Programming in Pascal on the Atari ST
Sticking with the Atari ST for another week, I’d like to talk about the first program I actually made available to the world.
I had written a lot of stuff for my Atari ST by 1991, primarily using Personal Pascal and GFA BASIC. One app that I liked enough to actually polish and finish was JumpSTART, an app launcher. Here you can see it in monochrome:
This app gave you boxes where you could give your apps longer names. Clicking on a box would launch the app. It was primarily intended for floppy usage, but it also proved useful with hard drives.
The first public release was v2.0, which I made available on February 13, 1992 as freeware by uploading it to the GEnie online service.
The first version of JumpSTART never really went anywhere. It was initially written in GFA BASIC and called ClamShell. During holiday break in 1991, I decided to re-write it using Pascal and it became JumpSTART.
To my surprise people actually downloaded it. And I started getting some good feedback and even some bug reports. I kept updating it and v2.1 was released on March 3.
Eventually I also uploaded this to the Delphi service and it even appeared on some public domain collections. Although JumpSTART was freeware, I did make some minor amount of money on it because I remember more than a few people sending me checks. I even recall getting a check from a user in Germany!
One of its big fans was Al Fasoldt, an Atari ST user and writer for the Syracuse Post-Standard. He helped with lots of testing and suggestions.
I continued to do updates up until v2.73 in 1993. I believe the last version was 2.73g which added support for Geneva multitasking.
A few years ago as part of a Summer Coding Challenge I did for Xojo, I put the full Personal Pascal JumpSTART source code on GitHub.
Now that I have an Atari ST up and running again, I was able to put on the sources on a floppy and RAMdisk, and do a full build of it using Personal Pascal.
Back in the day I would have been using a 16Mhz Mega STe with 4MB RAM and a hard disk. The lowly 8Mhz 1040ST I have now has only 1MB of RAM and no hard disk.
Personal Pascal was known as ST Pascal+ in Europe. Other versions of Pascal such as Prospero Pascal, Pure Pascal and Highspeed Pascal became more popular in the ST’s later years. Of those I only had Prospero Pascal, but I never ported JumpSTART to it. I no longer have my copy and I can’t find any downloads of Prospero Pascal online. If anyone can point me to it somewhere, I would appreciate it!
I might be fun to trying porting it to those newer Pascals, but before I can do that I will need to get the UltraSatan SD card hard drive device for my ST as working from floppies is just too slow, even with a RAM disk.
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Their is something special about digging up old code from yesteryear and bringing it back to life. I recently picked up a 1040STE with hard drive and have just finished expanding the memory to 4MB and replaced the floppy with a Gotek and looking forward to being my old STOS programs back to life.
I loved GFA BASIC and Personal Pascal on the Atari ST! Talk about amazing development environments for the day! I have the manuals for each today and would love to get back and play with them again.
Randy Kindig floppydays.com ataripodcast.com