Atari Microsoft BASIC

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Atari Microsoft BASIC
Developer(s)Microsoft, Atari, Inc.
Final release
2.0 / 1982; 37 years ago (1982)
PlatformAtari 8-bit family
Size27 KB
TypeMicrosoft BASIC
LicenseCopyright © 1981, 1982 Microsoft Corp. Proprietary

The Atari Microsoft BASIC and Atari Microsoft BASIC II variants of the BASIC programming language were ROM cartridge or floppy disk packaged versions of the Microsoft BASIC dialect ported to the Atari 8-bit machines.

Atari originally licensed Microsoft BASIC for use in their 8-bit computers, but were unable to fit it in an 8 KB ROM cartridge, the largest cartridge size available at the time. They outsourced to another company, Shepardson Microsystems Inc. (SMI), who had similar problems fitting the language onto an 8k cartridge. SMI proposed creating an entirely new version of BASIC for the new platforms, and built Atari BASIC instead.

Atari Microsoft BASIC, unlike Atari BASIC, didn't allow abbreviations for keywords; keywords had to be fully spelled out. Syntax checking occurred after running a program, not immediately after entering the line. Also, arithmetic operations with integers resulted in an integer result.

Division with two integers Division with integer and floating-point
PRINT 3/2.0

Atari Microsoft BASIC came in two packages:

  • Floppy disk – CX8126
  • ROM cartridge – RX8035. Since the cartridge could only hold 16 KB, the remaining 11 KB file was included on an "extension" disk. The cartridge version was called Atari Microsoft BASIC II.

Although more feature filled than Atari BASIC, Microsoft BASIC never had the popularity that Atari BASIC had. The biggest problems were:

  • increased memory needed (at least 32 KB)
  • disk drive required
  • performance (faster than Atari BASIC, but slower than Turbo-Basic XL and BASIC XL)
  • not compatible with Atari BASIC
  • added cost

The cartridge version eliminated the first two requirements, but a disk drive was needed for all of its features.

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