Picking up again really is like riding a bike.

It's not the prettiest language, or the most elegant - not by a long shot, but working in it again I'm reminded of what an incredible gateway drug it was for so many of us to a life long love of computing.

There's something super powerful at play here beyond . I do think there are things we could learn from it in modern designs.

Just a tiny teaser example. I wrote this ugly bugger simple drawing program in < 10m:

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@feoh What system is that? "Graphics 5" and Plot, say #C128, but "stick" and "strig" rule it out.


Atari 8 bit BASIC. The original version, not any of the nicer XL, XE, or Turbo varieties :)


My question is "Is it BASIC, or is it such direct access to the hardware?"

For example, if Lua had been an option, would that have done the same?

@emacsen It's a valid question. I think the answer is: maybe? Like I said in a previous reply to someone else, part of BASIC's charm is its REPL. I guess you could easily create a REPL in Lua as well.

So yeah, if you gave me a Lua REPL with direct hardware access to an architecture simple enough to fit in my brain, then I'd probably love it just as much if not more.

Got such a thing lying around? :)

@emacsen HA! Too funny we both arrived at the same place at the same time in different replies :) Totally agree.

I love tic-80 and have a game I started in it that I SWEAR I will finish one day! :)


@feoh @emacsen at some point I will get back to https://github.com/telent/chablon#readme but right now my side-projects stack overfloweth and that one's a couple deep

@dan @feoh

> Today it's a Lua interpreter and a program that consumes almost all of the available RAM to draw rectangles on the display of a PineTime smart watch.

A very honest README.

@emacsen Actually thinking about it your choice of comparison to Lua is VERY apt and rather interesting. Lua is a simple language but one that can be incredibly expressive and powerful. So is BASIC, but we can't ignore the fact that Lua's designers had another 30 years of prior art to work from that BASIC's original creators did not :)

In a sense, platforms like PICO-8 and TIC-80 are kind of what we're talking about here, even though they don't strictly speaking exist as hardware.


I'm not dismissing the importance or innovation of BASIC, or LOGO (which is what I started with on the TI-99).

I consider TIC-80 to be a bit of almost retro-futurism? It's the computer we wanted but never had.

OTOH it doesn't have any kind of significant IO functionality- you can sort of almost hack it in if you bang the registers, but... no :)

@emacsen No I get that, and I don't want to come off as glorifying BASIC as somehow being the perfect programming language. ZOMG it isn't.

However over the last year or so I've been really getting back into Atari 8 bit hacking, and I just found myself sitting there at an ATARI BASIC prompt, typing in expressions, making pretty graphics on the screen, and remembering how EASY & welcoming it felt all those years ago to turn on a machine, get a READY prompt, and start exploring.


100%, and moreover, while I didn't have an Atari, the Commodore manuals were incredibly friendly and took the new computer owner through the functionality.


I didn't actually own a C64, but I did own a VIC 20, and the manual for it is is clearly a computer programming manual written for children.


@emacsen Wow that is rather impressive! Back in the days when software and hardware actually came with meaningful documentation and not just a tiny slip of paper with a URL in utterly unreadable tiny text :)

@feoh @emacsen My TV back then came with schematics of the internal circuit boards and the pin layout of the SCART socket on the back.

@emacsen @feoh "If Lua had been an option, would that have done the same?"

Other languages were available for 8 bits, but support for hardware commands varied.

BASIC was the standard for pack in firmware/cart, because it got an early lead during a time when type-in programs were more important than any sort of software distribution on tapes/floppies.

So, other language offerings had varied reasons for even existing, and thus varying sorts of support for the hardware.

@drwho Yes indeedy! It's what I learned on, with all its dimples and warts :)

Super interesting learning about its history and how/why it's so different WRT things like array handling than so many other variants.

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