Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Pipe Frenzy

Well I'm starting a new programming project and a new blog at the same time.  My new programing project is a Basic language version of the classic 8-bit game "Pipe Frenzy" to be created on my TRS-80 MC-10 computer.  The graphic above is a preliminary sketch of the work grid, cursor and some of the pipe shapes.  The idea for this project comes from the site http://www.mclelun.com/blog/2012/04/pipe-dream-flash-game/ McLelun has created his own flash version of the classic "Pipe Frenzy" (AKA "Pipe Dream) genera.  It's lots of fun!

So why create a new version for the TRS-80 MC-10?  Well, that's just what I do.  I like trying to re-create classic 8-bit video games (and other software) for the MC-10 only using its very limited resources.  It's just a little more capable than a Sinclair ZX81.  It has a few extra-capabilities compared to that classic introductory computer (colour, sound) but on the whole it is about the same limited level.  When I was a kid, the MC-10 was the machine that introduced me to computing.  At that time in the early 80s you had to be prepared to write, or at least type-in, programs in order to have any software at all.  This was especially true of the MC-10, which came only at the very end of the Sinclair ultra-cheap-introductory-computer trend (and the great RAM drought of the early 80s), so that by the time it was introduced people had moved on to slightly more capable 8-bit machines like the Commodore 64, Atari 800, TRS-80 Color computer, Ti99, which had full keyboards and more memory. etc.  So the MC-10 was left an orphan in terms of a user base, and as a result, had an EXTREMELY limited amount of professional software created for.  This meant that the small number of people who had bought one, like me, were left largely to our own devices, in terms of software...so I took up Basic programming.  Some of my projects I kept over the years, and when I had my MC-10 returned to me by an uncle who had carefully kept it after I had passed it on to my cousins (I had moved on to a bigger and better Tandy 1000) I dusted it off (and my old software too), and got back to the business of Basic programing as an adult hobby.

Now I'm a part of the vast, and apparently growing number of people who have "retro-computing" as a pastime.

I plan to use this blog to describe my current projects and some of my past projects and share some of the things I've learned about programming the MC-10 (and its older brother the Tandy Coco).  Over time I have learned a bunch of techniques for squeezing a substantial amount of speed out of the Microsoft Basic that came standard with the MC-10.  This has been an necessity because 1) I don't know machine language and have little interest in learning it, and 2) there are no basic compilers for the MC-10 like those developed for more popular machines, such as the ZX81.

So this blog will be dedicated to the MC-10 (and also to the Coco, which I also owned for a short time when I was a teenager) and their versions of standard interpreted (non-extended) Basic.  If you are interest in these topics please drop by and see what we (my son Charlie now shares an interest in my hobby) have been up to.

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