Difficulty level: Freshman
Prerequisites: none
Outcome: Get an idea of what BASIC is, what a Programming Language is, and learn about the Commodore 64
Suggested time to complete this module: 10 minutes

BASIC stands for Beginner's All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. But don't let the name fool you. While it can be BASIC to learn, it is challenging to master. It is quite a powerful programming language, and you can write anything from simple text programs to advanced action games. Many games were written in BASIC during the eighties.

BASIC is a high level programming language, meaning you write instructions in somewhat natural English commands. For example, you could write something like this:


Which, as you may guess, prints the word "HELLO" into the screen. Sounds like English, in contrast to lower level languages which may look like this:

mov ax,bx
add bx,1
int 21h

or even like this:

01010 10110010 LOAD 11110
00011 00000000 HALT

Luckily, BASIC is a high level language and therefore is close to English. This doesn't mean you can type in just any English sentence and the computer will understand. While close to English, the BASIC language has its own syntax and rules. And do you think computers are smart? Well think again, they are actually pretty dumb. Even the more powerful supercomputers. You have to tell them exactly what to do. And you have to tell it to them in the exact syntax that they expect, or they won't understand it (or even worse, think that you mean something else). The set of instructions that you give computers is called a program, and the language in which you give those instructions in is called a programming language.

The Commodore 64 is an 8-bit computer, released in 1982. 8-bit basically means that the computer can work only with a group of 8 binary digits (0s and 1s) at a time. For example 01101011. Contrast this with modern computers, which run on a 64-bit architecture. The difference might sound small, but it is actually a huge difference in terms of processing power. The Commodore 64 was very popular in the eighties, with over 30 Million units sold, according to Wikipedia
The number 64 came from the fact that it had 64 KiloBytes (or 65,536 Bytes) of RAM. This was considered a lot of memory back in the days, but today there are calculators with more memory then that. Consider your own computer which probably has at least 512 MegaBytes of Ram, which is 524,288 KiloBytes.

The Commodore 64 was equipped with the BASIC language which will be the main subject matter of these courses. You might be asking yourself: How can I learn Commodore Basic if I do not own a Commodore 64? The solution is to use an Emulator which is a program that will let you simulate a different system on your computer. That's right, you will be writing Commodore BASIC programs on your own PC! (or MAC) Personally, I enjoy writing my BASIC programs on my good ol' Commodore 64. I am however aware that most people do not own one, which is why the course will be taught using an emulator. Maybe after you are done with the courses though, you'll feel the urge to hop on to eBay and buy your own Commodore 64 system!

The emulator used in our courses is called VICE which is a good Commodore 64 Emulator and is available for free. Worry not if you have never used an emulator before. The next module will walk you through setting it up. If you are familiar with emulators, you can install it on your own and skip the next module.

Go to the Forums and register. Registration is free, and only takes 2 minutes. By registering you will be able to participate in the Academy Forum, ask questions, get BASIC help from me and the rest of the community, share your BASIC programs, provide feedback about the material, get help with the assignments, and more. I look forward to seeing you there.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape