Monday, January 14, 2019

Atari 8-bit

Ok, so when I was a kid in the 70's I was into computers.  I had access to a mainframe in elementary school and an Apple ][e in middle school, then I got my own Atari 600xl.  I filled the memory and got the Atari 800xl, I had a printer and used that one through high school.  Late in high school we got our first Windows 3.1 computer, and that's what REALLY caught on so I kind of left the Atari alone until I wanted to play Joust or Dig Dug.

Then I had about 20 years where I worked as an IT administrator, I learned about hardware and scripting and managing things, and plus I see things differently as an adult with a ton of experience.  I went to driving Uber full time and I needed a hobby, so I started watching Youtube videos by people like the 8-bit guy.  Pretty sweet.

So I have been typing on my 800xl, reading the docs.  In less than 24 hours I have already written a few things (more advanced that I used to do) and I am really getting into this old hardware as a way to learn.  I'm not saying I'd like to use this computer to program a machine language epic game or anything, but figuring out how to do the stuff I never figured out before is turning out to be quite satisfying.

The keyboard is so goofy.  The OS is so goofy.  No keystroke or command buffer, no real text editor, commands like UNIX "less" or "vi" would be so cool.  There are instructions on how to write your own tools.  Outstanding.

The first thing I decided to do was to grab an SIO2PC cable so I can interace the 800xl to my PC.  I intend to pull all of my early 80's data into my PC for archival, then use the PC for development since I can use a robust text editor and a mouse.  Using the Atari 800xl to program with is a bit like sticking a stick into wet mud tablets to make little pointy dots.

I will carve out a new area of this blog to document this 8-bit Atari fun I am having.

I always wanted to write a program that uses PEEK and POKE.  One of the things you can do is POKE a small number into a memory register, and this defines a tabstop and activates the TAB key.  I think I can write a small SETUP script to run after the computer is powered on, that sets all of the registers like that to a more functional level.  That is my goal for this week.

But the snow has melted and there are about 12 hours of driving Uber before I can get to that.  I'll carry Compute's first and second book of Atari along with me and read up some.