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Comment on "Thirtieth Anniversary of the Apple II"
by Charles — Apr 15
You know, my first real programming job was with MECC, but nothing so exciting as their Oregon Trail program, which was wildly successful. MECC was expanding their courseware into other platforms, my job was to port the some of their math courses to Atari Basic. I thought they were pretty interesting math lessons, they made nice graphs of algebraic equations, but then I looked at the code. You would input an equation formatted in Basic, then the code would insert your equation inline into the program. This is a classic comp sci lesson: Self-modifying Code Considered Harmful.
Oddly enough, unlike Applesoft Basic or Integer Basic, Atari Basic absolutely prohibited programs from modifying their own code. I worked for weeks and weeks trying to figure out a way to get their cute little self-modifying code trick to run somehow on the Atari, but it just would not work. I told them that all the programs I was assigned to port used the same self-modifying code trick, so the code would not port, and the project was dead. They insisted I find a way to get the Atari to accept self-modifying code. I told them flat out, it was impossible without rewriting the Atari Basic interpreter, and that was not going to happen. They seemed rather upset that they'd paid me money for several weeks of coding that ended up being several weeks of research and no program code resulted. That was my first real experience with a Project From Hell.
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