First System That I Coded On

The other day on Twitter, Jon Hudson asked the following question:

Well here is my first coding system, also an Atari 400:

It has definitely seen better days. It does however still work, but I do not have a television I can hook it up to at the moment. I was about eight years old when I was with my parents at a garage sale and picked this up. I remember it was just in a box with a bunch of books and games. Though this was not my first gaming system (I had a NES and Sega Genesis at this point), it was my first programmable system that I had ever had a chance to use in the comfort of my home. I occasionally was allowed to play on the Apple at school, but I went to a very small elementary school and it wasn’t like they  were going to allow me to just “mess” with their system (no one at the school really knew how to use it) as I had already gotten in trouble for that a couple of times.

All the way home I had my nose buried in one of the manuals that was in the box:

Above picture is not mine. I have long since lost it, but the picture is from Forever Geek

After reading through the first few pages on setup and the BASIC language, I started digging through the rest of the box tossing aside Pacman, Missile Command and Space Invaders, looking for the Atari BASIC cartridge and sure enough, it was there!

Little eight year old me was pretty happy. Those that don’t know me, this is not the jumping around happiness that most kids do, no, even though my cool exterior and
“rainbows are a lie!”, attitude, I was beaming with anticipation and joy.

This was the best thing I had ever found at a garage sale.

At this point in my life my family did not own a computer of any kind, so while I knew that people somewhere made games,  I had not had the opportunity to try it myself.

As soon as I got home I finished reading the manual. Sitting on my bed I read through the first few chapters and learned about the glorious PRINT command.

I could not wait to try it out, so I quickly disconnected my NES (who needs that now!) and hooked up my new system.  Everything went well and I was soon greeted with the magic words “READY”.

I worked through the first few chapters of the book, just copying what they were doing and had written various programs that spit out “Hello” and asked about your name and age and such.

After tediously typing these little bits of truth out (as who could really type on that keyboard)? I decided I was going to strike out on my own.

After sitting on my floor for what seemed like ages poking at keys on that thing, I had my first, entirely written by me, program. It was crude and basic and all it did was ask a couple of questions and depending on what was answered, it output different things.

I was excited and couldn’t wait to show it off. I immediately hollered for my mother to show her what I did and quickly walked her through it and told her what to enter.

After a few minutes of painstakingly entering in the answers to the questions, my mother gave me the greatest words of encouragement that you could give a newly made computer pro: “That’s nice dear”.

I guess she didn’t understand what was going on. I couldn’t fathom that she didn’t understand how cool this was and proceeded to try and explain, as best as I could, what she had just witnessed.

I couldn’t really express or articulate it at the time, but I knew my life had just changed forever.

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