Bored kids need simple programming

sumguy

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Nov 7, 2019
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Our kids are bored and like computers. Is there a way to build a simple computer that runs basic so they can type in programs and run them? Most programming today ("coding") uses "tools" and "data sets" and crap like that. I want straight linear basic that kids can latch on to. Is there anyone who builds new apple 2 computers? I don't want to mess with an old machine that is blowing parts. I also don't want to deal with old disk drives. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
 
May 22, 2019
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There are several ways you can do that.

The simplest way is the TheC64 Mini or even the full size TheC64 (when it becomes available). Those are at https://retrogames.biz/

Another good choice is PC-BASIC. This is a BASIC interpreter that fully implements Microsoft Advanced BASIC (aka GWBASIC) on Windows or Linux.



However, my favorite retro system by far is actually the MISTer FPGA platform. It takes some time to assemble, since you need four or five components:


You can also run emulators for old computers right on your PC or a Pi. I think VICE (a Commodore emulator) is probably the most mature retro emulator out there.

VICE is available at https://vice.pokefinder.org/
The list of downloads is a bit confusing - grab the latest "Download zip no-cpuhist" version.
You can find type-in programs in many, many books and magazines, like Compute's Gazzette. (I had a subscription for several years and typed in quite a few of their programs.)

RetroArch on a PC or RetroPie on a Raspberry Pi can install some of the retro computing modules, such as the Commodore 64, Atari ST, Amiga, Commodore, CoCo, ZX Spectrum.... all of these are basically the stand-alone emulators and integrated into the RetroPie interface. (The Commodore emulator is a version of VICE, for example.)

I have spent time with all of these, so I can give you some pointers as you narrow down your preferred choice of systems.
 
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sumguy

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Nov 7, 2019
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Wow - that was super helpful. I have nostalgia for the crispness of the old monochrome programming. The super clear green or amber text on a black background. So different and intimate than the blast in your face white background that evolved. Does that make any sense? Anyway I suppose the new C64 is the way to go. Will they be fixing this

Apple basic had easy to do graphics which is fun for kids.

Mark
 

sumguy

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Nov 7, 2019
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Also - I like the idea of building something with the kids so the MiSTer seems cool. Just don't know about stability. Our kids' attention spans have unfortunately been reduced to seconds to if something fails they will never use it again.
 
May 22, 2019
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So far, the MISTer has been pretty stable for me. The only thing I've had to do is swap out SD cards when I want to use a core that needs the second SD card for disk storage. For example, the MSX core uses an SD to hold disk images, and so does the MultiComp (a CP/M machine.) So I have to swap cards to use the two of those.

And since it's a closed system that doesn't (need to) connect to the Internet, there are no updates that will suddenly break the system and make it stop working.

Worst case? Keep a backup of your SD card, and you can reload the entire system in just a few minutes.
 

Markeno

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Jul 19, 2019
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I used apple basic in school, and used some graphics options, it was cool back then.

I have been trying to come up with a way to get my boys into programming. RetroPi does have an Apple II emulator available for it apparently, that may be an option for something more accessible on new hardware if you are looking for that. I guess they also have that for RetroArch, which I take it RetroPi is based on, in case you don't have a spare Pi laying around.

I have been trying to think of way to get my boys into stuff like that. I do remember that the Apple II I did some graphics things in school for fun, nothing amazing but I liked it back then. I have looked at Commodore Basic, but it seems more in depth to get to that and I don't think either of my boys would get started there.