless you got out a calculator and a sheet of paper and stepped through the program yourself?

Well, look at this mess

It's so sad it's funny. Kids were supposed to learn good coding style from this crap?

All it proves is that a. goto statements are the devil's own spawn, b. basic can look just as horrible as assembler if there are enough annoying, inexplicable math statements, and c. lack of comments is really bad.
posted by Veritron at 4:25 PM on May 14, 2004

Wow... this is amazing. Thanks, jammer.

A blatent self link follows... This is the book that inspired me to write games for my C64 back when I was 12. I remember being bewildered by the 3D Tic Tac Toe. There was a copy of this book in my small town library, and it led me to attempt to write a Tetris variant in BASIC.
posted by sleslie at 4:27 PM on May 14, 2004

Ahh, Machine Language for Beginners was another of the books I grew up with. I didn't get that much out of it, but one of the more adept teachers recommended a book on the 6502 in general. It covered a lot of mathematical stuff which I was dabbling in by that point (probably grade 8 I guess). Getting a Commodre 64 with a whopping 64 kilobytes of memory and a 1 MHz processor to display 3D wireframe graphics was my eventual coupe de grace.
posted by substrate at 4:28 PM on May 14, 2004

Now in lisp.

Well, it's a start anyways.
posted by AmaAyeRrsOonN at 6:11 PM on May 14, 2004

Now I remember why all my programs that I made when I was a kid included "CREATIVE COMPUTING, MORRISTOWN, NEW JERSEY."

thanks for the memory, jammer.
posted by PrinceValium at 6:24 PM on May 14, 2004

I have that book on my bookshelf, not more than 5 feet away from me as I type this.
posted by crunchland at 8:11 PM on May 14, 2004

Great stuff.

Ironically, the only BASIC on my machine now is in the form of a C64 emulator.
posted by arto at 8:38 PM on May 14, 2004

In the early 80s when the C64 was king, lots of electrical type stores would display working C64s at the front of their shops.

Because I was so |337 at basic, and because I was such a laff-a-minute prankster, I would type in something like,

10 INPUT “What is your name?”; N$
20 FOR A = 1 to 25
30 PRINT N$; “ has a hairy bottom!!! Ha ha!”

and then slink off to a safe distance to watch customers. Hilarity would ensue.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:46 PM on May 14, 2004

Wow, I remember the illustrations from this book so well. Those wacky robots! Thanks, jammer.
posted by rafter at 8:53 PM on May 14, 2004


50 GOTO 10
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:04 PM on May 14, 2004

Anyone remember piggy-backing RAM chips to upgrade from 4kb to 8kb?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:33 PM on May 14, 2004

Thanks for the memories. This was before the floppy and pirating lamasoft games, and figuring out that you could use the other side if you cut a hole in them. Whoa.
posted by muckster at 10:21 PM on May 14, 2004

NICE, thanks for the link.
(dusting off PCjr)
posted by tomplus2 at 10:40 PM on May 14, 2004

I have that book on my bookshelf, not more than 5 feet away from me as I type this.
posted by crunchland at 8:11 PM PST on May 14

Me too (okay, 15 feet). Now to see how these programs do on the Timex Sinclair...
posted by Guy Smiley at 10:46 PM on May 14, 2004

Well, look at this mess

Sheesh you're right, that is some truly nightmarish code-on-code action. Let's not get too carried away with our nostalgia, maybe there's something to this whole "Myth of Progress" thing after all...
posted by freebird at 12:18 AM on May 15, 2004

GOTO is definitely still considered harmful...

Great stuff.
posted by chrid at 2:29 AM on May 15, 2004

Anyone know where I can find a BASIC interpreter / compiler for Win XP? Not yer new-fangled poncey basics, but proper basic like this?
posted by Pericles at 2:53 AM on May 15, 2004

QBasic worked on my XP. Warning: it is a geocities link. A better page for tutorials is this page.
posted by sleslie at 7:47 AM on May 15, 2004

I had a Commodore 64 for many, many years. I have fond memories of doing all sorts of fun BASIC programming on it. I loved making up conversation games.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:42 AM on May 15, 2004

only scanning? No OCR?
posted by Vidiot at 10:38 AM on May 15, 2004

As Cory noted at boingboing, the cool thing about scanning is that, if you want to use the code now, you have to type it all in just like you did back then. Not very practical, but, er... fun?
posted by jammer at 11:04 AM on May 15, 2004

If you email me, I can probably dig up the London Board of Education edition of Hammurabi (all London Board of Education software was Public Domain back then), if I haven't given it away yet. It's much more involved than that one, IIRC. :-)
posted by shepd at 2:36 PM on May 15, 2004

Where are all you Amstrad CPC464 fans? [Nice link]
posted by meech at 10:30 PM on May 15, 2004

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