Sinclair BASIC For Today

If you are of a certain age, your first exposure to computer programming was probably BASIC. For a few years, there were few cheaper ways to program in BASIC than the Sinclair ZX series of computers. If you long for those days, you might find the 1980-something variant of BASIC a little limiting. Or you could use SpecBasic from [Paul Dunn].

SpecBasic is apparently reasonably compatible with the Spectrum, but lets you use your better hardware. For example, instead of a 256×192 8-color screen, SpecBas accommodates larger screens and up to 256 colors. However, that does lead to certain incompatibilities that you can read about in the project’s README file.

The README also has instructions for configuring the system to use larger fonts which may help readability on large monitors. There’s also a file full of demos you’ll probably want to look at.

While learning 1980-era BASIC today isn’t much of a career move, we do think that learning simple programming concepts in a simple uncluttered environment that is very interactive isn’t a bad thing. After all, it worked for an entire generation of developers.

If you prefer your BASIC coding on the Web, that’s possible.  Or, maybe you just want something more modern.

29 thoughts on “Sinclair BASIC For Today

  1. But if you’re of a different certain age, you started with machine language, because your computer didn’t have BASIC in ROM, and the 1K of RAM couldn’t fit an interpreter.

    You had no assembler, or room for it, so you had to hand assemble the code.

    When you could use BASIC, you skipped it, having started elsewhere.

        1. And if you were of a certain age before that, you would have to go around your neighbourhood collecting femurs for your homebrew Napier’s bones, which is where the term Hacker originates.

          1. And if you were of a certain age before that, you were a single celled prokaryote floating around in the primordial ooze with no concept of, well, anything.

    1. I started in ZX Spectrum basic, it’s nice to have something out of a box. After mandatory snake, pong, whatever in basic … it’s gets reduced to a single line that starts machine code anyways.

    2. 1k RAM?
      No assembler?
      You forgot to mention the debugger keyboard and the 8 digit 7 segment display?


      At least that was what my SC/MP had attached in a certain past…

      1. The BASIC was in a 4K ROM, if I recall. I built mine from a kit, as it was $99 when they first came out. No long after Timex/Sinclair’s were sold at department stores.

        You got 1K of memory for your program, unless you splurged for the Memotek 32K memory. I opted for their as opposed to the Sinclair 16l because it preserved the I/O connector.

        Within a year I had a C64, so I have all the memory I’d ever need. Or so I thought at the time.

        1. Yeah, although you could do very little with the 1K RAM. I had a 16K RAM expansion pack, complete with RAM wobble nightmares.

          Later I would also got a 6502 base machine, the BBC Micro Model B. BBC Basic is probably my favorite implementation (also Archimedes version many years later) of Basic.

  2. The clever thing about Sinclair BASIC was that it offloaded the tokenisation onto the user. So finding which of the 5 actions per key, and what combination of shifts might get you that ‘word’ was the game. Then the legends started rubbing off the ‘keyboard’…

  3. … and if you’re of a certain age, your (mini) computer was the length of your garage! Really – mine was in 1977 :)

    and yes, there were those patch panel programmed ones. Fortunately I just missed them. But I did witness entering bootstrap machine code using an ASR33 so the Univac would read a program from punched cards.

    1. Yes, but it can’t access things like the serial or parallel port.
      By comparison Quick Basic 4.5 can do that, if you’re running it in a DOS VM in Virtual PC 2007, for example.
      PDS Basic 7.1 or Visual Basic for DOS (VBDOS) can do that, too.

    1. It’s not an emulator – it doesn’t inherit any of the hardware shortcomings of the Spectrum, though it’s limited to 256 colours per window. It’s just a toy for playing with Sinclair BASIC in.

      It’s written in Delphi, but should build in FPC with little modification. If you want emulators you can look at my older projects – ZXSpin and BASin.

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