Starting Lineby James Capparell
If you are an ATARI owner new to the world of computing, you probably feel overwhelmed by the mass and complexity of the technical information necessary just to use your new computer. With your ATARI you received operating instructions for each piece of hardware. You have the BASIC Reference Manual and the BASIC self-teaching guide. At the store you saw a bewildering assortment of magazines, books and software! Where should you begin?
We here at ANTIC want you to know we realize your dilemma. Our magazine, and especially this column, should help you sort things out. STARTING LINE will be written in simple English. We are starting with some glossary items, and are committed to developing this department and glossary. Please let us know what you want to see here. If something is puzzling you, ask.
Our more advanced readers can help too. Send us those items that have been helpful in your own learning process. We'll all be grateful.
GLOSSARYCARTRIDGE--This term is probably familiar to those of you with video recorders or tape recorders. In our case CARTRIDGE refers to that plastic box with BASIC printed on it. This small unit fits into the available slot on your 400 or 800. A CARTRIDGE contains a kind of computer MEMORY. This memory, unlike RAM mentioned earlier, has data (mail) stored in it only once at the factory. The computer can go read the data (mail) many times, but the contents of the mailbox will always be the same. These cartridges are referred to as ROM Read Only Memory. Information can only be read from MEMORY, data is delivered or stored just once at the factory. This special kind of memory doesn't need a power source to remember data, the data is permanently stored in the cartridge.
CASSETTE RECORDER--This is nothing but a slightly modified, garden variety tape recorder. In big computer systems this would be called a magnetic tape storage unit. It's used to keep a permanent recording of your favorite game program or data. If you want to use and reuse a program then you must save it on some permanent storage, such as a cassette tape.
CONSOLE--This is probably a familiar term. It's used to refer to that part of your ATARI with the typewriter like keys and the sockets for various cables. The CONSOLE is the heart of your computer system. Inside are the various integrated circuits that have made home computers possible. CONSOLE is synonomous with the computer's logic circuitry, MEMORY, and keyboard.
CURSOR--This strange word means pointer or indicator. The CURSOR is the white rectangle that appears on your TV screen whenever you turn your computer on. It really has a very useful function, it shows you where the next character will appear when you press a key. This is useful to know, as a few minutes sitting at your CONSOLE will demonstrate.
MEMORY--Imagine all the mailboxes on your street standing in single file next to each other. Each mailbox has an individual address so that when I say deliver mail to #329 you should be able to find it. Computer MEMORY is similar to this row of mailboxes. Each MEMORY location has its own address and the ability to hold data. Additionally, you may put (store) mail in a box (memory location) or take (read) mail from a box (memory location). Most importantly, this reading or storing of mail (data) may be performed in any order-- randomly. So, reading or storing data into numbers 919,105, 3,1000 is perfectly O.K. This is often referred to as Random Access Memory (RAM). Your computer has many of these mailboxes, as many as 65536 addressable locations. Each location is capable of receiving data and storing the data until needed or until power is turned off.
PROGRAM also COMPUTER PROGRAM--These terms indicate the special sequence of instructions that make the circuitry inside the CONSOLE behave according to your desire. The instructions or program are delivered to MEMORY to be read later by the circuitry in the CONSOLE. The instructions tell the circuitry what to do. It's the CASSETTE RECORDER which will save the special sequence of instructions known as the PROGRAM from day to day.
CONTROL KEY--This key appearing next to the letter "A" on your keyboard is the abbreviation for CONTROL. When pressed it makes extra functions available. Usually you must press CTRL, simultaneously with another key to enable the special function. For example, press CTRL and the key with the up arrow (next to the letter "P"). This will cause the CURSOR to move up one line.