Retro Scan of the Week: Some Like it Hex

October 23rd, 2006 by Benj Edwards
Hex Magazine Program Listing
If you think computer magazines are dry these days, try this. I recently picked up a Compute Gazette from 1988 and there were dozens of pages of hex data listings just like this. Enthralled, I spent hours reading the incredible tale of a robot and his journey to Alpha Epsilon 7.

But seriously, what we have here is part of one of them old-fashioned program listings. They were extremely common in computer magazines back in the day. The magazines published the code (usually BASIC) for select programs they bought the rights to (from typically amateur programmers) and readers typed them into their computers themselves if they were interested. It's one of those things that inspires computer old timers to pull out their grandpa hats and start lecturin' youth about how easy they have it these days:

You know what, sonny?! I was typin' in programs before you were even a twinkle in yer mammy's eye. Back in my day, we didn't get software on disks or any of that nonsense. We bought it on paper and had to type it all in ourselves. Twenty million lines of code! After typing fifteen hours nonstop, our fingers would be bleeding so bad that we'd have to use our toes. After that the family would work in shifts around the clock until we finally had a running version of a dumb word processor. Without spell check. It had three-hundred bugs in it and barely ran, but by golly, we liked it!

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7 Responses to “Retro Scan of the Week: Some Like it Hex”

  1. Press The Buttons Says:

    Back To BASICs

    Ho ho, you young whippersnappers! Back in our day we didn't have no fancy Windows XP or OSX or even Linux! We had Commodore 64 at home and Apple IIe at school, and we liked it that way! Because at

  2. John H. Says:

    Ah, I typed in a few of those in my time.

    It was murder if you made a mistake. Usually these magazines guarded against user error by using special checksum programs. Compute's Gazette used the Automatic Proofreader for BASIC and MLX for machine language. (NOT assembly! Assembly is made up of mnemonics and other crutches for the weak, ML is what assembly gets compiled into!) It's worth noting that the picture is of a machine language program, not BASIC, and that the last pair of digits on each line is the checksum.

    Basically, though, I think most people who really got into type-in software sprung for the disk-included version, which sometimes could be found on magazine racks beside the paper-only version. Basically these listings were for the people who wanted to save the $7 difference between the two.

  3. Jurgi/Tristesse/Atari8.Info Says:

    Damn, in o'good times I was typing lots of such listings. Fortunatelly, for XL/XE there were many "BASIC EDITOR" programs, that provided a control code for each listing line, so the typos were reported immediately. E. g. look at this: - or raw scan: - I was typing the program half a day, and it was only a jokeā€¦ Grrr. :>

  4. ZALiMAN Says:

    yeah my dad used basic and he said it was a pain. Having to put in all those pages and pages of text and code and if you messed up on once letter you had to start over agian. Just like those old cristmass lights one goes out the circut's broken find the burned out bulb replace it. (have many hours of fun finding it)

    Life these days really is easy compared to back then


  5. Toasty2k Says:

    Keyboard indeed! You youngsters are all spoiled. Back in the day: After keying the boot loader into the front panel switches you cold load the card deck, paper tape or KC standard audio cassette that you made earlier. You got no business around a computer if you can't type.

  6. Erik Says:

    Sadly, I did this for fun as a child. I can remember spending days and days of my summer vacation typing in these huge games.

    The result, once finally bug-free, was usually disapointing.

  7. Goog Says:

    Evan at 15, I always thought they should've made an interpreter that could at least display 5-letter nonsense "words" to type that would translate into the proper hex values (like HTPER for example). Hex numbers are hard to type - especially with a 6 or 7 in them! Many a bugs came from that simple fact alone.

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