eben’s bbc basic programmes

I wrote this as a comment to Learn to write games for the BBC Micro with Eben – Raspberry Pi, but it didn’t seem to save:

BeebEm? Lawks, that’s a bit old (2006). All the cool (*cough*) kids are running b-em – https://github.com/stardot/b-em – these days. It’s lovingly maintain by Stardot forum members. It’s a little crashy on some Linux platforms, but seems stable on the Raspberry Pi and Raspbian. You may need to install the liballegro5-dev and zlib1g-dev packages to get it to compile.

If you want a native version of BBC BASIC, Richard Russell’s version is pretty neat: http://www.bbcbasic.co.uk/bbcsdl/ . You’ll most likely need to change line 280 to use some variant of the WAIT command to make it playable.

Another native interpreter is Brandy. There’s an ancient one in the repos, but I’m completely taken with the Matrix Brandy fork: https://github.com/stardot/MatrixBrandy . It may need a few packages installed to get it to build (libsdl1.2-dev might be a good first try), but it’s really fast. For cross-platform happiness, change line 280 to WAIT 10. If you stick to using a FOR loop, you might have to have it as high as 2,000,000 on a fast computer!

Lastly, if you want to run the game in a browser, JSBeeb to the rescue: https://bbc.godbolt.org/?autorun&loadBasic=https://gist.githubusercontent.com/scruss/f5a8eb83f28b85d6399142cac460c806/raw/74c4e39de7661bb2e3dd7f435840dd8db7172589/helicopter.bbc
It’s a bit slow in Chromium on a Raspberry Pi, but it does work!

“space acid poisoning …”

Thanks to users sbadger and lurkio on the stardot forum, I’ve been reunited the original BBC BASIC one-liner that begat 2d Star Dodge/Stardodger: Asterisk Tracker!

Asterisk Tracker

It was published in the December 1984 edition of BEEBUG Magazine (vol. 3, issue 7; page 9) and is credited to N. Silver.

It’s impossibly short:

1L=0:REP.L=L+3:MO.4:DR.1279,0:DR.1279,452:MOVE1279,572:DR.1279,1023:DR.0,1023:F.I=1TOL:V.31,RND(32)+5,RND(31),42,30:N.:P.(L-3)/3:X=0:Y=512:REP.PL.69,X,Y:X=X+4:Y=Y-(INKEY-74+.5)*8:U.PO.X,Y)=1ORX=1280:U.X<1280:V.7:REP.U.INKEY-99:RUN

It makes extensive use of BBC BASIC’s abbreviations, and the writeup even warns

… Here the programs are extensively abbreviated so that the line will fit into Basic’s keyboard buffer. Because of this, you cannot edit a LISTed version, and so, to allow for errors, it is best to spool out a copy of the text to tape/disc initially. This can be achieved as follows:

*SPOOL PROGRAM
type in program
*SPOOL

The program unwinds to something much more understandable:


   10 L=0
   20 REPEAT
   25   L=L+3
   30   MODE 4
   40   DRAW 1279,0
   50   DRAW 1279,452
   60   MOVE 1279,572
   70   DRAW 1279,1023
   80   DRAW 0,1023
   90   FOR I=1 TO L
  100     VDU 31,RND(32)+5,RND(31),42,30
  110   NEXT
  120   PRINT (L-3)/3
  130   X=0
  140   Y=512
  150   REPEAT
  155     PLOT 69,X,Y
  160     X=X+4
  170     Y=Y-(INKEY(-74)+.5)*8
  180   UNTIL POINT(X,Y)=1 OR X=1280
  190 UNTIL X<1280
  200 VDU 7
  210 REPEAT UNTIL INKEY(-99)
  220 RUN

The instructions are typical of the day:

The first game (called ‘Asterisk Tracker’) is a very simple game in which you have to guide a ‘snake’ across the screen, whilst avoiding the stars. As the game progresses, more and more stars will be displayed, and the ease of the game rapidly disappears. The Return key guides the ‘snake’ upwards, but it moves down if Return is not pressed. Aim your ‘snake’ for the gap in the wall, and don’t touch any objects as this causes instant death from space acid poisoning!

Um, yeah, N. Silver, whatevs …

It’s pretty amazing that three type-ins could fit on a page: especially when you consider that the BEEBUG magazine was A5!

beebug vol 3 issue 7 page 9

If you want to play it (and who wouldn’t? We wasted days on this game) you can either run this Asterisk Tracker alone in the browser: Asterisk Tracker, or lurkio has combined them into one, and put them here: Beebug One-Line Games (Asterisk Tracker, a Truffle Hunt clone, and a treasure hunt).

I just wish Graeme Smith were still with us to play this.

Serious nostalgia…

Atari_ST-Fast_Basic

Oh man — emulating an Atari ST. It’s 1987, and I’m back in that computer lab on the first floor of the James Weir Building

(Jeremy Ruston went on to write TiddlyWiki, amongst other things.)

Micro Men

Clive Sinclair (Alexander Armstrong) pays for drinks (from an uncredited Sophie Wilson

It was a cheesy time, the early 80s, but I’m stuck with it as my youth. Home computers were probably the largest part of my life for rather longer than I should admit.

My brother recommended Micro Men, a BBC 4 (what? they have more than two?) comedy drama about the fight between Acorn and Sinclair for the BBC educational contract. I went to my usual source for quality television, and it was on my computer an hour after hearing about it.

With a mix of vintage film and recreations, it caught the ’78-85 vibe perfectly. Whether all the anecdotes are historically correct, it doesn’t matter – the feeling of the frantic dash to develop new machines in ridiculously short times and then advertise them months before they were ready was there.

There were a bunch of good cameos, too. Nice to see Sophie Wilson (known to me as the author of BBC Basic, known to you as the designer of the ARM processor almost certainly used in your mobile phone) making an apperance.

So, though I was never a BBC B or ZX Spectrum owner, a fun programme, and one you might like.

I came late to the BBC Basic game, but used it on my Z88 to ace an Introduction to Numerical Methods course (yay EVAL!).

is this the same report?

A recent BBC news story from Scotland leads with:

Wind farms could hit tourist jobs

Wind farms could cost Scotland’s tourism industry millions of pounds and hundreds of jobs, a report has warned.

But the findings of the report are much milder:

This research has shown that even using a worst case scenario the impact of current applications would be very small  …

… Our  overall conclusion is that the effects are so small that, provided planning and  marketing are carried out effectively, there is no reason why the two are  incompatible.

So it looks, as usual, as if the BBC is trying to make wind turbines look far worse than they really are.

Nothing to do with Enid Blyton or Tequila

Yentob in ‘noddy’ controversy | Special reports | MediaGuardian.co.uk
The BBC has admitted that Alan Yentob, the corporation’s creative director, has performed “noddy shots” on interviews that he did not personally conduct for his arts series Imagine.

Goodbye, childhood

Goodbye:

  • headache glue cracking from finger tips
  • badly-painted pilot with obvious thumb-prints
  • squint and/or torn decals
  • undercarriage installed backwards, if at all
  • spilled tin of Humbrol enamel
  • leftover sprue rattling in cardboard box with an unidentified piece still attached
  • curious v-shaped stand that never quite stood level
  • hung squintly from bedroom light by white thread until dusty wing missing from too many runins with parental heads
  • taken down for final flight whirled round head on string until dashed against clothespole or arcing up up into neighbour’s fir tree (it’s still there today)
  • when older, packed with cotton balls nicked from sister, doused with turps, crashed flaming kamikaze onto the compost heap (sorry dad, your onions never did well on paint thinner and burnt plastic)

Goodbye, Airfix

Happy Nuke Day!

Yup, Chernobyl was 20 years ago. Let’s just have a wee pause for a technology that’s still messing us up, yet we’re told it’s the green technology of the future. Yeah, and I bet it’ll be too cheap to meter, too.
There are still farms in Scotland affected by the fallout from Chernobyl. Though, what with all the nuke plants in Scotland, it could be any one of them that’s the real culprit.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a wind farm to survey …

How to dismantle an nuclear power station

… [the] process is only projected to be completed by the end of this century, as it is not considered safe to start dismantling the highly radioactive core until the 2080s

 — BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Tackling the UK’s nuclear legacy

Dun Law Attitude Change

You can’t know how happy it makes me to read about the survey that shows that over 90% of people living closest to the Dun Law site supported their local wind farm. The early planning stages of this project were particularly fraught with opposition.

big windfarm, big deal

So there was a stramash that the RSPB published a map showing where the Lewis wind farm would reach if it started in Edinburgh. Oh noes! Looks like it’d go all the way to Methil.

I’ve been working on a couple of medium-sized wind farms in Ontario. For top laughs, I tried overlaying them on Scotland, using streetmap.co.uk for the measurements.

Since I’m a weegie, I started at George Square. One of the farms would stretch all the way west by Wishaw, near Murdostoun Castle (and the comically-named town of Bonkle). The other would run north to somewhere between Fintry and Kippen, in Stirlingshire.

For those of you unlucky enough to be based east of Falkirk, I tried the same starting at Edinburgh Castle. The first wind farm would run west to the hamlet of Gilchriston, which is just north-west of Dun Law Wind Farm, which I worked on in the distant past. (If you run the farm west from Edinburgh, you end up in Bo’ness, which no-one would want to do.) The other design would end up somewhere between Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes, near Thornton — and not that far from Methil, a distance that the RSPB would have us believe is just too far for a wind farm.

So, where’s the news, RSPB? How did your land get somehow more precious than ours?

An evening with Mr Gosse

I’ve just been listening to BBC Radio 4‘s dramatisation of Edmund Gosse’s Father and Son. It’s rather good.

I think I can safely say that this household knows more about Edmund Gosse than any other in Scarborough. Catherine‘s PhD was based on on the Gosse family, and I’ve read the book and proof-read the thesis. I suspect we’re also the only household in Scarborough that relates episodes from the young life of Edmund Gosse as if they were family anecdotes.

I know, we must get a life …

Ivor Cutler: Glasgow Dreamer

I’ve archived an MP3 copy of Arnold Brown’s Radio 4 programme here: Ivor Cutler: Glasgow Dreamer. It’s a good introduction to Ivor Cutler’s work, and it’s a bit more accessible than the RealAudio format I had to convert it from.

no, I don’t get this, either

BBC NEWS | Scotland | Crews face bonfire night attacks:

Firefighters and police faced a series of attacks from gangs as they attended bonfire night call-outs in the Strathclyde area.

When I read this, I’m glad I left the Land of Ned.

Just … Look Around You

sulphurmagnets.jpg
It’s the perfect pastiche of 1970s “Television for Schools and Colleges” from the BBC. It’s also the perfect reason to own a multiregion DVD player.