Atari BASIC

When I was a kid, my family had an Atari 800 computer.

I loved that computer, and I especially loved programming it in Atari BASIC. When we took family trips, my parents would tell each of us kids to bring something to read in the car, and I’d trot out carrying the Atari BASIC reference manual.

I wrote programs to print my name and GOTO 10 to make a dizzying pattern. I saw Zork and tried to recreate it in BASIC, but got lost in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. I discovered graphics mode and drew a spaceship with PLOT and DRAWTO, then learned to PEEK for joystick input so I could move it around the screen.

One of my favorite programs drew a wave. I’d spend hours fiddling with the numbers and watching the wave change shape, imagining that I was dialing in the parameters for an important scientific experiment.

Recently I recalled the wave program and fired up the Atari++ emulator to reconstruct it:

It’s been over thirty years since I wrote that originally! Funny how much hasn’t changed⁠—I still love programming as much as I did back then.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to dial in these parameters⁠…

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