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Thread: Whodathunkit?! Typing in programs=zen and fun

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    Great Puma (Level 12) YoshiM's Avatar
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    Default Whodathunkit?! Typing in programs=zen and fun

    Yeah, you read the title right-typing in programs and actually enjoying it. And not just thinking them up and hammering them in on the keyboard but picking up a book or magazine and then actually keying them in. From what I've read over the years and at various places online, it seems a mass amount of folks found that to be completely Flintstones. Why type the stuff in when you can easily download the program or even a disk or cassette image from many repositories across the globe? I followed that thinking as well-when would I have time to type that stuff in? I mean, I was trying to find a way to scan in my Dad's text adventure game I have the printout of rather than sit at a keyboard.

    I continued that train of thought for a number of years until recently.

    About a month ago I acquired a Color Computer 3 off of the ol' Bay from a new seller. The price for the computer with its box, a couple of cartridges ("Downland" and "Castle of Tharoggad" complete), a couple of tapes and a couple of program books. The computer was untested but the price was better than what you normally see for a CoCo 3. I asked if the person could at least plug it in and then power it on to see if it "clicked". That would tell me something is alive in there. The seller did what I requested and it did make noise. I gave a lower offer and they took it! Long story short (and some expensive USPS Priority shipping later) I got my CoCo 3 and the thing worked like a charm! At least I kinda paid what I sold my last one for, but that's another story.

    One day my kids were all getting their video game time in. It's something the wife and I do on the weekends as they don't get video game time at all during the regular week. My daughter was over but she was broiled in her latest Harry Potter video shorts-a-thon while playing Roblox on my laptop. I didn't have a good functioning PC (my MacBook's space bar is borked-what a pain to find reliable parts) so I couldn't join her while the others were deep into what they were playing. I pulled out the CoCo 3, plugged in my CoCoSDC (allows me to use and create virtual floppies), hooked it to the family TV and grabbed one of the programming books just to page through it and maybe type something in, for old time sake. The book was called "K Power Collection 10 Awesome/Original/Unusual/Super/Fantastic Computer Puzzles and Games" by Joey Latimier and published by Scholastic. Exchange the "/'s" with lightning bolts. Must be some hot stuff inside if it's got lightning bolts in the title! The programs inside the book were for the major computers of the time: Apple, IBM PC, Atari, C-64, TI-99 4A, Tandy Color Computer (and Models III and 4) and finally the Vic-20.

    I began typing in the first program, "Amazin'", which was a game where you had to move a dot through a maze. You can use joystick or the keyboard (though not the arrow keys-I, M, J and L for up, down, left and right). You couldn't touch the walls or you'd lose the game. "Berzerk" without the shooting or robots, ok. So I sat cross-legged on the floor (which I'd pay for later-my near half-century old knees don't like that position for extended periods) and hammered away. In about a half hour I had the program in. Of course there would be errors so I was able to hash out the Syntax Errors pretty easily. Then the game started but I could only move left or right with the joystick! Huh....ok, let's try the keyboard. Can't move. Great. Now what?

    It was then, in the debugging, that I recalled why I got into I.T. Solving problems. My memory of BASIC for the CoCo was foggy as I never really became great at it. I was an impatient kid when I grew up with the CoCo, wanting to run a game I was typing in to see how it looked way before it was finished. Creating, I "stole" code from games in magazine to piece mail a POS program. But I did know enough to understand how most of a program worked (even Data statements to a degree, my bane as I never really worked at understanding how that worked) and I could read the listing to find where the joystick and keyboard controls were. I put in the variables used for the stick and keys and had it print with the game timer that ticked away as you played. The Horizontal movement (X) worked fine-I could get a reading of 0 to 64 for the stick. Vertical (Y) gave me a big fat zero. I found I misread the variable for Vertical when defining it, using "V" instead of the required "Y". Changed that and boom! My dot moved! Yay! Keyboard commands had some punctuation omitted if I remember right. Found that and fixed and keyboard worked too.

    A total of an hour passed. My program was bug free and working. Even though the maze never changed I had a blast playing and even more fun trying to solve the problems. I was jazzed with myself and felt great the rest of the night, even though my knees didn't. I can't say I was bored, though somewhat frustrated at first but then again it's been probably 30 years since I did something like this. Makes me want to get deeper down that rabbit hole.

    It's something I recommend any potential computer-naut to try again. Find an old magazine from your favorite 8 bit computer that had programs and give it a shot. See how it feels for you. If you have kids that might be interested in the old stuff, why not work with them? Go back and forth typing in a program together. has scads of magazines for you to peruse!

    Anyone else enjoyed typing in programs in the past? Would you consider doing it again?

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