The Commodore PET (1977) had I think the most amazing graphics-friendly character set of all time and I sorely miss it. It was SO EASY to just pick up and start writing a beautiful tile-based game, even pseudo-3D; you almost did it by accident.

Screenshots from

There's something important here, I think, in that there's a lot of power in giving users a small set of combinatorial tools *which harmonise well together*.

In PETSCII, you had to work hard to make something look dissonant. The shapes just naturally came together and made beauty and simplicity look and feel easy.

This gave you a sort of invisible cybernetic boost to your natural creativity. Scribble something, anything, and wow. Hard to overestimate just how good that felt.

But I sure remember what it felt like to go from the PET to the IBM PC, even the PC extended graphics chars.

"What the... where are my diagonal lines? The fills? The shades? All I've got is this silly smiley face character and some card symbols and lines!"

And from there to Windows and Latin-1 was another huge step down. Suddenly you needed a degree in plumbing and gasfitting and tiger-wrangling just to get pixels to a window.

@natecull i don't know if you will find this interesting or not, but did you know there is currently an outstanding proposal (which looks like it will probably find support) for encoding PETSCII into unicode:

@kibi ❤️ omg 😍 ♠️ ♣️ ♥️ ♦️ 💞

@kibi @natecull This needs to happen. Heck, I have Commodore, Atari, and TRS80 Truetype fonts installed, so we need to complete the experience.

@kibi @natecull You know about unscii, right? It maps a bunch of legacy character sets including PETSCII into the PUA.

@kibi @natecull The Fediverse just needs to standardize on unscii-16-full for all frontends and the world will be saved.

@kibi @natecull this is awesome but I am bitterly disappointed they didn’t include sharpscii/mzscii

@kibi @natecull it includes sprite graphics for some popular kinds of games- and circuit drawing!

@zensaiyuki @kibi @natecull pretty neat set. those 2x2 face tiles are particularly interesting. I wonder if they had namco’s blessing to put pac man and ghosts in there...

@algorev @kibi @natecull it took me too long to figure out how to see what this was in response to. amaroq kept guessing i was trying to look at profiles for names. name/name. human factors. here’s images for what i meant.

A surprise to be sure, but a welcome one. We won't have to use those pesky powerline fonts.

@natecull several of my first BASIC programs were just navigating PETSCII images I made of a spaceship. Not long after that though I was creating custom characters because the VIC could do it (better with RAM expansion) but still the power of tiling pieces is evident when you look at all the games that used the technique.

@natecull this has given me an intense feeling of pure pleasurable nostalgia

@natecull Absolutely. I had two amazing programmer friends who did amazing stuff with PETASCII. Including 3D graphing that looked amazing (but took forever to render).

@natecull I had a cassette with LANDER on it! The PET w/ the chiklet keys was my first computer.

@natecull "smile basic" on nintendo 3ds has a lot of lovely stuff like that. ahh, old-style programming. almost elegant in its complete lack of elegance. :^)

@penduin I think what made 8-bit programming elegant, to the extent that it was, is that every feature kind of had to earn its place. The ones that got in were generally (though not always) the ones you needed to get cool stuff done.

BASIC had a million flaws. But it let you go from zero to fun stuff (ie: interactive games with halfway decent string handling) almost instantly.

The dream of 'revisionist retrocomputing' is 'what if we'd had something better than BASIC'.

@natecull that era of computing was magical; i wrote basic programs at five years old and knew what i wanted to do with my life. the present situation is tragic - children have supercomputers, but are locked out of creating their own software. their minds are eager as ever for it, but the closest they can get is stuff like minecraft.

@penduin @natecull Every computer can run Python (on iOS, with Pythonista), or write web pages with Javascript, or download any of a thousand other languages, and free books and videos on every subject.

I don't know why Kids Today™ don't code like we did with 8-bits, but it's not lack of access.

@mdhughes @penduin

Every computer can run Python?

I suppose there *might* be a Python app for Android, but pretty sure there isn't one for my Windows Phone.

@natecull @mdhughes
that's where i was going with this. many computers don't even have proper keyboards, let alone accessible programming environments that "just happen" when the device is powered on.
python and even js can be somewhat beginner-friendly, but their discovery/playground process is nothing like how basic was in the 80s. modern computers are geared to sell entertainment, not to be tool-making tools.

@penduin @natecull @mdhughes Or as I like to say, "Today's computers are appliances." But, though we differ in our choice of words, our agreement is pretty concrete.

@natecull @penduin DDG shows a couple of Python setups for Android, including one with PyGame! And there's one it seems for Windows Phone, but isn't that EOL/unsupported by MS now?

@mdhughes @natecull @penduin And yet, as someone familiar with both Python *and* BASIC, I can attest that, even today, programming in Commodore BASIC was, and still is, far easier than programming in Python to get most things done that isn't web-related.

The first big difference is that BASIC had a near zero edit/run/debug loop, while Python's (in comparison) is immense, all thanks to a thoroughly inadequate interactive environment. You further can't edit individual lines in Python.

@vertigo @penduin @natecull You can edit lines in the Python IDLE app, or in Pythonista. The command-line REPL isn't great, but it does ship with better tools.

@mdhughes @natecull @penduin Command-line is exactly where better tools are needed. IDLE is a non-starter, I think, if you want to encourage the level of interactivity that older 8-bits had.

Just my opinion. YMMV.

@mdhughes @natecull @penduin I think a good approximation of what I have in mind is something like BASIC-09, which ran under the OS-9 operating system on TRS-80 CoCo machines. It was structured, lacked line numbers, and yet retained much of the UI that enabled tinkering and learning in a way that an IDE just can't.

@vertigo @penduin @natecull I don't see how starting Terminal and then python3 is less interactive than just running IDLE, which is literally the first thing in the Python folder.

@mdhughes @natecull @penduin I don't know how to explain it to you, sorry. Unless you've experienced the older systems and the new alike, we have no basis to continue to communicate. It's a look and feel thing.

@vertigo @penduin @natecull I started on a TRS-80 Model I in 1979, wrote and sold software on the Atari 800, and have been coding for a living ever since. So I think I do have some experience with both. /s

Seriously start IDLE, type in the REPL. Or Cmd-N for a new file, type in a real program, hit F5 and it runs in that REPL. It's as close to 10 … RUN as makes no difference.

@mdhughes @natecull @penduin We started about the same time and followed similar paths, it seems. We'll just agree to disagree, then. I find IDLE harder to use than a decent, pure-CLI interface.

@vertigo @penduin @natecull Nearly 0% of Kids Today™ are going to find the Terminal by accident, and then learn Unix file manipulation on a whim, then discover a REPL. IDLE is a one-step introduction.

@vertigo @penduin @natecull Maybe you need to drop your "woe is everyone" attitude, and look at the actual tools available. It's not Microsoft's or Apple's intention (nor are they opposed, they just don't care), but there's fantastic beginner tools on modern hardware.

@mdhughes @natecull @penduin Wow, ok, you're resorting to that style of argumentation? Blocked. I don't play those kinds of games. Fuck you and your holier than thou attitude.

@mdhughes @natecull @penduin I was perfectly happy to just let the issue lie as is, to just accept we have different views on the matter. But, nope. You want to the "woe is me" argument. Good riddance, asshole.

@natecull I remember using my Commodore 64 (which had the same character set as the PET) to generate timing diagrams for electronics projects. It was bliss compared to what I have to go through today. :(

@natecull You may be able to 3d-print yourself a non-functional one at least

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