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Anybody still programming using old computers, e.g. ZX Spectrum BASIC, Amiga BASIC, dumb terminals?

If so, do you find it useful for programming using today's technologies?

Lastly why do you do it? For fun?

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There are at least 5 Basic interpreters (including some old-school emulations) available for the latest iPhone. – hotpaw2 Mar 20 '11 at 20:45
Really! amazing isn't it that people still program using them. – TeaDrinkingGeek Mar 20 '11 at 20:58
I do not. I have plenty to do outside of coding. – Job Mar 20 '11 at 21:01
Mine's not old enough to apply I think. I have an Acer Acros who's 8mb of RAM was just ridiculously expensive. Still counts as a normal PC though with only a 486, Win 3.1 and QBasic. I learned my first code messing with nibbler until I had a totally different game. I like to mess around with QBasic here and there for shits and giggles. It hasn't really been useful but every now and then, if it was already on, I'll crank out quick calculations on it along side my real projects. – Garet Claborn Mar 22 '11 at 4:36
@GaretClaborn I had a similar experience with QBasic on a 386 as a kid. My programming passion started as a desire to dictate piano sheet music into QBasic BEEP commands on the motherboard speaker. Once I realized what it was capable of my first text adventure game shortly after. The rest is history :) – maple_shaft Oct 20 '11 at 11:11
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I was given a TRS-80 a few years ago, and I recently pulled it out and got it working. I've been trying to think of something interesting and unique to do with it, but haven't come up with anything yet.

If so, do you find it useful for programming using today's technologies?

Like what, Windows? .NET? Linux? I guess you must mean networking it. It would be fairly trivial (for various values of trivial) to get it connected to a modem and allow you to the internet in some way, but then what? Check email? Use lynx?

At least you wouldn't get a virus, I guess... :)

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I mean does it inspire you, your creativity with programming on older computer(s) with newer technologies you use? – TeaDrinkingGeek Mar 20 '11 at 20:54

vtech leader 2000 educational computer

Because it ignited my passion for programming.

What you see above is the "Vtech LEADER 2000" educational laptop with a single line black&white lcd display designed for kids. It has ~30 games installed, a touch typing learning program and a BASIC interpreter. I hope it will last until I get own kids some day..

Though, the keys have become a little bit too small for my fingers ;-)

Does that count as old?

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Yes, and it looks awesome! – TeaDrinkingGeek Mar 21 '11 at 11:41
+1, because it is indeed awesome. – Garet Claborn Mar 22 '11 at 4:32
+1 -- This was the computer that literally changed my life and shaped my future. I can still remember the sound effects when you gave correct and incorrect answers to it's games. – Jordan Arseno Apr 21 '13 at 19:18

In my other answer I didn't mention that I still keep the first personal computer that arrived at home/work: an HP 85 that a small screen, a tape drive, and thermal printer integrated (several years before the first Mac).

Its BASIC could be expanded to do the most amazing things with 2"x1" eproms that were inserted in a sort of drawer, any hardware (printers, hard disks, plotters) could be hooked through the daisy-chaining HP-IB bus. We wrote the first versions of software that is still used today on that little machine.

HP 85

I don't know why I still keep the little (and very heavy) bugger. I haven't turned it on in a very long while, and there's no use for it today, the days of Python on a cell-phone. It might be to remind me of how high-quality (and how much more expensive) personal computers were before the Epson QX-10 and CP-M, the IBM-PC and MS-DOS :-).

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You Can edit your answer instead of writing a new one... – user1249 Oct 20 '11 at 10:33
Something about the sight of yellowed plastic on an old computer excites me. Maybe you could write a BASIC program to mine bitcoins and see if it gives you one before you die :) – maple_shaft Oct 20 '11 at 11:16
Feel the same way about my complete commodore 64. Haven't seen it on in ages but I keep it around just because. – Rig Apr 22 '13 at 16:53

The old machines allowed one to program closer to the hardware, and know more completely what's going on. With something like a 6502 CPU, a programmer could almost visualize what every bit of hardware state was doing on every op code.

With modern machines and technologies, even assembly language is many levels of micro-abstraction above the transistor gates. Too many layers of even higher level abstraction, and you end up with programmers who have no idea how much memory, how many CPU cycles, cache misses, pipeline stalls, battery nanowatts, etc. each line of their code is eating. This just feeds the creation of more bloatware and carbon emissions (if you think stuff like that matters). Programmers who play with old school tech have at least a slight tendency to not be as ignorant.

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There was a time in which computers were so expensive and so few that the only way for several programmers to use them was to submit their programs for one compile and run, and then wait for the batch of submissions to be processed so they could fetch a printout with the output saying that there was a "LINE 42 ERROR: EXPECTING ')'". Folklore says that programmers with that training were much more thorough about their designs and their coding.

I was there, and was also at the time when a compile of a homework assignment on a personal computer could take an hour, and I would never go back to the days prior to the seconds-short edit-compile-debug cycles of Turbo Pascal.

Modern tools make programmers orders of magnitude more productive than they could be using the old methods. The "but it run when I tried it on my machine" syndrome that many novice programmers exhibit is a problem of attitude and education, and not one of tooling or technology in general.

Always go for the best tools you can get hold off/afford. It's what the professional practitioners of all the crafts, arts, engineerings, and sciences do.

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This problem of attitude and education you speak of is just that while we are orders of magnitude more productive, we are not orders of magnitude productive enough for managers. Many of us are pressured to work over 50 hours a week, be on call 24/7 for support, be paid orders of magnitude less than our peers were 20+ years ago, and live with the constant fear that upper management is having wet dreams about outsourcing our jobs to India. So yeah, forgive us whipper snappers that we have a poor attitude. – maple_shaft Oct 20 '11 at 11:22

I sometimes get out my old Amstrad pc from 1984. Sure, I could emulate the BASIC on my PC but that's not as much fun as getting the old computer out. Plus, my new PC cannot read audiotape programs :)

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An Amstrad PC1512 was my second computer (after a Commodore 64). 8 MHz 8086, 512 KB RAM, 2 x 360KB floppy disk drives. – codeape Oct 20 '11 at 11:54

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