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Learning Basic on emulated Atari with Altirra


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#1 LidLikesIntellivision OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue May 15, 2018 6:14 AM

I want to learn Basic and I'm inclined to use a book (probably Atari Basic by Albrecht, Bob et alii; 1979).

 

I'd love if someday I could write good games for atari 2600 using Bataribasic, for atari 7800 and/or for Intellivision with IntellyBasic.

Learning assembly would be a distant objective.

 

For now I just want to have the experience of learning Basic on a classic computer. I hope Atari computers are a good option.

Since I don't have any real hardware, I downloaded Altirra but I'm confused with options and what would be a good emulated enviroment for writing, storing and running basic programs.

 

What hardware should I emulate (400, 800, xl)? What basic (cartridges or built-in?) roms are the best?

 

Any advice is much appreciated.



#2 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Tue May 15, 2018 7:59 AM

Altirra is fine for learning.

You can use Atari Basic to match what you have in the book, or use Altirra Basic.

You can set up a virtual 400 with 16K or 800 with 48K and a disk drive.

You can expand the simulated hardware as your skills increase.

You can use either a tape or disk. Depends if you want to learn DOS 2.5 right away or wait a bit.

 

---

 

IMHO the most important thing is finding a book or two that you understand. I learned basic from a TRS-80 book, and then used the beagle-brother's charts to further my studies in Apple II Applesoft basic.



#3 Level42 OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue May 15, 2018 8:51 AM

Do yourself a favor and start with Turbo-Basic XL 1.5 right away.

Much faster, much more powerful (much more commands) , much cleaner(structured programming), leaves you with MORE RAM to use than Atari Basic and comes with a compiler. Oh and it's 99% compatible with Atari Basic.

 

 

You can download it here:

http://www.atarimani...-xl_s12966.html

 

and here's a nice manual :) 

https://atariwiki.or...on_Fetzer_2.pdf

 

(one thing wrong in that manual: Frank Ostrowski was not from Holland but from Germany. No idea where they got that idea.)

 

The advantage of going Turbo-Basic is that switching to a more modern Basic will be easier.

 

By the way..... kudos for you wanting to learn to program !!! 



#4 Justin Payne OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue May 15, 2018 9:03 AM

You've given some reasons why you want to learn BASIC and how you're going to use it but I don't think those are the right reasons.

BASIC was a great language to get people into programming back in the day but as a language, it kinda sucks. Level42 has already called this out. BASIC is slow unless you can compile it and even then it's not a great language for writing games in unless speed isn't a factor. Also, to use the more advances features of the Atari, you'll need to create machine language subroutines, which you can do it BASIC but again, is it the right language for doing what you are attempting. Also, it's going to take up a lot more RAM then, say, a well written assembly language program. If you don't want to tackle Assembly just yet, Action is supposed to be a great language and it's pretty fast but if you're going to want to write games for the 2600 and 7800, you're going to have to learn Assembly Language. Atari Roots is a great place to start to learn the basics.



#5 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Tue May 15, 2018 9:05 AM

Thousands of type-in programs are built around the original Atari Basic, as are many tutorial books.


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#6 LidLikesIntellivision OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue May 15, 2018 12:04 PM

Altirra is fine for learning.

You can use Atari Basic to match what you have in the book, or use Altirra Basic.

You can set up a virtual 400 with 16K or 800 with 48K and a disk drive.

You can expand the simulated hardware as your skills increase.

You can use either a tape or disk. Depends if you want to learn DOS 2.5 right away or wait a bit.

 

---

 

IMHO the most important thing is finding a book or two that you understand. I learned basic from a TRS-80 book, and then used the beagle-brother's charts to further my studies in Apple II Applesoft basic.

Thank you, Keatah. I'm going to try the 800xl with the disk drive.

 

 

Do yourself a favor and start with Turbo-Basic XL 1.5 right away.

Much faster, much more powerful (much more commands) , much cleaner(structured programming), leaves you with MORE RAM to use than Atari Basic and comes with a compiler. Oh and it's 99% compatible with Atari Basic.

 

 

You can download it here:

http://www.atarimani...-xl_s12966.html

 

and here's a nice manual :) 

https://atariwiki.or...on_Fetzer_2.pdf

 

(one thing wrong in that manual: Frank Ostrowski was not from Holland but from Germany. No idea where they got that idea.)

 

The advantage of going Turbo-Basic is that switching to a more modern Basic will be easier.

 

By the way..... kudos for you wanting to learn to program !!! 

It seems a great option, definetely going for it. 

 

 

You've given some reasons why you want to learn BASIC and how you're going to use it but I don't think those are the right reasons.

BASIC was a great language to get people into programming back in the day but as a language, it kinda sucks. Level42 has already called this out. BASIC is slow unless you can compile it and even then it's not a great language for writing games in unless speed isn't a factor. Also, to use the more advances features of the Atari, you'll need to create machine language subroutines, which you can do it BASIC but again, is it the right language for doing what you are attempting. Also, it's going to take up a lot more RAM then, say, a well written assembly language program. If you don't want to tackle Assembly just yet, Action is supposed to be a great language and it's pretty fast but if you're going to want to write games for the 2600 and 7800, you're going to have to learn Assembly Language. Atari Roots is a great place to start to learn the basics.

Yes, I do want to learn assembly and it is in my plans.

But after just a little bit of contact with assembly tutorials and reading other's experiences with batari Basic, 7800 Basic and IntyBasic, I decided to take a longer but less frustrating and more fun path. 

 

By Atari Roots do you mean the book Atari Roots : A Guide to Assembly Language? 

 

-

Thanks to all. Let's have some programming fun!


Edited by LidLikesIntellivision, Tue May 15, 2018 12:07 PM.


#7 slx ONLINE  

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Posted Tue May 15, 2018 10:31 PM

Action! is great and easier to read and write than assembler but like Assembler unforgiving regarding some mistakes. There‘s also a severe lack of documentation especially tutorials for it.

If you later go for 6502 assembly it‘s much easier to do that on an emulator as debugging using a monitor on the host system is a lot more comfortable.

There‘s an extended Turbo Basic around that even includes PM graphics commands afaik.



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#8 carlsson OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed May 16, 2018 3:59 AM

Also remember that while languages like Batari BASIC, 7800 BASIC and IntyBASIC all borrow from the same origin as the various Atari BASIC, Turbo BASIC XL, Microsoft BASIC and so on, when you get down to the fine details, they will all have differences and limitations. If your intent is to actually make Atari 8-bit programs in the end, you can absolutely get into the details over here but if you just want to learn how to break down a problem into a program flow and get to the fine details on the actual target systems, any version of BASIC for the Atari for which you have a matching book will do.

 

Other non-BASIC oriented languages would be great if Atari 8-bit is the target, but not so much if it is just a tool on the road to other targets.



#9 Justin Payne OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed May 16, 2018 10:24 AM

Yes, "Atari Roots : A Guide to Assembly Language". It's a great book to start out with. I liked it so much that when I got rid of all of my Atari 8-bit stuff originally, that's the only thing I kept. It's a great starting point but as with when I learned 68K Assembly Langague, don't feel you need to stick with one book to understand the content. If I didn't understand one author's explanation, I'd find another in a different book. Now you have the web as well.

The problem with low level languages is, they look less like English and you're forced to do a lot of it yourself but don't feel a need to reinvent the wheel. Borrow parts from others code when you can. The great thing about low level languages is you're really learn how the machine works.
As previously mentioned, develop using modern tools such as WUDSN and emulators but you should probably do some testing on real machines. The good news is people are generally willing to test your stuff. "Testing" generally means just play testing and not real QA work but any help is useful.



#10 slx ONLINE  

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Posted Wed May 16, 2018 12:35 PM

If I didn't understand one author's explanation, I'd find another in a different book. Now you have the web as well.

Fully second that. ANTIC, Compute! and the other magazines (at atarimagazines) are a treasure trove of articles explaining different aspects of Atari programming, especially graphics and sound. The Compute! books (First book of Atari, Second Book of Atari, etc.) are in the same vein. 

 

AtariWiki has lots of code examples for various languages. 



#11 LidLikesIntellivision OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu May 17, 2018 11:23 AM

I've been in AA for some good time and every section has an awesome comunity!  :)

Many good tips.  :thumbsup:






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