What are we doing?
We’re updating the first million selling computer book, BASIC Computer Games, for 2022 and beyond!
Where can we discuss it?
Please see the discussion here for a worklog and conversation around this project.
I have moved all the original BASIC source code into a folder for each project in the original book (first volume). Note that Lyle Kopnicky has generously normalized all the code (thanks Lyle!) to run against Vintage Basic circa 2009:
I’ve included all the games here for your tinkering pleasure. I’ve tested and tweaked each one of them to make sure they’ll run with Vintage BASIC, though you may see a few oddities. That’s part of the fun of playing with BASIC: it never works quite the same on two machines. The games will play better if you keep CAPS LOCK on, as they were designed to be used with capital-letter input.
Each project has subfolders corresponding to the languages we’d like to see the games ported to. This is based on the 2022 TIOBE index of top languages that are memory safe and general purpose scripting languages per this post:
📢Note that in March 2022 we removed Pascal / Object Pascal and replaced it with Rust as we couldn’t determine if Pascal is effectively memory safe. We’ve also added Lua, as it made the top 20 in TIOBE (as of 2022) and it is both memory safe and a scripting language. The Pascal ports were moved to the alternate languages folder.
⚠️Please note that we have decided, as a project, that we do not want any IDE-specific or build-specific files in the repository. Please refrain from committing any files to the repository that only exist to work with a specific IDE or a specific build system.
If you wish to port one of the programs to a language not in our list – that is, a language which is either not memory safe, or not a general purpose scripting language, you can do so via the
00_Alternate_Languages folder. Place your port in the appropriate game subfolder, in a subfolder named for the language. Please note that these ports are appreciated, but they will not count toward the donation total at the end of the project.
But first, a few guidelines:
These are very old games. They date from the mid-70s so they’re not exactly examples of what kids (or anyone, really?) would be playing these days. Consider them more like classic programming exercises to teach programming. We’re paying it forward by converting them into modern languages, so the next generation can learn from the programs in this classic book – and compare implementations across common modern languages.
Stay true to the original program. These are mostly unsophisticated, simple command line / console games, so we should strive to replicate the command line / console output and behavior illustrated in the original book. See the README in the project folder for links to the original scanned source input and output. Try running the game in your browser. Avoid the impulse to add features; keep it simple, except for modern conventions, see next item
Please DO update for modern coding conventions. Support uppercase and lowercase. Use structured programming. Use subroutines. Try to be an example of good, modern coding practices!
Use lots of comments to explain what is going on. Comment liberally! If there were clever tricks in the original code, decompose those tricks into simpler (even if more verbose) code, and use comments to explain what’s happening and why. If there is something particularly tricky about a program, edit the Porting Notes section of the
readme.mdto let everyone know. Those
GOTOs can be very pesky..
Please don’t get too fancy. Definitely use the most recent versions and features of the target language, but also try to keep the code samples simple and explainable – the goal is to teach programming in the target language, not necessarily demonstrate the cleverest one-line tricks, or big system "enterprise" coding techniques designed for thousands of lines of code.
Please don't check in any build specific or IDE specific files. We want the repository to be simple and clean, so we have ruled out including any IDE or build system specific files from the repository. Git related files are OK, as we are using Git and this is GitHub.
Emulation and Bugfixes
We want the general behavior of the original programs to be preserved, however, we also want to update them, specifically:
- allow both UPPERCASE and lowercase input and display
- incorporate any bugfixes to the original programs; see the
readme.mdin the game folder
- improved error handling for bad or erroneous input
Please note that on the back of the Basic Computer Games book it says Microsoft 8K Basic, Rev 4.0 was the version David Ahl used to test, so that is the level of compatibility we are looking for. QBasic on the DOS emulation is a later version of Basic but one that retains downwards compatibility so far in our testing. To verify behavior, try running the programs in your browser with JS BASIC, effectively Applesoft BASIC.
Thank you for taking part in this project to update a classic programming book – one of the most influential programming books in computing history – for 2022 and beyond!