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Sean39
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Hi everyone.

 

This is to everyone. I have the computer Module and I have the Intelivision first run with the serial number 1394, but

I also have an intellivision II that can be hooked up to the ECS unit. On the box it Says Computer module.

I am trying to set this up for my daughter to learn basic programing. I saw things on other basics on this site with

different threads.

 

How do I get those basic programs,so my daughter can learn a newer and better basic ?

 

Also I saw it says it add 2K and has a 12K rom on the box. I am guessing the 12K rom is the basic program.

 

Really guys I need help. I have the book Step by Step basic coming in for her. My module was complete in the box.

 

So does she only have 2 K of memory to program in ,or is there a way to add more memory to this computer.

 

Guys I went to school for programing in the late 1970's and early 80's. My wife was killed in a car wreck and we

had my daughter very later in life. Please I can use any help I can get. Is there a forum for Intellivision computer users.

 

Thank you

 

 

 

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Hi everyone.

 

This is to everyone. I have the computer Module and I have the Intelivision first run with the serial number 1394, but

I also have an intellivision II that can be hooked up to the ECS unit. On the box it Says Computer module.

I am trying to set this up for my daughter to learn basic programing. I saw things on other basics on this site with

different threads.

 

How do I get those basic programs,so my daughter can learn a newer and better basic ?

 

Also I saw it says it add 2K and has a 12K rom on the box. I am guessing the 12K rom is the basic program.

 

Really guys I need help. I have the book Step by Step basic coming in for her. My module was complete in the box.

 

So does she only have 2 K of memory to program in ,or is there a way to add more memory to this computer.

 

Guys I went to school for programing in the late 1970's and early 80's. My wife was killed in a car wreck and we

had my daughter very later in life. Please I can use any help I can get. Is there a forum for Intellivision computer users.

 

Thank you

 

 

 

 

Hi, Sean39,

 

Welcome to our community! The threads you may have seen around this forum on BASIC are probably related to IntyBASIC. This is a new language compiler created to make "home-brew" games for the Intellivision, and does not require the ECS. The ECS is the "computer module" unit that the offered in 1983. It has its own built-in BASIC interpreter that allows you to make BASIC programs, but it is very slow and limited; and like you noticed, it only offers 2K of RAM for user programs.

 

To be sure, IntyBASIC is not compatible with the ECS BASIC. The former is a more robust and powerful language, while the latter is a more simple language that could be fit within the Intellivision memory back in the 1980s (the entire interpreter and programming environment is locked within 12K of ROM).

 

Depending on the age of your daughter, her computer inclinations, and her skills, it may be better for her to pick up one or the other. I would certainly recommend IntyBASIC more than ECS BASIC, just because it is more flexible and powerful. However, with that flexibility and power comes a level of sophistication that is needed in compiling and building the programs. It's not hard, just a bit more involved.

 

However, just know that IntyBASIC is used to make some cool home-brew games, while the ECS BASIC has never been able to tackle more than some simplistic and small "toy" programs.

 

Either way you choose, you will certainly find people knowledgeable enough for either of them in this forum that are willing to help. Just ask any questions. :)

 

-dZ.

Edited by DZ-Jay
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Hi

Thanks for the help. I do not have alot of money right now and I already invested alot into this computer for her.

Did they come up with an expanded basic for it and is there a way to change out the chips and give her more memory than 2 K of RAM ?

I am a retired eletronic engineer and electronic tech.

I had my daughter very late in life and we never expected my wife and her mom to die in an auto accident. My wife always thought I would go before

her since I was the older one.

I am almost 50 years old and my daughter still has alot of year left in school before she graduates.

I was hoping there might be a basic on tape or on a cartrige. Also I thought maybe they may have came up with a larger rom with an expanded basic.

Now can the ram chips be changed out to larger ones that could bring it up to at least 16K or 32K of Ram.

Well I would even take 4 to 8K for her.

If someone can tell me what chips I need then I could change them out to get more memory.

Anyways this is the computer I bought and she wanted. Plus I was able to buy a little bit at a time. This computer I am on is just a loaner from

my cousin, so I can get on the internet.

I had Atari computers but had to sell them all off to cover medical and funeral cost, so in the last two months been buying enough things

to put together an Intellivision computer. First bought the Intellivision one thinking I could get the brown keyboard. Oh wow was I wrong there.

Anyways I was told that was recalled. So I was instructed on the ECS Computer module and the Intellivision II went together to form a

computer. Anyways it been buying the owner manual for the ECS computer module and then I was told there was a step by step basi book

that went with that. So I bought that book. They come in tomorrow hope fully. Anyways I can use any help on this.

I have the computer and waiting on a second keyboard that I bought today incase the first keyboard is bad,

I am sorry the intellivision computer is the computer we have now that we actually own and not a borrowed computer.

I still need to buy her an intellivoice module because I read how they place a second sound chip in the ECS computer module ,but

read that only for the music Keyboard program and I am not even sure where to find that keyboard.(the one that looks like a piano)

Anyways I am just trying to get her set up to program in basic. Again if we can expand her Ram memory by changing out some chips

I would do it. Just need help on what chips to change and what chips I can put in place of the ones in it.

Let me ask a question and it may seem stupid but I need an answer to this. It says the Intellivision or intellivision II has about 1.5K of ram in both of them, and it says the ECS computer module adds an extra 2K of ram to the existing memory , So does my daughter have 3.5K of ram in her computer ? How much is left for her to program in ? I know the basic compiler takes up some of that ram from that 12K rom. I am not sure if all the 12K of ROM is all use for basic since

it controls tape drive inputs and printer ports.

 

 

Thanks

Edited by Sean39
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Personally, I wouldn't recommend or use the BASIC on the ECS for learning anything. Its best avoided at all costs: its too quirky, saves to tape and is quite limited. Your daughter would be much better off using something like QBASIC. It works on a standard PC, has tons of features and would be much easier to use and she Google for help if she gets stuck on anything.

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Hi

Thanks for the help. I do not have alot of money right now and I already invested alot into this computer for her.

Did they come up with an expanded basic for it and is there a way to change out the chips and give her more memory than 2 K of RAM ?

I am a retired eletronic engineer and electronic tech.

I had my daughter very late in life and we never expected my wife and her mom to die in an auto accident. My wife always thought I would go before

her since I was the older one.

I am almost 50 years old and my daughter still has alot of year left in school before she graduates.

I was hoping there might be a basic on tape or on a cartrige. Also I thought maybe they may have came up with a larger rom with an expanded basic.

Now can the ram chips be changed out to larger ones that could bring it up to at least 16K or 32K of Ram.

Well I would even take 4 to 8K for her.

If someone can tell me what chips I need then I could change them out to get more memory.

Anyways this is the computer I bought and she wanted. Plus I was able to buy a little bit at a time. This computer I am on is just a loaner from

my cousin, so I can get on the internet.

I had Atari computers but had to sell them all off to cover medical and funeral cost, so in the last two months been buying enough things

to put together an Intellivision computer. First bought the Intellivision one thinking I could get the brown keyboard. Oh wow was I wrong there.

Anyways I was told that was recalled. So I was instructed on the ECS Computer module and the Intellivision II went together to form a

computer. Anyways it been buying the owner manual for the ECS computer module and then I was told there was a step by step basi book

that went with that. So I bought that book. They come in tomorrow hope fully. Anyways I can use any help on this.

I have the computer and waiting on a second keyboard that I bought today incase the first keyboard is bad,

I am sorry the intellivision computer is the computer we have now that we actually own and not a borrowed computer.

I still need to buy her an intellivoice module because I read how they place a second sound chip in the ECS computer module ,but

read that only for the music Keyboard program and I am not even sure where to find that keyboard.(the one that looks like a piano)

Anyways I am just trying to get her set up to program in basic. Again if we can expand her Ram memory by changing out some chips

I would do it. Just need help on what chips to change and what chips I can put in place of the ones in it.

Let me ask a question and it may seem stupid but I need an answer to this. It says the Intellivision or intellivision II has about 1.5K of ram in both of them, and it says the ECS computer module adds an extra 2K of ram to the existing memory , So does my daughter have 3.5K of ram in her computer ? How much is left for her to program in ? I know the basic compiler takes up some of that ram from that 12K rom. I am not sure if all the 12K of ROM is all use for basic since

it controls tape drive inputs and printer ports.

 

 

Thanks

 

Hi, Sean39,

 

I understand that you have already invested time and money into this particular piece of hardware. However, I must concur with the rest of the guys that the ECS BASIC is almost no BASIC at all. As a bit of context, consider that it was rushed to production as a very quick and cheap means to replace the Keyboard Component (i.e., the "brown keyboard" you mentioned). The Federal Trade Commission had imposed a daily fine on Mattel until the computer module was released, but since the Keyboard Component was too expensive and impractical, they cobbled together something to address the legal problems. Thus the ECS was born, and why it is so limited and strange.

 

As a personal note, I too wanted one when I was a child, and I got it for Christmas in 1983. I had dreams of all the games I could make with the power of the Intellivision. I bought the same step-by-step guide you have and tried to learn the BASIC language. Eventually I was too frustrated with the device and its quirkiness. By Christmas 1984, I got a Commodore 64 and realized how bad the ECS BASIC really was. My father and I then sold it to a neighbor with a young daughter, just like you, for about $40.00.

 

It's not only the limited RAM memory. It is also very slow to process. The keyboard is frustratingly unresponsive and uncomfortable to use for long periods of time.

 

The language is also crippled: due to space constraints, all keywords must be no more than 4 characters long; so you end up with "PRIN" instead of "PRINT," and "INPU" for "INPUT," etc. When I first started learning BASIC, I thought this was normal, but when I picked up the Commodore 64 a year later, I realized how weird it was.

 

When I look back upon the dawn of my computer programming experience, I tend to root it in the Commodore 64. I consider my days with the ECS a minor distraction that did not lead to much of anything.

 

About the only thing good that came out of the ECS is that it has an extra sound chip, of which some games can take advantage.

 

All that said, if you are determined to use the ECS, at least I will be here to help and assist. However, if your interest is in getting your daughter started in computer programming (a noble goal indeed!), then you may want to consider alternatives. The ECS is no more than a mere toy and a somewhat interesting accident of history.

 

-dZ.

 

UPDATE: I forgot to address your specific questions:

  1. The BASIC expansion cartridge with 16K of usable RAM for the ECS was never produced.
  2. I do not know if you can expand the memory of the ECS by changing the chips. Perhaps someone with hardware experience will chime in. However, I will assert that the lackluster memory is not the biggest problem of the ECS.
  3. There are only about 147 bytes of usable RAM available in the Master Component and 1,984 bytes added by the ECS. However, the actual total amount available to the user program depends on which built-in EXEC routines the program uses. The BASIC itself takes a rather large chunk of it (about 1.5K), leaving barely any available.
Edited by DZ-Jay
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Hi

Thanks for the help. I do not have alot of money right now and I already invested alot into this computer for her.

Did they come up with an expanded basic for it and is there a way to change out the chips and give her more memory than 2 K of RAM ?

I am a retired eletronic engineer and electronic tech.

I had my daughter very late in life and we never expected my wife and her mom to die in an auto accident. My wife always thought I would go before

her since I was the older one.

I am almost 50 years old and my daughter still has alot of year left in school before she graduates.

I was hoping there might be a basic on tape or on a cartrige. Also I thought maybe they may have came up with a larger rom with an expanded basic.

Now can the ram chips be changed out to larger ones that could bring it up to at least 16K or 32K of Ram.

Well I would even take 4 to 8K for her.

If someone can tell me what chips I need then I could change them out to get more memory.

Anyways this is the computer I bought and she wanted. Plus I was able to buy a little bit at a time. This computer I am on is just a loaner from

my cousin, so I can get on the internet.

I had Atari computers but had to sell them all off to cover medical and funeral cost, so in the last two months been buying enough things

to put together an Intellivision computer. First bought the Intellivision one thinking I could get the brown keyboard. Oh wow was I wrong there.

Anyways I was told that was recalled. So I was instructed on the ECS Computer module and the Intellivision II went together to form a

computer. Anyways it been buying the owner manual for the ECS computer module and then I was told there was a step by step basi book

that went with that. So I bought that book. They come in tomorrow hope fully. Anyways I can use any help on this.

I have the computer and waiting on a second keyboard that I bought today incase the first keyboard is bad,

I am sorry the intellivision computer is the computer we have now that we actually own and not a borrowed computer.

I still need to buy her an intellivoice module because I read how they place a second sound chip in the ECS computer module ,but

read that only for the music Keyboard program and I am not even sure where to find that keyboard.(the one that looks like a piano)

Anyways I am just trying to get her set up to program in basic. Again if we can expand her Ram memory by changing out some chips

I would do it. Just need help on what chips to change and what chips I can put in place of the ones in it.

Let me ask a question and it may seem stupid but I need an answer to this. It says the Intellivision or intellivision II has about 1.5K of ram in both of them, and it says the ECS computer module adds an extra 2K of ram to the existing memory , So does my daughter have 3.5K of ram in her computer ? How much is left for her to program in ? I know the basic compiler takes up some of that ram from that 12K rom. I am not sure if all the 12K of ROM is all use for basic since

it controls tape drive inputs and printer ports.

 

 

Thanks

 

Consider investing in a Raspberry Pi computer. It's cheap, comes with 512MB or 1024MB RAM, and can use a regular television for a display. It's a good environment for kids of any age to learn programming. People might recommend learning the Python programming language but I think you can program it with a BASIC interpreter (free download may be required). It can also get you on the internet and do lots of other things, and even play Intellivision games in emulation. I think IntyBasic requires a PC or MAC computer and is meant for developing Intellivision games.

 

When the Intellivsion ECS came out in 1983, there were planned upgrade options. The announced Program Expander with 16K of additional RAM and an expanded BASIC was never produced as all hardware development at Mattel Electronics was cancelled later in 1983. I don't know if you could ever have bought any third party RAM that would upgrade the ECS.

 

edit:

from Intellivisionlives.com: http://www.intellivisionlives.com/bluesky/hardware/ecs_tech.html#exec

"An additional 2K of 8-bit RAM is contained in the ECS. How much of it is available for use by the game program depends on how many of the ECS EXEC/BASIC routines are used. If the game does not use any of the ECS EXEC routines or BASIC, 1,984 RAM locations are available to the program. If all features are used, including BASIC which reserves a 1,535 location block for programming, only 2 locations of the system RAM are left over.

Note: Use of the ECS/BASIC features also eats up some of the Master Component's 147 8-bit scratchpad RAM locations normally available to the programmer; from 3 to 14 locations, depending on the features used."

 

So a minimum of 1.5K of 8-bit ECS RAM is available to BASIC programming. I don't know if BASIC has access to the 704 bytes of 16-bit Intellivision memory, much of which is used to display characters. Same goes for the Intellivision's scratchpad ram and gram which would might not be used at all for BASIC programming.

 

The Program Exapander was suppose to plug into the top of the ECS. Does the ECS actually have this expansion slot under the cover?

Edited by mr_me
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Hi Mr ME

 

I open the unit and did find the slot for the extended Ram and extended basic module.

Matter in fact in my book fir the module on page 84. This is what is written and I gues they never made it but the slot is there for it to be installed.

 

The Intellivision Program Expander ( availiable later in 1983 ) will enable you to add 32K of RAM and extended Basic Language for more

sophisticated programming Capabillity.

 

This was printed in my book for the Computer module on page 84.

 

Again the slot is there. I found it ,so I know they did plan it out but they just did not follow through with it,

 

I know in the Timex Sinclair computer they had a large ram Chip that had 2K on it.

I know other computers that used the small 16 or 18 pin chips that could be just change out for more memory.

Some use 4 chips to get the 4 K of memory and others used just two memory chips.

So I am just curious if the chips that provide only 2 K of ram could be changed out to the higher ram chips.

Maybe I could get her at least 4 K out of this thing,

A different basic Rom chip would be hard since it would have to be written to the 1610 CPU instruction set.

since most were written around the 6502 CPU like the Comodore 64 and Atari 800 that just not going to happen.

I think even the Vic 20 use that 6502 chip and the atari 2600 used the 6507 cpu which was a cut down chip of the 6502 cpu.

 

Anyways the expansion module slot does exist in the board, but to bad they never even made a couple for testing.

The extended basic and extra memory may have provided a much better computer system.

Well for right now I am stuck with this due to all the medical cost,funeral cost and so much more.

She seems happy with it but I was hoping to give her a little extra memory.

Again I am retired from the military and worked for Raytheon and NASA.

Now I am just retired. So if I knew what chips would work in extending the memory I could

install them myself. I was just not sure if anyone had found a way to get more memory.

 

By the way I tried signing up for that intellivision site and have not received a second email

that says my account is active.

Can anyone find out what is going on.

 

Thanks

Sean

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Hi, @Sean39,

I'm curious to know, are you really hitting the memory limit? Because as far as I know, and to most people's understanding, that is not the biggest issue with the ECS.

I would imagine that nobody has tried to figure out how to get more memory into the ECS because those who could, do not find any value in doing so. Making programs that do anything useful in the ECS is rather painful, and so there are much better alternatives.

When making video games for the Intellivision, we typically take advantage of the expanded memory available in newer ROM carts (for released home-brewed games), "flash-carts," and even emulators. Of course, all this programming is done outside the Intellivision, then compiled or assembled into a ROM, and played on an emulator -- or installed into a "flash cart" and played on the console.

I think a better option would be for someone to create a better version of BASIC in a cartridge that could take advantage of more sophisticated techniques that have emerged in the last 30 years since the ECS was originally released. However, I can imagine there to be little interest in that as well.

There is IntyBASIC, which is a fabulous tool. However, it is intended also to be part of a PC development environment, where you create and compile your program outside the console. That said, you may want to give it a go.


UPDATE:

 

By the way I tried signing up for that intellivision site and have not received a second email
that says my account is active.
Can anyone find out what is going on.

 

The IntellivisionLives.com site is owned and run by Keith Robinson of the Intellivision Productions, Inc. He is one of the original Blue Sky Rangers from Mattel. He doesn't usually hang out in this forum nor participates in this community. It is unfortunate, but such is the strained relationship between the intellectual property owner and a community of hackers and enthusiasts.

 

-dZ.

Edited by DZ-Jay
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Hi Mr ME

 

I open the unit and did find the slot for the extended Ram and extended basic module.

Matter in fact in my book fir the module on page 84. This is what is written and I gues they never made it but the slot is there for it to be installed.

 

The Intellivision Program Expander ( availiable later in 1983 ) will enable you to add 32K of RAM and extended Basic Language for more

sophisticated programming Capabillity.

 

This was printed in my book for the Computer module on page 84.

 

Again the slot is there. I found it ,so I know they did plan it out but they just did not follow through with it,

 

I know in the Timex Sinclair computer they had a large ram Chip that had 2K on it.

I know other computers that used the small 16 or 18 pin chips that could be just change out for more memory.

Some use 4 chips to get the 4 K of memory and others used just two memory chips.

So I am just curious if the chips that provide only 2 K of ram could be changed out to the higher ram chips.

Maybe I could get her at least 4 K out of this thing,

A different basic Rom chip would be hard since it would have to be written to the 1610 CPU instruction set.

since most were written around the 6502 CPU like the Comodore 64 and Atari 800 that just not going to happen.

I think even the Vic 20 use that 6502 chip and the atari 2600 used the 6507 cpu which was a cut down chip of the 6502 cpu.

 

Anyways the expansion module slot does exist in the board, but to bad they never even made a couple for testing.

The extended basic and extra memory may have provided a much better computer system.

Well for right now I am stuck with this due to all the medical cost,funeral cost and so much more.

She seems happy with it but I was hoping to give her a little extra memory.

Again I am retired from the military and worked for Raytheon and NASA.

Now I am just retired. So if I knew what chips would work in extending the memory I could

install them myself. I was just not sure if anyone had found a way to get more memory.

 

By the way I tried signing up for that intellivision site and have not received a second email

that says my account is active.

Can anyone find out what is going on.

 

Thanks

Sean

 

My suggestion is to sell your ECS, extra keyboard, and one or both of your Intellivisions. That might be more than enough money to buy a modern and practical computer. If not a used PC than a new Raspberry Pi computer. Did your ECS come with any games? Which games do you and your daughter like to play?

 

By-the-way, the RAM chip in your ECS is likely a Toshiba TMM2016P-2. Some ECSs don't even have the expansion slot under the cover, guessing to save cost after initial production started.

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Hi

Thanks for the info on the Ram Chip. I will probably have to save up for a computer. Again this one I am not on very often because it just

a loaner from my cousin.

 

My ECS does have that expansion slot under the cover but with no expansion ever being made . Well I do not know what to do with that

slot.

I know that slot was design for them to exapand the ECS up to 32K with a much better written Basic.

Thank you for your help.

 

 

 

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Just chiming in on the hardware angle here: I don't think it's possible to meaningfully expand the ECS by soldering chips anywhere on the board. Even if by some miracle you could, the built in BASIC wouldn't see it. I think they were expecting an Extended BASIC to replace the limited code inside the original system. The only attempt the built in BASIC tries to make to read outside its memory space is to look for an expansion ROM code at a very specific address ($C000 - $CFFF PAGE 1, with hooks at $C040 and $C043). It doesn't try to look for extra RAM anywhere. The code in ECS BASIC is really just thrown together.

 

The expansion slot inside the ECS is actually just a slightly modified version of the cartridge port. It doesn't have any special properties that lend itself to easily making an expansion board that plugs into there. I wish it did, but it doesn't. It's not like the expansion ports found on some other systems that make it easy to add more RAM. This one really is just a simple pass through to the system bus, really.

 

I concur with others on the thread that ECS BASIC is not a great introduction to programming. That's too bad. And IntyBASIC isn't really the right vehicle here, either.

 

 

If you can save up and get a Raspberry Pi or similar (they run $25 to $35 depending on which one you get), that device will take you quite far. Add a $5 keyboard and plug it into a TV, and off you go. As others have mentioned, there's a big set of community resources out there for it if you can hop online. And, it's a full blown computer under the hood. You could start with Python or BASIC or other easily learned languages, and later move onto more complex things, all staying with that simple, inexpensive board. I was able to compile jzIntv (which is not a trivial program!) directly on the Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi 3 is more powerful than any computer I owned up to around 2002. So, for learning programming, it has a lot of headroom. Even the original RPi is reasonably stout.

 

Best wishes, and good luck. I wish I had better news on making the ECS a viable platform here.

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Hi Thanks

Everyone for the help on this. For right now this is what I have till I can get something better,

I found that my copy of the Step by Step Guide to home computing is not complete and missing pages.( really need a good copy)

 

Does anyone have this book where I could buy it from one of you. It only came with the ECS if you sent off

for it.

This is at least a starting point for my daughter and we can move up from it when I get a better computer.

Please say someone has a copy of this book I can buy .

 

Thanks

Edited by Sean39
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Hi DZ

 

As you said I have alot already invested into thos and she has started to use it and like it. So it may be a good starting point for her to get a feel for basic since

she has never program anything before. She is loving it so far. I really need to get a copy of the book STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO HOME COMPUTING.

This way she has that book and can use it to help her more. My copy turned out to be really poor and it just really no good at all.

Let me ask this question . Was there any magazines that ublished programs for the ECS at all.

I went to school in the 1970's and 80's. I learn just about every basic out there. The main one I used was Microsoft basic and you had G basic,

coomodore basic which was Pet basic. Anyways I really never messed with intellivision basic back in those days.

Oh yes then there was atari basic as well. If I remember they had it started out as 12K and then had to cut it back to 10K.

I am not sure if they had to cut it back to 8K. I know atari 800 machines started out with 8K rom chips for their programs on the atari 800 machines.

I think they finally did get Atari Basic on a 10K rom chip.

So it would actually be less that intel basic on a 12K Rom chip.

I know they manage to do alot with atari basic but one thing atari basic had was Poke and Peek and USR for machine language routines in their

basic programs. This alow atari 800 machines to do things in basic that others did not do.

I know even in atari basic you miss the commnds words like circle,Sin,Cos,Paint,Fill,and so many others that were in Microsoft basic.

I have already notice the Intellivision basic seems to be missing the same command words.

Anyways Sin and Cos can be done by running a small basic program to make up for the loss of those functions.

I had computers that did not have Sin,Cos,Tan,PI and as you know these can be done by writing a small basic routine program.

Take more memory doing it but it can be done.

 

Well for now she can start out on the ECS and move her way up as I get a better set up.

I would really like to get a hold of the book

Step by Step guide to home computing.

My copy no good at all. Useless. Just to old and worn too bad.

 

Thanks

Sean

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I found that my copy of the Step by Step Guide to home computing is not complete and missing pages.( really need a good copy)

 

Does anyone have this book where I could buy it from one of you. It only came with the ECS if you sent off

for it.

 

It's posted online here. Pick Mattel on the Publisher menu and look for the Entertainment Computer System. It's the third item listed.

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This may sound a bit obnoxious, but whatever you're using to post to this forum is probably a far, FAR more suitable device for teaching a child programming than using an Intellivision ECS. I mean, there were worse computers in the 80s but not many. It's probably in my top 5 of awful computers that I've ever used. Literally everything about it is bad - the hardware, the interface, the BASIC... everything's just terrible. It's fun for nostalgia and the sheer audacity Mattel had in calling it a "home computer", and I sit next to one right now - but I wouldn't let a kid within a mile of it unless I was punishing them.

 

I'd rather give a child an almost equally ancient 486 with a 14" VGA monitor (and trust me, those are less than free these days) and get them going on that. If you really want BASIC, there are plenty available for the PC platforms. Honestly though, and I say this as someone who grew up with BASIC and now spends double-digit hours every week in BASIC - I wouldn't bother with BASIC these days. It's a neat, useful language in its own right, but it's not needed for teaching purposes anymore. And its utility outside of hobbyist circles is pretty limited. At least the types of BASIC you'll find on these dinosaur computers. I really like the Python suggestion above - it's a fantastic language for learning, and it actually has a vague chance of being useful to the kid later on.

 

I'd even suggest teaching programming on a touchscreen cellphone (if that's all you have) before using an ECS. They're that bad. But realistically, if you ask around you can probably get a somewhat decent PC for free from somewhere. People still throw them out after 2-3 years, when they're fully functional. Heck, I paid $50 for one for my parents 5-6 years ago and it's still going strong. Selling an Intellivision+ECS should get you more than that.

 

Don't get me wrong, though. The thought of a small child programming in an early BASIC on a sub-Megabyte machine pleases me something fierce. I try to get my nephews interested in what I do with IntyBASIC and they just don't get it.

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What does "less than free" mean? When it comes to 486 systems, those tend to be sought after these days and pretty pricy. If you're looking for cheapest possible computer/for free, I would think that a 1.4 GHz Pentium 4 might be the cheapest you can find used today, as it is far too old for modern use, and far too common and new for collectors. Even Pentium 1 and 2 based systems are starting to creep up a little.

 

Heck, there might be someone on this forum living not too far from Sean who has a leftover Pentium 4 system to donate? It would give his daughter reasonable options for learning a programming language, without getting ancient. After all, the ECS BASIC might not only be bad, it likely doesn't resemble anything modern that you could transfer your skills onto.

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Hi DZ

 

As you said I have alot already invested into thos and she has started to use it and like it. So it may be a good starting point for her to get a feel for basic since

she has never program anything before. She is loving it so far. I really need to get a copy of the book STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO HOME COMPUTING.

This way she has that book and can use it to help her more. My copy turned out to be really poor and it just really no good at all.

Let me ask this question . Was there any magazines that ublished programs for the ECS at all.

I went to school in the 1970's and 80's. I learn just about every basic out there. The main one I used was Microsoft basic and you had G basic,

coomodore basic which was Pet basic. Anyways I really never messed with intellivision basic back in those days.

Oh yes then there was atari basic as well. If I remember they had it started out as 12K and then had to cut it back to 10K.

I am not sure if they had to cut it back to 8K. I know atari 800 machines started out with 8K rom chips for their programs on the atari 800 machines.

I think they finally did get Atari Basic on a 10K rom chip.

So it would actually be less that intel basic on a 12K Rom chip.

I know they manage to do alot with atari basic but one thing atari basic had was Poke and Peek and USR for machine language routines in their

basic programs. This alow atari 800 machines to do things in basic that others did not do.

I know even in atari basic you miss the commnds words like circle,Sin,Cos,Paint,Fill,and so many others that were in Microsoft basic.

I have already notice the Intellivision basic seems to be missing the same command words.

Anyways Sin and Cos can be done by running a small basic program to make up for the loss of those functions.

I had computers that did not have Sin,Cos,Tan,PI and as you know these can be done by writing a small basic routine program.

Take more memory doing it but it can be done.

 

Well for now she can start out on the ECS and move her way up as I get a better set up.

I would really like to get a hold of the book

Step by Step guide to home computing.

My copy no good at all. Useless. Just to old and worn too bad.

 

Thanks

Sean

 

Hi, Sean,

 

As far as I recall, the Step-By-Step Guide was as arcane as the rest of the system. Moreover, it was riddled with errors and came with an "errata" sheet with lots of corrections and omissions. I wouldn't put all my hopes on it, though it does provide additional information on how to use some special routines to extract graphics from cartridges, etc.

 

You are right that the ECS BASIC is missing several of the most common BASIC commands, but it does have some special commands to use some capabilities of the Intellivision, such as loading and animating graphics, and playing music. They are however, much too slow and cumbersome to be useful.

 

It's biggest strength is its dependence on the EXEC, which means that a lot of the routines that handle sprites and collisions are built in. So, even though the BASIC interpreter is very slow to do any real work, it can invoke the EXEC to do some cool stuff. Unfortunately, it is not well documented, and not very easy to use.

 

 

 

 

It's posted online here. Pick Mattel on the Publisher menu and look for the Entertainment Computer System. It's the third item listed.

 

Any chance you would include a direct download link? That "JSViewer" thing is not working for me.

 

 

 

This may sound a bit obnoxious, <!snip!>...

 

Guys, I think we've already made our point that the ECS is crap and barely usable. However, I did play with one when I was 11 years-old and was able to discover the joys of programming (barely) with it, so it is usable for kids. My biggest problem back then was that I was comparing it to the more sophisticated environment provided by my neighbors' TRS-80s or C=64s; but I did experiment and played with it for hours and hours with some satisfaction.

 

Cut Sean a break. He already paid for the ECS, his kid is using the machine, and she's enjoying it. Can we help them at least get some joy out of the experience?

 

-dZ.

Edited by DZ-Jay
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What does "less than free" mean? When it comes to 486 systems, those tend to be sought after these days and pretty pricy.

 

Our electronics recyclers here still receive metric tons of 286-486 era equipment every week. People in many cases actually have to pay money to get this stuff hauled away. "Less than free", because they'll pay you to take it off their hands at times. Yeah, P4 stuff will be even more available - I guess I was just (poorly) trying to point out that you have literally 20 years' worth of computing equipment available, for next to nothing. At least if you're going down the path of "I don't care how current/modern/relevant it is, I just want *something*". And I can't think of a PC made since the mid 90s that wouldn't be at least better than an ECS - both from a practical standpoint (skills transfer later on, ability to look anything up online for help), and from an enjoyment standpoint (the keyboard, the 2K of RAM).

 

Because I'm not really sure what kind of "assistance" can be offered. The machine has no hardware expandability, so what you've got is what you get. The documentation is commonly accepted to be next-to-worthless due to its rushed nature. So there's no help forthcoming on that front, unless someone here is going to volunteer to write a programmer's guide to ECS BASIC.

 

I guess we can cheer her on - like I said, it warms my heart to picture a young kid in today's world poking along on one of these. :)

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Wow! Given that in other places, you can get $100 or more for a single, working 286, 386 or 486 system, it sounds to me that your electronic recyclers should go all in on selling goods on eBay, if that at all is possible.

 

But yes, this is getting much off-topic so unless otherwise noted, we can just cheer for her and hope the ECS doesn't confuse more than it enlightens. When it comes to replacing missing keywords with subroutines, perhaps obtaining a copy of David A. Lien's BASIC Handbook would be useful, as it contains a fair number of routines for substituting trigonometric and other functions.

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Hi DZ

 

As you said I have alot already invested into thos and she has started to use it and like it. So it may be a good starting point for her to get a feel for basic since

she has never program anything before. She is loving it so far. I really need to get a copy of the book STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO HOME COMPUTING.

This way she has that book and can use it to help her more. My copy turned out to be really poor and it just really no good at all.

Let me ask this question . Was there any magazines that ublished programs for the ECS at all.

I went to school in the 1970's and 80's. I learn just about every basic out there. The main one I used was Microsoft basic and you had G basic,

coomodore basic which was Pet basic. Anyways I really never messed with intellivision basic back in those days.

Oh yes then there was atari basic as well. If I remember they had it started out as 12K and then had to cut it back to 10K.

I am not sure if they had to cut it back to 8K. I know atari 800 machines started out with 8K rom chips for their programs on the atari 800 machines.

I think they finally did get Atari Basic on a 10K rom chip.

So it would actually be less that intel basic on a 12K Rom chip.

I know they manage to do alot with atari basic but one thing atari basic had was Poke and Peek and USR for machine language routines in their

basic programs. This alow atari 800 machines to do things in basic that others did not do.

I know even in atari basic you miss the commnds words like circle,Sin,Cos,Paint,Fill,and so many others that were in Microsoft basic.

I have already notice the Intellivision basic seems to be missing the same command words.

Anyways Sin and Cos can be done by running a small basic program to make up for the loss of those functions.

I had computers that did not have Sin,Cos,Tan,PI and as you know these can be done by writing a small basic routine program.

Take more memory doing it but it can be done.

 

Well for now she can start out on the ECS and move her way up as I get a better set up.

I would really like to get a hold of the book

Step by Step guide to home computing.

My copy no good at all. Useless. Just to old and worn too bad.

 

Thanks

Sean

 

 

Sean,

 

I know this is going off-topic a bit, but since you brought up Microsoft BASIC: Michael Steil did a bunch of work figuring out what's in nearly all versions of Microsoft BASIC for the 6502. (Including the Intellivision Keyboard Component; not to be confused with the Intellivision ECS.) The official blog for this is here. I can't get the page to come up, but the Google Cache copy of it does come up eventually.

 

All the reverse-engineered source code is on GitHub for the curious: https://github.com/mist64/msbasic

 

The page shows the relationship between Commodore BASIC, Applesoft BASIC and other versions, including what features are in which ones, what features are missing, and what precision floating point they implement. Unfortunately, the Atari BASIC versions are missing. But, the blog post does explain how the trig functions were separate from the rest of the BASIC interpreter, making it easy to exclude them. Some RAM-based versions could drop them out conditionally at load time, even.

 

All this is mainly interesting if you're curious exactly what was in all those old 6502-based BASIC interpreters. It's not really relevant to ECS BASIC.

 

—J

Edited by intvnut
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On a different note, and back on topic a little: Several years ago, Mike Hayes sponsored an ECS BASIC programming contest. He also wrote many ECS BASIC programs of his own. I have the files on my webserver (which, unfortunately, appears to be down at the moment). Once it comes back up, I'll post a link here for everyone's benefit / amusement.

 

 

EDIT: It looks like Spatula City will be off for awhile. The machine it was on is dead. Thankfully I have a backup from a couple days ago. However, getting a new machine online will take some time (esp. since I'm swamped at work, and taxes, and trying to buy a house, and LTO Flash, and split between Dallas and San Jose). But, it'll be back.

 

I should be able to at least extract the BASIC files once I get access to my other Linux host back home, and can post them here for your enjoyment.

Edited by intvnut
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Hi INTVNUT

 

Anyways did Mike Hayes ever write any books for programing the ECS. Believe me I know it not the worlds best computer. The Sinclair ZX80 is the only computer

I think had a less in it Basic than this. It had a 4K ROM basic rom and 1 K of Ram. Now if you were lucky you could get a hold of their 4K expansion pack.

Later on people just used the 16K ram expansions from the Sinclair ZX81 and Sinclair/Timex 1000 computer to expand them. Again very little basic and you

really had to rely on those peek and poke functions. The ZX81 had an 8K Rom basic . Now remember these computers had no sound or colors,so this allowed

them to get functions in basic that others had because they had no sound or colors.

Anyways th ZX80 was very hard to make good basic programs on. So I know this is not the greatest device made,but it makes my daughter happy and

maybe she will learn something from it.

 

I cannot waite to see what programs you have stored on your web site for this ECS.

 

Thanks

Edited by Sean39
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Attached are the files from the webserver. Spatula City itself isn't online yet, but I've got its replacement mostly ready. Just gotta ship it to TX.

 

In the meantime, enjoy the attached files. Note that for the ECS BASIC programs, you'll still need to type them in, and don't type in any comments to the right of the listing that appear after a semicolon. Those are for your reading pleasure only.

 

EDIT: I didn't answer one of your questions... So far as I know, Mike didn't write any separate documents / books / what-have-you on how to program ECS BASIC. He's another classic gamer, much like the rest of us, that grew up with the system. BTW, I did also find an 'ecs.doc' in his web archive which should be a DOC version of the original ECS manual. I don't know how helpful it is, but I'll attach it here also.

ecsbasic.zip

ecs.doc

Edited by intvnut
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