[Coco] [Color Computer] Re: Let me introduce myself

benwillis benwillis at verizon.net
Wed Feb 1 01:15:24 EST 2006

Hi James, 

Thanks for the thoughtful reply. Looks like I've found the right 

I agree with you about the C64 and the Atari 400/800/800XL... Those 
were all cool machines. My real problem with them is ease of 
programmability.  I'm not a big fan of assembler and PEEK/POKE - I 
like high level constructs and easy to use, intuitive interfaces 
(can you tell I write large distributed systems for a living?)

There were plenty of times when I was working on my Coco over my 300 
baud modem, trying to write a C program when I was in school in the 
early 80's - and cursing myself for not noticing when I bought it 
that the Coco did not have the full ASCII char set.  I even went so 
far as to create a "character substitution" program in the lab at 
school, which would allow me to create escape sequences when over 
the modem at my apt, then run the substitutor to put in the right 
chars. So for example when I wanted a {, I would type *(*, which 
would be substituted for the proper char after running my source 
code thru my program. Debugging _that_ was fun.

After tearing out my hair with that (and spending more time on my 
substitution program than my programming assignments ;-), I bought a 
good terminal emulator for the Coco that I found in Rainbow - you 
still had to type escape sequences on the keyboard, then it would 
put in the proper character.

At the time though, even after all the grief, it still came down to 
how much fun I had with the Coco and its SOUND, PLAY, CIRCLE, and 
other commands. When I discovered the C64 didn't have this, I felt 
justified in my Coco purchase (at the time I wasn't aware of any 
separate extended BASIC programs for the C64).

I wish I still had my old Coco games that I wrote, but my Coco and I 
parted ways in the late 80's.  I never thought I'd have the ability 
to reload the games, so I foolishly chucked my cassettes (if only I 
had the forethought to predict eBay).  However, I am working a new 
version of my "text based adventure game" that I wrote on my Coco, 
but this time I'm writing it in Java, yet sticking to the spirit of 
the Coco and the simplicity and fun of the text based adventure game 
theme (although I'm adding JPGs for some room images, sounds, and a 
button scheme that fits the text based model but saves the user from 
having to type everything).  I even wrote a Coco PLAY-like Java 
class, that takes PLAY strings e.g. "ABCO1DEF" and plays them in 
Java using MIDI.  I augmented it to allow voice selection, repeat 
sequences, etc.

Anyway, enough about Java - this is supposed to be a Coco group!

I really appreciate your suggestions re: teaching my son how to 
program. Perhaps I'm being too nostalgic trying to put my fond 
memories of my Coco onto my son.  You're right, the C64 with an 
extended BASIC add-on might be better.  It's just that I had such a 
blast with my Coco, and the thought of reading through the same Coco 
books I read in the 80's, with my son is just really cool.

It's a fine line - since I could always teach my son programming on 
the PC in any language you choose. What's cool about the Coco is 
that it's so simple. The friendly "OK" has only one purpose - to 
accept your Extended BASIC command. Between this, using the 
cassettes, and the floppy drive, I'm hoping it will give my son a 
unique perspective on computers that kids today just don't get.

Perhaps taking it up a level to the C64 or 128 would give him more 
possibilities - but it would remove my familiarity and some of my 

Thanks again for the cool chat.

--- In ColorComputer at yahoogroups.com, "James the Animal Tamer" 
<emucompboy at y...> wrote:
> > I've found nerd heaven!
> Welcome to Heaven.  I must be an angel.  *laughs*
> > I've always avoided groups/boards in the past, but the Coco is 
> > much fun and has such fond memories for me
> *chuckles* I had a Tano Dragon -- but mainly I POKEd around the 
> Commodore 64.
> > Not sure what the protocol is for discussing "past life" 
> >experiences
> Jump right in and post 'em!  I like reading them.
> > I bought my Coco 1 in '82 that I paid close to $1000 for, with 
> > of my summer job money in between years in college. It came with 
> > RAM, but the weekend I bought it, there was a "special" with a 
> > upgrade to 16K. It came with Cassette drive, 300 baud modem, and 
> > joysticks. My primary draw to the Coco was the Extended BASIC - 
> > being able to use commands like CIRCLE, PAINT, LINE, etc.
> I liked the Extended BASIC too, and fiddled around with it some.  
> big problem with the Dragon was that the colors appeared to be 
> inconsistent.  A magazine published a method for seeing "27 
> colors on the hi-res screen" but I could never figure out how/why 
> worked, or how I could use it in any useful fashion, and why 
> and blue sometimes swapped places.  Then, in 1985, I chucked the 
> and started using a 1902 monitor, and then that program started 
> showing 27 different hashed  buff/dark gray patterns.
> > just blew 
> > away the PEEK/POKE graphics of Commodore and Atari.
> Those two computers had their compensations -- colors that were 
> same from run to run, nicer text mode, real sound chips, line-
> raster interrupts for changing graphics mode mid-screen.  Add-on 
> BASIC packages were offered for both, which included the missing 
> graphic commands (Hes Graphics BASIC for the Commodore 64, later 
> marketed by Epyx was a good C-64 package).  I like all the old 
> computers.  Each had some advantages and some disadvantages.
> > Since then, I've 
> > always been a big fan of high level languages and predefined
> > library 
> > methods
> Can't beat the speed of assembly language for those old 8-bitters, 
> though.  O' course, mix and match.  My last 8-bit project, for the 
> Gameboy Color, used the Musyx sound library.
> > I also wrote alot of games, 
> > including text based adventure games, a Battleship game, a Lunar 
> > Lander clone
> Do you still have the cassettes?  If so, digitize them and convert 
> them for use with the emulators!  If they'd run on the MC-10, I'd 
> love to grab 'em to include with the MC-10 emulator archive.
> > Recently I bought a Coco 2 on eBay, 64K, with Floppy disk drive, 
> > manuals, joystick, for $25.
> Pretty good deal for a system with the floppy drive!
> > My main motivation for this is to teach my 7 year old son how to 
> > program.
> ...Well, here, I'd say the Commodore 64 would be good.  Nicer text 
> mode, with colors.  Print your name in 15 different colors.  I'm 
> biased.  Or there's the Commodore 128 or Plus/4, with some 
> commands built into the BASIC.  The Commodore Plus/4 has, like, 
> different colors (it would be 128, but eight of them just look 
> black).
>   There was a nice series of books, called "Kids and the [fill in 
> blank] computer."  These were written by Edward H. Carlson (check 
> Amazon for his name).  Nice tutorials into the BASIC language, for 
> several of the 1983-1984 era computers.
> > yet the Coco fascinates him
> Home computers fascinated *us* too, because we're old enough to 
> remember a time when television was a passive medium:  you could 
> change the channel and volume, but beyond that, you'd sit and 
> Home videogame consoles presented a means of moving video images 
> the television!  Wonderful!  and more wonderful still were the 
> computers, which would do what you wanted and put your graphics on 
> the screen!
>     When you first got your computer, did you have it calculate e 
> pi, and do base conversions between base 25 and base 3?  Did you 
> print out a list of prime numbers longer than your arm?  Did you 
> it sit all night searching for perfect numbers that didn't conform 
> the mersenne format?
> > .  He's an avid reader and I'm anxious to 
> > get a hold of Bedlam, Madness and Minotaur, Pyramid, Raaka-Tu 
> > The Sands of Egypt.
> Look for the emulator downloads -- you can probably find those.  
> personal holy grail would be "Slay the Nereis."  I remember seeing 
> ads for it... but I've never seen the game itself, and have always 
> had intense curiosity about it.  Wow, those must have been some 
> huh?
> > Anyway I've babbled enough. I hope those of you that got this 
> > enjoyed reading this.
> Yup, sure did!

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