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Should I Learn To Program the Atari 8-Bit and 16/32-Bit Computers?


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#1 pixelmischief OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Oct 11, 2017 11:11 PM

I am a career application developer working to make the transition to programmer.  To this end, I am learning all of the comp-sci stuff; algorithms, data structures, Turing's work, systems architecture, compilers, etc.  Given my stated goal, would there be any real value in learning to program the 8-bit and 16/32-bit Atari computers?  It is something I have always wanted to do, but never got around to.  And now that time is at such a premium in my life, I want to be certain that doing so would be more than a mere novelty.  Would it offer real benefit and insight to my aforementioned endeavors?


Edited by pixelmischief, Wed Oct 11, 2017 11:13 PM.


#2 carlsson ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:02 AM

Going from old to new:

You might learn techinques to be conservative with memory usage or execution times, but then again on systems with gigabytes of RAM and fast, multiple cores where you will want to do a threaded application most of that is redudant or not applicable.

 

Going from new to old:

Some of the algorithm and data structure concepts will apply even to 8-bit stuff, though the programming languages and methods will be different from what today is state of the trade. The newer Atari stuff you're getting into, the more alike modern tools it will become.

 

If you're thinking from a career perspective, a very small amount of people today get hired and can make a living on programming games for older systems while many do it on their spare time and sometimes even get commercially published, though usually not making a load of money from that. If you have had a dream about making your own programs, you might as well want to try it if time permits.

 

I'm a bit confused what a career application developer is though. Have you been working with smartphone apps, though not the core programming but rather the functional and UI design of those? Google fails to explain this term to me. Or have you been working with developing career application forms, like a curriculum vitae expert?


Edited by carlsson, Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:04 AM.

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#3 pixelmischief OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Oct 12, 2017 3:31 AM

I'm a bit confused what a career application developer is though.

 

I use the term "application developer" to mean someone who uses the tools and libraries to develop data-driven, line-of-business applications.  To put it bluntly, someone who starts a project with a template, always uses List<T> for a collection, and always uses foreach to iterate over it.  This, as opposed to a programmer, who knows when to, instead, use a stack or a queue; and why.  A programmer, who can write a reusable, standards compliant component and publish it for others to use as well.  A programmer, who can write a device driver, listener service/daemon, or custom stream processor.

 

I acknowledge that there may be a little bit of "impostor syndrome" in my perspective, and I am not saying that any of the aforementioned examples is beyond me.  They are not, however, a norm for my "out of office" coder lifestyle and I want them to be.  I want to be able to contribute to an open source project or write a game or create an IoT device using a Raspberry Pi.  And all of these things seem to dangle just outside my field of vision.


Edited by pixelmischief, Thu Oct 12, 2017 3:33 AM.


#4 Tickled_Pink OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Oct 16, 2017 4:55 AM

It depends entirely on what you want to achieve. If you want to learn to develop software as a form of career advancement then I'd say no. If you want to understand how software USED to be developed and the challenges faced at the time, then yes. If you consider yourself to be a beginner (although the fact that you understand Generics suggests maybe not) then again I'd say yes as these systems were far more accessible than today's tools. If you want to learn how to write games then, again, yes.

 

Unfortunately it's such a wide open question.

 

Personally, I learned more from programming the 8-bit and ST in assembly language (and STOS) than I have at any time since. If I made a million from a game tomorrow, I'd retire and go back to coding on these two systems. I'm not really a standards guy - I'm more of a brute-force coder. To me, standards are for those with too much time on their hands. ;) 



#5 zzip OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Oct 16, 2017 6:24 AM

I am a career application developer working to make the transition to programmer.  To this end, I am learning all of the comp-sci stuff; algorithms, data structures, Turing's work, systems architecture, compilers, etc.  Given my stated goal, would there be any real value in learning to program the 8-bit and 16/32-bit Atari computers?  It is something I have always wanted to do, but never got around to.  And now that time is at such a premium in my life, I want to be certain that doing so would be more than a mere novelty.  Would it offer real benefit and insight to my aforementioned endeavors?

 

If you have an end goal in mind, I suppose.   Consider the 8-bit.   Most programming for that is done in 6502 Assembly Language, Action!, Mad Pascal, or (old-style, line-oriented) BASIC.

 

None of those are very relevant languages for today's world.  Yes you will learn useful concepts, and learn to be concise.   But unless you have an end game/app in mind, I'd say skip it.

 

ST programming is closer to modern programming.  C is a common language there, and still common today.   Other modern languages such as C#, C++, Java, Objective-C (used by iOS) are descendants of C. 

 

But on the other hand, development tools on ST are weak compared to what you are used to.   Again, I'd have an end goal in mind though.



#6 pixelmischief OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Oct 16, 2017 3:59 PM

This is all fantastically useful advice.  Thank you very much.  I have decided that, given my current strategic direction, the real objective benefits would not justify the expenditure of time.






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