Meanwhile, at Microsoft…   Leave a comment

Dragon 32 startup screen with a Microsoft BASIC dated the year the C64 came out, but 16K instead of only 8K


Since Commodore’s Jack Tramiel had bought an antique version of Microsoft BASIC way back in or even before 1977 (at that time a current version), Microsoft had moved on a lot, adding commands such as CLS (clear screen), SCREEN [number] (set display mode for text or graphics), SET (x,y) (plot a point), RESET (x,y) (unplot a point, later renamed as PSET and PRESET), LINE (x1,y2)-(x2,y2),[colour or mode] (draw a line), LOCATE (x,y) (place text cursor at these coordinates), INKEY$ (detect key presses more easily than GET$), STICK (n) (detect joystick movement), STRIG (n) (detect joystick fire button), PAINT (x,y),[colour] (flood fill an area starting at x,y), CIRCLE (x,y),[radius],[colour] and even DRAW “turtle graphics string” and PLAY “named musical notes”! In general, this was called “Microsoft Extended BASIC”.

Contrary to popular belief, not ALL BASIC dialects for home computers were written by Microsoft, although some of the others were influenced by them. Non Microsoft BASICs included Atari BASIC and Sinclair BASIC (which handled strings differently), while BBC BASIC was similar to Microsoft BASIC syntax in a lot of ways, but incorporated features from more advanced languages, possibly PASCAL, or COMAL. All of these BASIC dialects were more advanced than Commodore BASIC V2.

The lucky computer owners who benefited from having the Microsoft Extended BASIC commands listed above, included those who had bought a Tandy Color Computer (“Coco”) with “Extended Color BASIC”, Dragon 32/64, Spectravideo 318/328 (proto MSX), one of the MSX computers, or an early PC with GW BASIC, but certainly NOT Commodore 64 owners!

A Tandy Color Computer showing its hires graphics

Commodore and third parties released “extended BASICs”, which each had their own versions of the commands missing from Commodore BASIC V2. Unfortunately, there was no extended BASIC for C64 owners who didn’t own a disk drive, which also enabled programmers to produce software that would run without the Copyright package they’d used to write them! This would have required either a “runtime” version (a cut down version which didn’t allow other users to write their own programs), or a compiler (a program which converted the extended BASIC programs into stand alone Machine Code), so there was no market for any such programs!

Before mass produced microcomputers came onto the market, the computers had been massive, taking up a whole room, which you weren’t allowed access to unless you had a degree in Pure Maths (whatever that is)! I think Commodore was harking back to those days, by expecting people to remember a whole load of 5 digit memory locations to PEEK and POKE. This may have appealed to keen mathematicians or historians, but not to artists, linguists, musicians and others. I think it’s like having to learn brain surgery before you can have a conversation with someone! I for one, didn’t want to have to learn the inner workings and locations of the whole f*ckin’ Commodore 64, when the much easier option was to sell that piece of crap and buy any non Commodore computer which was on the market at the same time.

For the last few months of my time as a Commodore 64 owner, I visited various computer dealers and department stores trying out various computers with different dialects of BASIC, so I didn’t get conned again. Meanwhile, I hardly touched my Commodore 64 anymore and it just sat gathering dust.

Posted August 17, 2012 by C64hater in Uncategorized

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