Monday, 21 October 2019

BASIC 10 Reference

Today we have a guest post from Edilbert, one of our great volunteers in the MEGA65 team, who has been working on documentation for BASIC 10. As you will discover, this was no small task.  But I'll stop here, and hand over to Edilbert...

I followed the MEGA-65 for some years and wondered how long it would take until I could buy this fascinating machine. Then I read Paul's post in the Forum64, where he asked for support. So I thought, it would be nice to join the team and contribute. 

Initially I thought, I could do some assembly programming for the operating system or the BASIC interprenter, but they needed writers for the user's guide. So I proposed to write the chapter: BASIC-10 command summary. I really underestimated the work, that would be needed. First, I had to write the stuff new with my own words - no copy and paste from existing sources. Preliminary versions of the Commodore C65 exist, but they cannot be used for copyright reasons. 

Then I got access to the repository with the stuff, that was created already. It was a bunch of LaTeX files with some text, some program generated tables and templates for all planned chapters. Well, I thought to be an expert in LaTeX, because I wrote all my scientific papers with that program, but then I always got layout templates from the journal editors and had to insert text, figures and citations. This one was a completely different beast. It was a snake pit. First I had to install some extra packages, that were unknown to me. After the first successfull LaTeX run I got a pdf (hurrah) but also a log file with more than 6000 lines of errors and warnings. I thinks, this was due to the effect, that different contributors used packages, that were sometimes incompatible. So I decided, that I should first read through the log file and eliminate as much errors and warnings as I could. This was not easy, but I managed to find solutions and workarounds in most cases. 

The next problem was the screen font, that was used to illustrate example programs. The used font was for 40 column screens and not free of copyrights. So I created my own true type font for this purpose for a 40 column and a 80 column screen. 

Now I started to fill in the contents for the BASIC-10 chapter. I took the syntax from existing sources but wrote a new text for the description and tried to find a compromise between mathematical correct and user friendly formulation, which is sometimes difficult. I wrote 190 pages of text, thought about example code, tested this code on a Commodore 128, where possible and tried to make it readable.  

The result is a page like this for every BASIC 10 keyword, with the nice screen font for showing how examples would be typed:


The LaTeX source for a page like this would be:



Now after 6 months and more than 150 work hours the chapter is written. We need probably some revision, to improve the English, make some text clearer and insert better code snippets, but the first version is done. 

Now I'll focus on the screen font (add graphic symbols) and layout. But working with the MEGA-65 team is a great pleasure and motivation. I'll continue and am looking forward to get in some future my own MEGA-65 hardware.

4 comments:

  1. ! Nice work! Looking forward to picking up one of these machines. And seeing all this work in person.

    The team working on this needs to put together a printed manual that teaches someone how to run a MEGA-65 from basic usage to advanced programming. I plan to use it someday for packet radio.

    A low powered computer, that boots quickly and accesses my packed BBS is exactly the useful use case I will put it to.

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    Replies
    1. This is exactly what we are working towards. The BASIC 10 reference is just one part of that.

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  2. Well done Edilbert, what a great piece of work and effort!

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  3. Keep up the fantastic work. All of you are great !!!

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