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bluejay

What's your favorite version of BASIC?

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There's been hundreds of different versions of BASIC throughout the mid-late 20th century for thousands of different platforms. Even though each of them seem similar, under close inspection each version varies from another drastically. So, what's your favorite version of BASIC? It doesn't have to be the best, it doesn't have to be the easiest. Just your favorite version of BASIC on any platform made in the 20th century, including ones on video game consoles(although I'd presume no one would choose 2600 or Intellivision BASIC🙃)

 

Mine used to be the Microsoft BASIC in the Tandy portable computers, which has a handy feature that lets you create your own shortcuts using function keys, so you wouldn't need to type something like CLOAD every time you need to load something from a cassette. Instead just press f2(although im not entirely sure it's f2; I haven't used it a t series in a while--but thats not the point)! It also has a neat feature that lets you load text files as BASIC programs, or temporarily convert BASIC programs into text files. That means if you've made a mistake in a BASIC line that's about 732 quadrillion characters long, you can select and retype the one single command you made the mistake on instead of retyping the whole line. This saves you from wanting to chuck your computer out the window every time you make a typing mistake.

 

However, I think Commodore BASIC 7.0(you know, the one that was in the c128) has overtaken it on my favorite BASIC list. No, you cant edit individual characters in lines but it has a few commands that makes it my favorite version. Renumber, Sleep, Delete, Help, and Trap. Renumber, obviously, saves you the trouble of changing the line number of a certain line of code. Sleep is a handier way of adding delays to your program than forx=1to255:next. Delete, well, lets you delete multiple lines at the same time, so you dont have to type "10 enter 20 enter 30 enter 40 enter...". Help helps you locate exactly at what line on what command the error occured, obviously extremely handy. Trap is even cooler; it stops the program and goes to a certain line of the program when a fatal error occurs. Oh, and you can redefine function keys on this too.

 

Well, that was one hell of a long rant.

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Applesoft BASIC for the Apple II, II+, //e, //c, //p, IIgs.

 

I liked it because it was instantly available at power-on. And when I upgraded to a disk drive it "seemed" to gain new commands like LOAD, CATALOG, SAVE, INIT, and so on. In reality it was just DOS hooking in. It really was seamless integration at its finest. And to a kid that just learned the terms RAM, ROM, I/O, and CPU ..magically and wonderfully confusing! BASIC was in ROM but DOS just added stuff to it!

 

Additionally it had great support via books and manuals and reference charts. Remarkably it stayed the same throughout the II-series lifespan. And there were many toolkits available that patched it and added even more commands for specialty usage. But the code in ROM stayed the same throughout the years.

 

Learned many concepts in problem solving with it. Got good enough that when a problem presented itself the code just flowed. And out popped a program!

 

Runner up: TRS-80 BASIC and TRS-80 Pocket Computer 1 BASIC. I used those early on too so I'm including them.

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I would vote for Commodore BASIC 7.0 and TI Extended BASIC. 

 

However, I wonder if the results of your question won’t just be the ones we have fond memories of using when they were contemporary.  Certainly that was the case for my answers :)

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GFA BASIC.

 

11 hours ago, bluejay said:

Commodore BASIC 7.0 [...] you cant edit individual characters in lines

The Commodore 128 has a full-screen editor which will accept input from anywhere on the screen.  Not sure what you are trying to articulate here.

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Even if most of the people considers it subpar, I loved the Atari Basic on my original 130XE since it was the first I really mastered and used at the time to create my AD&D utilities back in the days.

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2 hours ago, OLD CS1 said:

GFA BASIC.

 

The Commodore 128 has a full-screen editor which will accept input from anywhere on the screen.  Not sure what you are trying to articulate here.

Huh, I didn't know that. Maybe I shoulda read the manual more carefully.

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I know all of the Commodore 8-bit machines have the full screen editor.  Ataris also have that I believe.

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20 hours ago, Casey said:

I know all of the Commodore 8-bit machines have the full screen editor.  Ataris also have that I believe.

The most definitely do.

 

My favorite was Atari BASIC for many years because that's what I used as a teenager and even later in college using GW-BASIC on PC's, I still preferred how things were done in Atari BASIC out of familiarity.  

 

In recent years I've used Altirra BASIC for the Atari and it's a very nice improvement of Atari BASIC in terms of both features and speed despite being the same 8K in size and fully backwards-compatible. 

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Based on what I have actually used

 

GFA-Basic -  nice to be rid of line numbers and learn structured programming, plus loved having a compiler

 

For the Atari 8-bit, my favorite was "Turbo Basic XL"-  It was syntax compatible with Atari Basic, plus added a bunch of useful commands.  It also executed everything around 3X faster than Atari Basic.  Plus it had a compiler for even more performance.

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On 7/11/2020 at 8:24 PM, Casey said:

I know all of the Commodore 8-bit machines have the full screen editor.  Ataris also have that I believe.

Atari had a simple but effective editor.    You could use arrow keys to move the cursor anywhere on the screen, and if you pressed ENTER, it would try to interpret what was on that line as BASIC commands.  That made it easy to edit just a few characters on an existing BASIC line.

 

I'm not sure if Commodore did it the same way.

 

But when I hear "full screen editor",  I think something more like a text editor with functions like cut/copy/paste/search.  Atari didn't have that.

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Yes, the Commodore screen editor worked just like that.  You could put the cursor anywhere on any line, make a change, and it would take it.

 

In the context of its time, that was what you’d call a full screen editor.  Other computers used an EDIT command (TI, TRS-80 Color Computer, I’m sure others).  Some used keyboard sequences to pick up characters (Apple).  The full screen editor was much simpler than all that.

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Casey said:

Yes, the Commodore screen editor worked just like that.  You could put the cursor anywhere on any line, make a change, and it would take it.

 

In the context of its time, that was what you’d call a full screen editor.  Other computers used an EDIT command (TI, TRS-80 Color Computer, I’m sure others).  Some used keyboard sequences to pick up characters (Apple).  The full screen editor was much simpler than all that.

My coco doesn't have an edit command, or at least none that I know of.

 

Commodore machines did not have a true full screen editor with copying and pasting and searching; and the only computer that I know of that has such a function are the Tandy portables.

Edited by bluejay

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48 minutes ago, bluejay said:

My coco doesn't have an edit command, or at least none that I know of.

 

Commodore machines did not have a true full screen editor with copying and pasting and searching; and the only computer that I know of that has such a function are the Tandy portables.

If you read contemporary discussions of these 8-bit machines, the Commodore and Atari machines have what was called a full screen editor.  What we think of today as a full screen editor with search and replace is not what they were referring to back in the day.

 

The Coco has an EDIT command.  It’s actually very full featured.  

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Posted (edited)
19 minutes ago, Casey said:

The Coco has an EDIT command.  It’s actually very full featured.  

That's weird. Last time i tried i got a big fat ?SN ERROR.

 

Ayy, I tried it now and it works!

Edited by bluejay

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I'm partial to the TRS-80 Level I Tiny BASIC and Microsoft Extended BASIC for the CoCo, Sinclair BASIC was amazing with what it enabled in 1K of RAM and the screen shrinking scheme to surrender video RAM to the program as needed.

 

Microsoft's BASIC on the PET, VIC-20 and C64 (same ROM) was a very generic implementation with excellent string handling but no custom sound and graphics commands.

 

Atari BASIC and Apple Integer BASIC were excellent Tiny BASIC derivatives with extra commands for graphics and sound.

 

Magazines like Compute featured cool type-in games in several BASIC dialects that I found fascinating to compare for the differences in the listings, such as the more peculiar TI BASIC. 

 

But I wonder, did anyone like Forth? Forth was released in place of BASIC on this Sinclair looking clone:

http://archive.org/stream/creativecomputing-1983-07/Creative_Computing_v09_n07_1983_July#page/n20/mode/1up

 

Just now, bluejay said:

That's weird. Last time i tried i got a big fat ?SN ERROR.

Then you must have the Microsoft standard BASIC ROM more common with the earlier 4K and 16K models, it does not have the EDIT command or TRON either I believe. If it says Extended BASIC on startup, then EDIT should work. 

 

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2 minutes ago, Mr SQL said:

Then you must have the Microsoft standard BASIC ROM more common with the earlier 4K and 16K models, it does not have the EDIT command or TRON either I believe. If it says Extended BASIC on startup, then EDIT should work. 

I tried it again and it works. I musta made a typo last time i tried.

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Extended Color BASIC on the Tandy CoCo. 
GW BASIC on the PC is almost identical.

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I'm probably most partial to AppleSoft BASIC myself, since that's what I used the most.  Built-in functions for both hi-res and lo-res graphics definitely helped make it useful, though it could have used some help in the sound department.  You also have to be careful about variable names because the parser doesn't care about white space.  "IF $A THEN" will throw an error because the parser sees reserved word "AT" before "THEN", making it (and you) wonder what a HEN is.

 

Quirks aside, I believe it was one of the more robust BASICs of its day.

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Posted (edited)
50 minutes ago, FujiSkunk said:

Quirks aside, I believe it was one of the more robust BASICs of its day.

 

It was wasn't it? I remember expanding The Tele-Cat II and Networks II BBS way beyond the stock package. Adding a clock/time/date, special doors, ability to jump to AE then back. That sort of thing.

 

You can imagine as time went on, 48K wasn't enough. There were plenty of utilities to fix that. Moving DOS into the 16K RamCard gave me a full 10K more to play with. Using the other 64K upper bank (128K machine) for variables and modem management were other space savers. And swapping lesser used variables to RAMdisk yet even another. The whole shebang was a house of cards ready to collapse. But it worked!

 

A favorite of mine was a BeagleBros utility called Compact. It would shorten variable names, concatenate lines, remove rems, and rename variables for better heap efficiency. Another tool (forget the name) would help de-nest excessive gotos and gosubs. All this could give us 4 or 5 more KB free space.

 

Toward the "end" we had to use these tools like a compiler. The BBS was bloating up and wouldn't run till we recovered some space. The downside was that the BASIC lines were long and the variables didn't resemble what made sense to us. The long lines were next to impossible to edit unless we modified the screen width with Poke 33,33 or something like that. And the variables could become something like BL$ in place of TX$, for the fully-formed time/date output.

 

Even editing the long lines were becoming tedious because a compacted line would list out longer than 255 characters, but we couldn't input something that long, so we carefully eliminated spaces and let the interpreter handle it. And the renumbered lines left no room to insert new ones. 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 became 1,2,3,4,5.

 

After all that the BBS still worked! And it was fun!

Edited by Keatah
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Applesoft BASIC is #1 for me, as it's the one I grew up with and wrote lots of (totally lame) text adventures in.

 

Second would be TI-BASIC, specifically for the TI-82 and TI-83 graphing calculators. In high school, I authored some (half-decent?) text-based RPGs which I actually sold a few copies of [!] (for like $1.25 a pop) until the other teens realized there was nothing stopping them from spreading the games all around via link cable. D'oh!

 

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For me, it's a toss up between Atari BASIC (8-bit) and STOS (ST) as both were made to take full advantage of their respective Atari's graphical & sound capabilities.  Great for game like stuff...

 

I also like Microsoft BASIC for it's universial approach of source code being transportable to any computer, which is better suited for college & professional settings.  That's the only time I ever used ST BASIC for my coursework.

 

 

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