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May 9th, 2000

Programming by the Book

Do any old-time computer people here remember in the 1980’s how the more recreational magazines (like Compute, Nibble, Home Computing, etc.) used to have program listings in their magazine? They were always for great little utilities or games, usually written in some flavor of BASIC, but they required you to actually type in the code yourself? Now it would be unheard of to have a program listing for a PIM for Windows in PC Magazine, for instance — it would take days to enter the code alone! Thank goodness for the Net, I guess.

But I did learn a lot about computers and programming because of those program listings. I learned to debug (as much as it could be done in BASIC) and picked up a lot just by tinkering with the code. I do remember one time, though, I was entering a five or six page program (I think it was just an address book) and there was an error in the program. I checked that stupid thing line-by-line a number of times and finally concluded that the error was in the original program listing. Unfortunately, I never got that program to work. -ram

Posted in Technology

DATE: Tuesday May 9, 2000 -- 9:28:53AM
If you didn't suck so much, you would've gotten the program to work eventually. ;)

FROM: Paul
DATE: Tuesday May 9, 2000 -- 10:04:37AM
Yes, I totally remember these. I'd type in the VIC-20 programs from magazines like Family Computing, Home Computer Magazine, Compute!'s Gazette, and Commodore Magazine. I remember pages upon pages of DATA lines like this:

160 DATA 249,250,694,201,292,444,112,445

Just imagine over a hundred lines like that! Insane.

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Tuesday May 9, 2000 -- 10:47:07AM
Rob -- That just shows why I don't program for a living. My resume would say "Still working on an Apple II address book program from InCider." :)

Yes, Paul -- those lines were PAINFUL. Or how about the ones that were actually in machine language? Christ...

2000: 0A 1F 2A 1C 0F 5D 0C 10

FROM: Old Fezziwig
DATE: Tuesday May 9, 2000 -- 1:37:29PM
I submitted a little game to A+ magazine back in 1983(?). I don't even remember what language it was but they published it and I got a check for $50 or something like that. It was basically a program that raced a @ (a snail!) across the screen against other @s by way of a random number generator. Hi-tech stuff....
-Old Fezz

DATE: Tuesday May 9, 2000 -- 2:48:07PM
It's a good thing you're a webmaster now, so you don't have to code in silly languages like that any more, Ryan..... ;)

I remember I once tried to write one of those text adventure games in BASIC. There seemed to be a slew of them back in the day. This one was going to be based on, of all things, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But I lost interest in it soon after I perfected the alarm sound I was going to use in it. ;)

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Tuesday May 9, 2000 -- 3:09:46PM
OF -- I may have that copy of A+. :) I kept all my old Apple II stuff so that I'd have some sort of reference when they became out of date. Once I finish setting up my computer room, I'm going to have a small corner for my Apple II.

I wrote way too many BASIC games as a kid. There's one strategy game that I'd love to have someone port to Java or something -- it was kind of similar to Reversi, but better.

I also made a football game called "Tackle, Smash, Kill!" which had a single graphic -- supposed "blood" for when a player was killed. The idea behind the game was that you had 4 downs to go the full length of the field and you could either pass or run, and occasionally one of your players would get killed and be removed from the game. :)

FROM: Robert
DATE: Tuesday May 9, 2000 -- 4:06:05PM
RAM--A few days ago in this used book store Matt and I ran across this kids book called "A Kid's Guide to Home Computing". Since it was from like 1984 and it was aimed at kids all it covered was Atari and Colecovision. Ridiculous, eh? Probably more ridiculous for the fact that my older brother had the very same book and he never got beyond Tandy (anyone for Popcorn of Circus?).

That's all I can share about computers.

FROM: Aaron
DATE: Tuesday May 9, 2000 -- 7:18:03PM

"Memories, don't live like people do".

Wow! This ping brings up a lot of memories. I spent many an hour typing in BASIC programs into either my TI99/4A or Commodore 64.

IIRC Compute! had a utility that would aid you in typing in those long strings of data, like Paul showed above. It was a little assembly program for the C64 that registered a hook for the return key. When you typed in a line of the BASIC program and press return, it would caculate a CRC of that line and display it in the corner of the screen. You could then compare it to the CRC for that line in the book. Very handy. It was a total pain to type in that program though because it was bootstrapped by a BASIC program that was almost 100% DATA statements. If you got one of those wrong (which I did quite a few times) you were on your own to find your typing error.

I got my start in BASIC programming on a TRS-80, then graduated to a TI99/4A then Commodore 64. I tried to write a text/graphic adventure game based on Tron for the TRS-80. The graphics were just a few screens of asterisks arranged in cirlces and squares. There wasn't any animation, they were just there to illustrate the text.

I also learned my first, hard lesson about "saving" your work. I remember I lost about 3/4 of the game because I shut off the computer before saving (on those huge 8" floppy disks).

FROM: Paul
DATE: Tuesday May 9, 2000 -- 10:41:54PM
Aaron, that was the COMPUTE! Checksum Program. And gosh, those things were persnickety. I remember often when I wouldn't put a space between "DATA" and the first number, or the line number would be different, it'd yell at you. Ungh.

For the 64/128, Loadstar would have the type-in programs on disk - another reason to subscribe to this incredible disk magazine (which I was involved with for a few years ;)

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