Jump to content
IGNORED

Recommendations on old hardware for Basic loitering


Recommended Posts

I've been watching this channel called "The 8-bit Guy" since 2016, and although his videos have definitely dropped in quality recently, they used to be great. I recently began to think about something he used to say a lot. It went kind of like this:
"I learned to program thanks to my VIC-20. It came with a great user's guide that taught me Microsoft Basic very well, and after that everything was easier".

That's pretty funny advice. "Want to code? Learn Basic." Not even C! 馃ぃ But I thought I'd give it a try, because I think it would be a really pleasant experience. I don't actually want to "learn the basics of coding", I already write C for that. Just want to learn an obsolete language and have some fun doing so.

So my question is: what are the best "Retro computers that natively run Basic and come with a great user's manual that teaches you how to program it"? I thought about following his advice and just getting a VIC-20 but it has no commands for graphics or sound.

PS. What 8-bit computers had the best third party Basic "compilers"? Amiga had "Blitz Basic" which was great but that's 16-bit.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Personally, I learned BASIC with the manual set for the Color Computer when I was about twelve years old.

The humour is a bit dated (and probably it was not even that funny ca. 1980), but it is overall a good self-teaching guide.

Extended Color BASIC has a full suite of graphics and sound commands, though the maximum screen resolution is 256x192x2 and drawing on the screen is painfully slow. Hardware sprites are not available.聽

There were apparently some compilers, but I never used any so I cannot comment.聽聽

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Had or has the best compiled BASIC? The Atari 8-bit computers have a very powerful FastBasic that lets you make very advanced programs with little code.

Otherwise BBC BASIC is popular, originally on the BBC Micro but also in Z80 flavour for many different systems.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Microsoft BASIC 2.0 on the VIC-20 and C64 gets derided a lot but it's actually an excellent BASIC with full Multidimensional Array support and string handling.

You have to use pokes for graphics and sound but that is very educational too.

As stated the Color Computer Extended BASIC is more robust and better insulates you from the low level hardware.

The Matel Aquarius is known for an excellent BASIC manual despite being less powerful than it's contemporaries.

The ZX-81 BASIC manual is also excellent for teaching it's slightly different flavor of BASIC as well.聽

BASIC is far more intuitive than C and a lot of fun to program in so you will find it very easy to learn. Many non computer science students became very adept at programming with BASIC at Dartmouth College where it was created, it's basically Tiny Fortran. If you have experience with Assembly that will make it even easier since some of the intrinsic commands are very similar.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with @carlsson聽here that BBC BASIC is one of your best choices.聽 聽The BASIC is powerful and has a rich command set, there is support for embedding 6502 Assembler code, and if you are planning on using the original system itself, rather than an emulator, the BBC keyboard is beautiful and the system can be expanded to support disk drives with relative ease.聽 聽The BBC also has an 80 column mode which I find much easier to program in, given that I can see more code on the screen at once.聽 The Acorn Electron is a cut price alternative that still has a nice keyboard, 80 column mode, and now features some great add on hard ware to allow you to save your work to SD cards, but is much much slower than the BBC and lacks the "PRESTEL" MODE7 display option.

An alternative I will offer up - the C128.聽 聽The BASIC 7 will be familiar if you're used V2 BASIC in the past, but has the additional features one would expect from a serious programming language.聽 Plus the C128 has a vastly better keyboard than the VIC20 or C64, and has a wonderful 80 column output option if you have a RGB monitor.聽 聽Again the C128 has easy support for disk drives and modern storage devices to save your work and progress.聽 Plus you can switch into C64 mode and use the V2 BASIC you are already familiar with, or just kick back and play some great games.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, carlsson said:

FastBasic

This seems really interesting! What version of Basic is it based on?

7 hours ago, jhd said:

x2

What's this x2? ...anyway, CoCo 3 seems really nice. I'll consider it.

5 hours ago, oracle_jedi said:

BBC BASIC is one of your best choices.

Seems like an awesome choice indeed. What computer that ran BBC Basic do you think came with the best manual?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You can see some PDFs of the original Acorn documentation here:聽聽https://stardot.org.uk/forums/viewtopic.php?t=14024

The later B+ and Master 128 systems got a better manual, but the original one is still a good start.聽 Note that many of these machines spent time in classrooms in the UK, and many will be missing the original documentation set, or it may be very well worn.聽聽

Also check out YT for the BBC's original The Computer Programme - and later Micro Live , for which the BBC Micro was originally commissioned.

And countless third party books, magazine articles etc.聽聽

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 3/27/2023 at 11:41 AM, jhd said:

Personally, I learned BASIC with the manual set for the Color Computer when I was about twelve years old.

The humour is a bit dated (and probably it was not even that funny ca. 1980), but it is overall a good self-teaching guide.

Extended Color BASIC has a full suite of graphics and sound commands, though the maximum screen resolution is 256x192x2 and drawing on the screen is painfully slow. Hardware sprites are not available.聽

There were apparently some compilers, but I never used any so I cannot comment.聽聽

It's even easier to learn Color Computer BASIC on a modern PC...

Go to the TRS-80 Color Computer Archive and download the VCC emulator and a PDF of the Color Computer BASIC Manual. 聽 That way you can have a BASIC enviroment in one window and the manual in a another one.

And here's a playlist of tutorial videos using those things on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDfh7JjQaSYA1fP5KwRiOwefFIIF1Alid

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

VCC emulator: https://colorcomputerarchive.com/repo/Emulators/Windows/Vcc/

I don't quite know which of these documents is the original manual, but you got them all here:

https://colorcomputerarchive.com/repo/Documents/Books/

Anyway, I never used the CoCo BASIC so I don't know about its strengths or weaknesses. Since you mentioned commands for graphics and sound in your first post, and why that disqualified the VIC-20 since you would not want to fiddle around with POKE's like we did 40 years ago, I suppose access to a set of good graphics commands is high on your wish list. The 256x192x2 that jhd mentioned above means a resolution of 256x192 pixels in two colours, typically black and white. If it was x4, that would be a palette of four colours etc. It should not be confused with the bit planes used on EGA/VGA, Amiga, Atari ST etc.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...
On 3/26/2023 at 7:28 PM, Marcos Moutta said:

So my question is: what are the best "Retro computers that natively run Basic and come with a great user's manual that teaches you how to program it"? I thought about following his advice and just getting a VIC-20 but it has no commands for graphics or sound.

I learned everything I know about computers from programming the Apple II when I was a kid in gradeschool. The concepts I learned then are still very much applicable today, especially the DOS-related stuff.

The system (with Disk II drive) gave me 4 manuals. A hardware reference, BASIC reference, BASIC tutorial, and DOS. The manuals were written in a way this kid could understand as well as adults. Felt like I had an instructor right beside me as I worked through the examples. When I had questions I'd just go to the contents/index to find answers. Today you just don't see this level of quality in consumer product documentation.

It was fun to read the manuals of the day as they introduced new technologies. And BTW the Apple II has no/minimal provisions for sound in BASIC. But more for graphics.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 3/26/2023 at 8:28 PM, Marcos Moutta said:

"I learned to program thanks to my VIC-20. It came with a great user's guide that taught me Microsoft Basic very well, and after that everything was easier".

That's pretty funny advice. "Want to code? Learn Basic." Not even C! 馃ぃ But I thought I'd give it a try, because I think it would be a really pleasant experience. I don't actually want to "learn the basics of coding", I already write C for that. Just want to learn an obsolete language and have some fun doing so.

This was great advice for us 80s kids

But I'm not sure there's much value in learning it now if you already know how to code.聽 聽It will probably just frustrate you with its archaic constructs

Link to comment
Share on other sites

58 minutes ago, zzip said:

It will probably just frustrate you with its archaic constructs

Very well possible. Part of the fun I had back in the day was learning both the syntax and flow. And the occasional trick for making something easier to edit. Apple II was full of all sorts of hidden and accommodating things.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

19 hours ago, Keatah said:

Very well possible. Part of the fun I had back in the day was learning both the syntax and flow. And the occasional trick for making something easier to edit. Apple II was full of all sorts of hidden and accommodating things.

I did the same with Atari Basic, but when I got to college for a comp-sci degree, I had to unlearn a lot of the bad coding practices that BASIC taught me.

Now when I look at a BASIC program, I wonder how I ever worked like that :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, zzip said:

I did the same with Atari Basic, but when I got to college for a comp-sci degree, I had to unlearn a lot of the bad coding practices that BASIC taught me.

Now when I look at a BASIC program, I wonder how I ever worked like that :D

Hate to say it but Atari BASIC is a terrible way to learn BASIC for other systems.聽 The fact聽 you have to make DIM statements for every single string varable alone makes it a pain to translate to different computers that use the Microsoft BASIC dialect.聽 I remember a student from my college programming course tell the teacher why he has a hard time running the examples in the book on Atari BASIC and she menitoned the sting DIMming.

That's why Atari had to release a seperate MS BASIC on disk for the 8-bits and I even had to use ST BASIC for my first programming course in college which teaches structured programming in MS聽 BASIC.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As a casual user, personally I would recommend the C128 if it weren鈥檛 for the terrible keyboard it came with (whoever thinks otherwise is lying). The manual is bland and boring, but it鈥檚 thorough and informative. The C128 came built in with a sprite editor and the HELP key is somewhat useful in finding typos and whatnot in case you don鈥檛 feel like doing manual labor. BASIC 7鈥檚 additional disk commands and fast disk access with the 1571 are highly convenient as well. BASIC 7 also includes a machine language monitor, although I鈥檓 not sure how useful this would be to you. The biggest downside to the C128 (and 1571) is the cost. They鈥檙e expensive beasts.

An affordable alternative is an Extended Color Basic CoCo as others have mentioned. A 64K ECB CoCo 2 is dirt cheap, and it鈥檚 also trivial to upgrade a 16K machine to 64K should you acquire one instead. ECB is fun to use and has graphics and sound commands along with a fairly convenient screen editor. The manual is, as previously mentioned, fun enough to read but I didn鈥檛 find it as thorough as the C128鈥檚. However, one thing to keep in mind is that this was designed as a low cost computer and mainly uses cassette storage and exclusively RF output. Disk drives are expensive and composite mods are cumbersome. Of course, these aren鈥檛 really issues if you鈥檙e planning on using an emulator.

The VIC-20 and C64 aren鈥檛 so bad for learning BASIC. I personally developed a certain fondness for POKE commands as I figured my way through 6502 machine language. However, I would try to stay away from the VIC-20 for its 22 column screen which can鈥檛 quite fit its own disk directory.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 4/14/2023 at 4:38 PM, MrMaddog said:

Hate to say it but Atari BASIC is a terrible way to learn BASIC for other systems.聽 The fact聽 you have to make DIM statements for every single string varable alone makes it a pain to translate to different computers that use the Microsoft BASIC dialect.聽 I remember a student from my college programming course tell the teacher why he has a hard time running the examples in the book on Atari BASIC and she menitoned the sting DIMming.

That's why Atari had to release a seperate MS BASIC on disk for the 8-bits and I even had to use ST BASIC for my first programming course in college which teaches structured programming in MS聽 BASIC.

Yeah the fact that Atari BASIC's dialect is different caused us headaches when trying to to type in programs from BASIC books.聽 聽But I think DIMming strings is the least of the issues.聽 聽Many languages force you to declare all variables.聽 聽

Yes it was possible to do structured programming with the 8-bit microcomputer BASICs, but it was rudimentary compared to other languages that force you to program that way.聽 Seemed like every new self-taught BASIC programmer learned the GOTO command right off the bat and set about abusing it

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 3/26/2023 at 8:28 PM, Marcos Moutta said:

I've been watching this channel called "The 8-bit Guy" since 2016, and although his videos have definitely dropped in quality recently, they used to be great. I recently began to think about something he used to say a lot. It went kind of like this:
"I learned to program thanks to my VIC-20. It came with a great user's guide that taught me Microsoft Basic very well, and after that everything was easier".

That's pretty funny advice. "Want to code? Learn Basic." Not even C! 馃ぃ But I thought I'd give it a try, because I think it would be a really pleasant experience. I don't actually want to "learn the basics of coding", I already write C for that. Just want to learn an obsolete language and have some fun doing so.

So my question is: what are the best "Retro computers that natively run Basic and come with a great user's manual that teaches you how to program it"? I thought about following his advice and just getting a VIC-20 but it has no commands for graphics or sound.

PS. What 8-bit computers had the best third party Basic "compilers"? Amiga had "Blitz Basic" which was great but that's 16-bit.

You want to learn an obsolete language and have some fun doing it?

Learn MUMPS. They're paying people in excess of $250k annual salaries because there's no one left to program in it. Almost everyone is dead, and the few who still program in it are in their 50s and / or are in nursing homes. I can program in it, but I just don't really do development anymore. But it's a fun language, and heavy in the medical industry.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 4/20/2023 at 4:59 PM, 82-T/A said:

You want to learn an obsolete language and have some fun doing it?

Learn MUMPS. They're paying people in excess of $250k annual salaries because there's no one left to program in it. Almost everyone is dead, and the few who still program in it are in their 50s and / or are in nursing homes. I can program in it, but I just don't really do development anymore. But it's a fun language, and heavy in the medical industry.

It's funny how this is the first ever time I hear about such language and I'm very sure if I don't dive deeper it will also be the last. 馃ぃ

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 4/23/2023 at 2:54 AM, Marcos Moutta said:

It's funny how this is the first ever time I hear about such language and I'm very sure if I don't dive deeper it will also be the last. 馃ぃ

Haha... yeah, pretty much. That said, it's heavily used in the medical industry, and a little bit less so in the banking industry. Most medical companies that have been around pre-2000 use MUMPS. It's not just a language, but an interpreted environment and database all in one. It generally runs off of an AS/400 type environment, and is extremely fast for number-crunching... which is why it was used in the first place. Some colleges also still use it for course registration and sign-up.

Interestingly enough, Dominoes Pizza used it up until just 10 years ago... even their online ordering system was based on a visual representation of it called "Cache'"

It was a fun language to learn, but it was a long time ago for me. I haven't programmed in it for almost ~18 years now. But it's still going strong.

EDIT: Here is a quick example (first one that was legible) that I could find. You'll notice that in MUMPS programming, all commands, functions, etc., are all shortened to a single character. S is for SET, $G means to "GET" $O is an "ORDER" ... which basically means to start a for loop, and then each nested iteration of a for loop is indented by an additional "." preceding the line. It's a pretty interesting and fun language to learn, but yeah... it's old. This was all done so that everything would fit neatly into 64-byte blocks for the old-school computers...

anc41203.thumb.png.2e02cc63b67c2f677b34d1140b30b91d.png

Edited by 82-T/A
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

The PicoMite is an excellent choice - I鈥檝e built two versions of the PicoMiteVGA聽https://geoffg.net/picomitevga.html

The PicoMite is an extension of MicroMite Basic that has been running on various Microchip microcontrollers for well over a decade.聽

The PicoMite was ported over to the Raspberry Pi Pico when many of Microchip controllers were hard to get during the chip shortage.聽

Peter Mather led the project, ported the MMBasic interpreter to the Raspberry Pi Pico and wrote the hardware device drivers. Geoff Graham wrote the MMBasic interpreter and the manual.聽聽Mick Ames wrote the PIO compiler and its corresponding documentation.

The PicoMite Basic has been constantly updated for the past 2.5 years to include many commands which were originally thought to be too complex for the Pico, such as VGA output, background sound output, sprites, 3D graphic commands. The timing critical PIO commands remain at the core of the PicoMite as with the previous MicroMites.


There is an active community for the PicoMite and MicroMite at聽https://www.thebackshed.com/forum/ViewForum.php?FID=16聽that Geoff Graham and Peter Mather participate in.

Note there are two versions of the PicoMite聽

1. PicoMite outputs to a touchscreen TFT and is meant for embedded applications. Programming is done on another computer with a terminal emulator and connected thru USB.

2. PicoMiteVGA which outputs thru a VGA port and input thru a PS/2 keyboard. This is a standalone boot to Basic computer.

Both versions can save programs on the built-in Flash on a Pico, or saved to an SD/Micro SD card formatted in FAT16 or FAT32

Edited by Forrest
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...