Task: Read the Book “Atari BASIC”
Needed: Atari Basic by Albrecht et al. (1979)
Time: 1-2 Hours
My first two books were Your Atari Computer and Atari BASIC. They are still a great way to get familiar with the Atari 400 and 800 if you are just getting started or need a refresher. I worked my way through much of the Atari BASIC book when I was teaching myself BASIC back in the early 1980s. It is a very gentle introduction that was perfect for me as a kid.
The first several chapters help get you oriented to using the Atari. Chapter 3 then introduces variables and branching. Chapter 4 goes over IF-THEN statements while Chapter 5 covers DATA and READ statements. The book goes on to cover FOR-NEXT loops, indexing variables, strings, and finally graphics and sound. You won’t be programming games with player-missile graphics after reading this but you will learn the fundamentals of Atari BASIC that are needed to get into the more advanced topics that are covered in the next few chapters.
One of the nice things about this book is that it provides a self-test at the end of each chapter where you can evaluate your knowledge. For example, at the end of the chapter on FOR-NEXT loops you are asked to show what will be printed if you run the following program:
10 P=1:FOR K=1 TO 4: P=P*K:NEXT K:PRINT P
The answers to all the self-tests are provided after the self-test at the end of each chapter. The answer to this one is of course 24.
Purchase a copy of Atari BASIC from eBay or another online seller. It is widely available and at the time of this post sells for around $10 to $20 used. It is also available online from Atari Archives and the Internet Archive. There is also an updated version for the XL series of computers.
This book was very popular and sold many copies. I was able to find some information about the authors. Here is Bob Albrecht’s Wikipedia entry. Leroy Finkel and Jerald Brown authored several books including one for the TRS-80. Below is a cartoon of an Atari 800 adding numbers from page 69.