Classic Games
Vintage BASIC

Not as simple as "PILOT", but certainly easy to learn, "BASIC" was a commonly used interpreted programming language in the 1970's. Computers as different as mini-mainframes and Commodore 64s all had BASIC Interpreters. BASIC was so familiar, that when IBM released its first PC, they chose to include a version of BASIC ("BASICA") within the computers system ROM.

BASIC, although reasonable portable, allows for the inclusion of machine architecture and Interpreter specific function calls. During the 1980's for example, there were numerous line-number BASIC Interpreters written for the x86 CPU, including BASICA, GW-BASIC, EBasic, PowerBasic, and others. Each touted extra features, and each required a slightly different script syntax. As such, if you acquire one of these older x86 CPU BASIC programs, you may have to modify it slightly so that it runs without errors under your preferred Interpreter.

BASIC programs are human readable Text scripts. Every line is successively assigned a higher (not necessarily sequential) number, which allows for looping with GOTO statements. Programmers typically number each line a decade apart, so that they can inject new lines in-between later if necessary, without having to completely renumber the entire script. Early BASIC programs were often embarrassingly simple, but they did not have to be. BASIC can today for example, be used to write sophisticated Windows applications.

Compiled programs run faster than Interpreted programs, a very important consideration in the days of slower CPUs, which is why compiled languages such as Assembly have existed alongside BASIC. They also have the advantage that, because they do not have to rely on a compatible Interpreter to run, they will always run as intended. Their disadvantage is that compiled programs are not portable between systems without first recompiling from (often not available) modified source code. With BASIC, and modern interpreted languages such as PHP and JavaScript, the script itself is the human readable source code, which a programmer can modify on the fly.

Due to the slowness of older computer hardware, many BASIC programmers at the time would compile their BASIC scripts. Be sure to check for this before downloading a BASIC program from the Internet, as you will not easily be able to make modifications to these scripts to accommodate your preferred Interpreter. Microsoft went still further, and in an attempt to lock programmers to their own proprietary software, released the programming tools Q-Basic, QuickBasic, and VisualBasic. Each used syntax familiar to traditional BASIC programmers, but the structured language programming scripts they produce (and presumptuously christen "Basic") are totally incompatible with line-number BASIC Interpreters.

Traditional line-numbered BASIC requires no special programming tools. BASIC programs can be written entirely with "Notepad"! In fact, before the Internet, or even BBSes, BASIC programs were most often disseminated on the pages of magazines. Your local library probably has numerous BASIC programs sitting on their shelves, waiting for you to input them into your computer.



BASIC programs require an Interpreter to run, so below I offer this freeware Windows line-numbered BASIC Interpreter called "Vintage BASIC". This is a serious modern Interpreter, capable of running complex traditional line-numbered BASIC programs. Here is a link to the User's Guide on the web.


Windows "Vintage BASIC" Interpreter

32-bit "stand-alone" version

 About .txt
vintbas .zip

64-bit version

 About .txt
vintbas64 .zip

A long time ago (in a galaxy very, very near....) a book of programs was published called "BASIC Computer Games - Microcomputer Edition" Book Cover; ready-to-run scripts of which I offer below. This book contains 101 line-numbered BASIC games, which have been minimally tweaked to run under the Vintage BASIC Interpreter (no knowledge of BASIC programming is required to run them). By today's standards, these games are very simple, and like all vintage games that were written without consideration of Pentium processors, might run way too fast without modification. They are however excellent teaching examples for new BASIC programmers.


All the games from the classic book "BASIC Computer Games"

 About .txt
bcg .zip