What is BASIC?

(although not an OS in the modern sense, but a complete and functionable instruction set nonetheless)

BASIC (Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) was more than an entry-level programming language. It was part of the instruction set (not quite an OS) for early home computers like the TRS-80 Model III running on TRS-DOS or NEWDOS and Commodore 64 (C64) running on the ROM-resident OS named KERNAL (misspelling of kernel).

I remember reading lots of books on BASIC and Byte Magazine and watching Bits and Bytes on channel 13 (1983-1984). My experience at school was on a TRS-80 Model III, on which I wrote (coded) several programs that no longer exist (saved on cassette tape, which was an unreliable medium). At home, I spent many hours in front of my C64. This is why, on this page, I can only concentrate on my experience of BASIC on C64.

Commodore 64:

C64 was one of the first computer systems that I ever used and the first one I ever owned (1984). I quickly got up hooked into a whole new field and style of life — geekdom — while writing (coding) source code instead of sleeping. KERNAL and Commodore BASIC in its 8-bit glory for C64 boasting a 1.023 MHz microprocessor and 64 KB of RAM gave and experience was as close at it could be for any kid in the early 1980's (1984, in my case). To make things even more exciting and bringing more curious kids (like me) to computer science, C64 was heavily used for games and even some music programs thanks to its ground-breaking technology based on two chipsets by MOS TechnologySIC 6581 and VIC II. Commodore International declared bankruptcy and closed shop in 1994. In 2011, a new reincarnation named Commodore USA released updated versions of C64 (C64x) with the same vintage (old, obsolete, ancient, historical, retro) exterior ("breadbox") and VIC 20 (VIC Slim) with their own Linux distribution named Commodore OS. I had not been thrilled about any new system and/or other technologies for a long time. The whole idea of reviving the C64x had me like a little kid before Christmas with a new toy wrapped in front of him, but I never bought one. Commodore USA closed shop a little after one of its owners died on 2012 or 2013.

Commodore 64 Computer

For those of us who want to relive the heyday of C64 (1982-1985), a new version of C64 was scheduled to released in 2018 by the C64 Mini, which was marketed as a video game console with 64 built-in games and it will ship with its own joystick. According to the vendor, The C64 Mini can also be used to program Commodore BASIC (forked from Microsoft BASIC) — the first programming language that I ever learned. Needless to say, I am stoked.

        10 INPUT "WHAT'S YOUR NAME?"; NAME$
        20 PRINT "HELLO, "; NAME$;
        30 INPUT ", HOW ARE YOU?  (OK/NOT)"; OK$
        40 IF OK$ = "OK" THEN PRINT "GLAD TO HEAR THAT."
        50 IF OK$ <> "OK" THEN PRINT "TOO BAD!"
      

Another nostalgia option is Manomio's licensed emulator for iOSiPhone, iPod and iPad. This emulator is almost as good as the original.

Unfortunately it has been almost thirty (30) years since I last wrote (coded) my last program for the C64 and I hardly remember how to code a quick and dirty (not to mention descent) program (excluding the one above), but I would consider it the geekiest purchase I have would ever make. Of course, if you are merely interested in C64 games, you can get a ROM emulator and a handful of ROM images, which may be illegal in some areas and/or under special conditions (17 U.S.C. § 117(a)).

§ 117 . Limitations on exclusive rights: Computer programs
(a) Making of Additional Copy or Adaptation by Owner of Copy.—Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, it is not an infringement for the owner of a copy of a computer program to make or authorize the making of another copy or adaptation of that computer program provided:
(1) that such a new copy or adaptation is created as an essential step in the utilization of the computer program in conjunction with a machine and that it is used in no other manner, or
(2) that such new copy or adaptation is for archival purposes only and that all archival copies are destroyed in the event that continued possession of the computer program should cease to be rightful.

Other Versions of BASIC:

There are many versions (dialects) of BASIC. The following is a quick list of interpreters in chronological order.

Installing BASIC:

BASIC on i286 and prior machines came burnt to a ROM chip. There is no way users could install BASIC. On boot, it loads from the built-in ROM to RAM.

Later machines would run DOS and have BASIC as a stand-alone executable like QBASIC.EXE (Microsoft BASIC).