Tuesday, August 25, 2015

my procrastination jujitsu and the glory days of BASIC

If you're a fretting procrastinator - someone who puts off doing things because they're anxious about success with the next bit of whatever they should be working on - one useful skill to develop is re-channeling the energy pushing you away from one task into forward momentum on another. I call this "procrastination jujitsu".

This weekend I was kind of feeling angst-y about choosing a box2d js wrapper and learning it well enough to recreate some games I developed using a simpler physics system. I took that fret-energy and started a project I'd been meaning to get to for a long time: Gazette Galore, mini reviews of every game published on disk by COMPUTE!'s Gazette, a Commodore-home computer magazine that ran from the mid-80s to the mid-90s.

The blog came together pretty well. I've gotten over my "Not Invented Here" syndrome and have been happy enough using blogspot for this blog that it made sense to apply it for this. A nice feature too, is: my Gazette Blog has an ending, unlike this devblog that might just go on and on and on and on.

Anyway, this particular magazine was important to my young geek self. I was lucky enough to get a pile of magazines and accompanying disks when I inherited my Uncle Bill's C=64. As I read through the old magazines I'm surprised at how some of the game articles don't just describe how to play the game, they get into how it was made, and some of the programming Tips and Tricks takeaways. The whole magazine is much more programmer-centric than I remembered - computers of this era really encouraged the hobbyists to get in there and make something.

Booting into BASIC, even if 98 times out of 100 a kid just used it to boot into a game, was such a nice visibly open door to coding... many kids in that age would have been taught a little programming at school, even if it was of the
30 PRINT A$;
40 " IS GREAT!!! ";
50 GOTO 30
variety. (That's the expanded version from the one that just prints KIRK IS GREAT )

I think about how to introduce my nephews and nieces into coding, since it's both such a pleasant and creative activity, and it potentially leads to one of the few careers I can heartily recommend. There are some cool things like MIT's Scratch, and I'll be reading Seymour Papert's "Mindstorms" (focusing on the glory of LOGO) as well as trying to spread the good word of Processing, but it's just not the same. 8-bit built-in BASIC felt like it connected to everything the machine knew how to do, more or less; everything else seems to be in these little walled gardens...

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