Thursday, 23 May 2013

RISC OS - An interesting retro diversion.

My experience so far on using & coding on RISC OS is that it is a little bit like "the old days."

What I mean is that there isn't a great deal out there on the internet, Amazon has I think 2 books - apart from a bunch of old 90's second hand ones.

I've been coding in BBC Basic, which feels really retro; however, I did forget how easy it was to get things going and it's relatively powerful, for its age at least. I need to use an external editor to make it work efficiently, hardly a problem for me these days. In fact back on the BBC Master I used to use *VIEW to write my code anyway.

I've also been dabbling in some ARM assembly language. Now, I always had an idea about the utopian beauty of its RISC instruction set. I'm now discovering a few annoying limitations of it, partially due the fixed 32-bit wide op-code width.'s been a fun journey, but RISC OS is most definitely stuck in the 80's/90's. It has given me some great inspiration though, which ultimately is the point of it all!

The pic below is my first BBC Basic program in ~25 years! You can see the Raspberry Pi just underneath the monitor:

An OS in 6MB!:

My RISC OS desktop running:

My venerable INPUT magazines (52 issues on programming for 8-bit machines from the early 80's), this is a page on Lisp coding:

Monday, 13 May 2013


I think the title says it all.

I spent some time last weekend looking through the C++11 spec. The seminal C++ book by Stroustrup is due to be released in about 10 days time. Incidentally the cover photo is of Mount Fisht in Russia.

After working through all the available languages on my 8-bit machines (forth/lisp/pascal and the ubiquitous basic and assembly language), C was the first language I learned on my shiny new PC-AT in around 1985. Around 1990 C++ was starting to become mainstream, I remember picking up Turbo C++ first and then Borland C++. The IDEs on these things were so quick, especially considering the performance of the machines they ran on.

Going off on a tangent here but COBOL was the next I learnt. Here is a link to a COBOL project I created: Campbell's Cuisine. It still builds on a modern machine! I wrote this when I was 14/15. I have very fond memories of this as I got an optical mouse as a gift for doing it, at a time when NOBODY had one. It came with it's own shiny metal mouse mat with a pattern on it. A bit like this:

Where was I? Oh yes, C++. So, having look up C++11, it is so far beyond that original C++ that I learned that I struggle to really make sense of it all. I'm not afraid of learning something new, but that thing has some seriously funky syntax.

Is the performance worth it? I'm a big fan of functional languages and the fact it forces you to think in a certain way. C++ gives incredible power to shoot oneself in the foot.

Maybe I should order the book and see for myself...