My First BASIC Programs
Our family got our first computer in 1983 (an Atari 400), but unlike most computers of the time the Atari computers did not come with BASIC built-in. So we mostly used it as a fancier version of the Atari 2600.
Eventually in the late 1983, perhaps for Christmas, we got the Atari BASIC cartridge which meant I could finally type in and run actual programs. In my “ancient binder of old stuff”, I have hand-written copies of two of the first BASIC programs I wrote.
Why hand-written? Mostly because we didn’t have a printer. I probably also had these saved on cassette somewhere, but those are lost to time.
This first program is dated January 21, 1984 and it plays a music cassette through the TV speakers.
To check the status of the Start, Selection and Option keys PEEK(53279) is used. POKEing location 54018 turns on the cassette drive, playing its sound through the TV speakers. Alas, I don’t have a cassette drive in my retro collection, so I don’t have a way to test this.
The next two programs are both dated May 11, 1984.
The first one is called Temperature Converter and converts between celcius, kelvin and farenheit. I’m not really sure why I decided to write this program, but I was in middle school at the time so perhaps it was related to a homework assignment.
The final program, also with the same May 11, 1984 date is a “Frequency and Wavelength Finder”. Considering I have had no reason to think about such things since then, I am definitely thinking this was part of a math assignment
These are both rather simple programs that just have some input/output and a math calculation. As I think back, I recall that my middle school had some Commodore PET computers and it is possible that these are Atari conversions from programs I first wrote for the PET.
I’m not sure why I used the “"?” abbreviation for PRINT in some places, but then spelled out PRINT in others. It also is not consistent to have used all uppercase for some of the prompts, but mixed case for others.
The mostly 2-letter variable names seem to provide further evidence this was first written in another BASIC, where only the first 2 letters of variable names were unique. Atari BASIC used all the letters of variable names (and longer names did not slow things down like it did on most other BASICs).
I hope you find these at least slightly interesting. In upcoming posts, I’ll have have other programs to share stories about, including several games and utilities.
These programs (and many others) are included on the 8-bit disk image that is one of the several perks included with a paid Goto 10 subscription.
My favorite 800 BASIC program I wrote was a liar's dice program. I figured teaching a computer to lie convincingly was a challenge. It was a spaghetti bowl of matrices and ran like a dog...but it lied pretty well! Now I wonder if I did a good thing....
? Was an abbreviation for PRINT on commodore basic