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That fact usually brings yawns until you note that this was where Microsoft got their start, beginning with a couple of college drop outs and ending. Passed from hand to hand, copied without a care, even from the writers of the programs themselves. [1] To be fair, the "golden age" of simple line oriented basic started in 1964, with the Dartmouth timeshare system, and continued though minicomputer Basics.

Later they became a standard computer accessory for cheap input and output. For a budding computer hobbyist, it was the thing to have after you got your first computer. The period of time for Classic Basic, as I define it was short, from about 1976 to 1980 at the latest[1].

These units were used originally by people like Western Union to transmit telegrams.

However, we live in Internet time, and the Internet has enabled me to find books that I would never have been able to find formerly. The intent was to scan it in and OCR it (convert it automatically to computer readable text).

Unfortunately, the programs in the book had been reproduced from listings made on a dot matrix printer, and attempts to OCR it yielded nothing but garbage.

If you got one, for the steep price of about $1000, and then put it together, not a small feat, what you got was a big blue box with lights on the front. Next, a lit bit was walked across each of the front panel lights in turn, marquee style. These elementary Basic programs are still perhaps the only collection of programs that can honestly be said to run on any computer, anywhere.

If you did your homework correctly, those lights did the right things, and after carefully reading the manual, and inputting several byte instructions, painstakingly flipping each bit of the byte, 8 bits, then hitting enter for each byte, you could actually get the machine to do something sensible with the lights on the front. Finally, the game "shoot the duck" was entered, which rotated a light across the row of lights. This property alone makes a museum collection worthwhile.

I also found that the games have been modified from the original book form.

Some of the modifications were useful, such as printing out instructions for how to play the game, that only appeared in the original book.

It had a keyboard, a printer that served for all output, and even a means of input and storage, a paper tape reader and punch. It was time for a beer, to show the wife, to cheer. For a brief time, and the last time for quite a while, home computers were unified in simplicity. It printed and accepted lines in "teletype mode", which is to say a line at a time, resembling a typewriter.

The hobby computer revolution started with the MITS 8800, 6-7 years before the IBM-PC came to being. Many programs were passed back and forth then, typed in from magazines, punched in from paper tape, read in from cassette tapes, or from a new, odd device called a "floppy disk".

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