BASIC Programming

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This article is about the Atari 2600 cartridge. For programming in other BASICs, see BASIC. For other meanings, see Basic programming (disambiguation).
Basic Programming (Book)
Basicprogramming.png
Developer(s) Warren Robinett
Publisher(s) Atari
Designer(s) Warren Robinett
Platform(s) Atari 2600
Release date(s) 1979; 35 years ago (1979)
Distribution ROM cartridge

BASIC Programming attempted to teach simple computer programming on the Atari 2600. It was released for the Atari 2600 console in 1979 and it was one of only a few non-gaming cartridges released by the company. This program allowed consumers to create some simple programs using its own unique programming language, which was superficially similar to dialects of BASIC, but differed in many important aspects. The extremely small RAM size of the Atari 2600, 128 bytes, severely restricted the possibilities of this cartridge for writing any programs.

The BASIC Programming display was divided into six regions:

  • Program where instructions are written (maximum of nine (or eleven) lines of code).
  • Stack shows temporary results of what your program does.
  • Variables displays the values of any variables your program is using.
  • Output displays any output values your program is creating.
  • Status displays the amount of available memory remaining
  • Graphics contains two colored squares that can be manipulated by your program.

Input was given through two Atari keyboard controllers, which came with special overlays to show how to type the different commands and letters. Programs were restricted only up to 64 characters in size and 9 lines of code and thereby severely limiting anything other than programs such as printing names or moving a block across the screen. The cartridge intended to teach programming using its keypad controllers, which was not really a suitable medium of input for programming. Users could disable all windows except Program and keep selecting "New Line" until over nine empty lines had been entered and thus their program could use 11 lines of code using this trick. Given these limitations, Basic Programming cartridge never took off and is considered to be a novel but a failed product.

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