As a regular feature in ANTIC we try to provide useful, jargon-free information
for the new user. Over this holiday season there will be many more of you opening
a silver box to the world of ATARI. We would like to relieve you of any
unnecessary anxiety and help you verify that your equipment is operating
Help for the New User
Can I hurt my machine?
No, there is nothing that you can do from your keyboard in normal operation that will harm your ATARI. Feel free to press any key in any order. Experiment, try it, learn by example, and by trial and error. One note of warning, always save a copy of your program on cassette or disk prior to experimenting. This way you'll have a copy to reload should the experiment fail, or if someone kicks the plug out of the stocket. Keep food and drink away from your equipment, and disks and tapes away from magnetic fields.
What does 32K mean?
In computing circles terms like 16K or 32K are frequently heard. Numbers with the suffix K are used to refer to the amount of memory available in your machine. K is an engineering term and refers to the number 1000. So, 32K would mean that 32,000 characters of memory are available. Most ATARIs come factory equipped with 16K. Both the ATARI 400 and 800 can be expanded to 48K, or 48,000 characters of information. Consult your local dealer about memory expansion products.
How can I be sure that all my memory is there?
To verify that your installed memory is being recognized, type the command PRINT FRE(0), and press [RETURN]. With the BASIC caratridge installed you should read:
13326 (if 16K)
29710 (if 32K)
37902 (if 48K)
How many characters will fit on the screen?
A maximum of 40 text characters per line, by 24 lines, can be displayed on Your TV screen. In normal operation only 38 characters are allowed. This can be changed by typing the command POKE 82,0 (press [RETURN]). This effectively moves the left margin two characters left, giving you the maximum of 40 characters. Press [SYSTEM RESET] to restore margins.
How long a line will BASIC accept?
BASIC can receive up to 120 characters per command line (three full 40-character lines). A warning buzzer sounds when 113 characters are typed. If you type more than the maximum, the excess characters are ignored.
Is there an easier or faster method of entering BASIC?
Yes, use abbreviations wherever possible (look at Appendix A of your BASIC Reference Manual). Using abbreviations will save typing time. For example use N. instead of NEXT or C. instead of COLOR. The BASIC cartridge will expand these abbreviations for you. It is also legal to eliminate spaces wherever possible, once again BASIC will insert spaces for you. For example, 110REM is okay.
What color should my screen be when I turn on my ATARI?
Your screen should be blue when first turned on. This is one of 128 color possibilities available. There are 16 colors and eight hues on very 400/800. Look at page 50 of the BASIC reference manual for the color-range description.
What is Memo Pad Mode?
The ATARI will respond with this statement whenever you turn power on without either a BASIC cartridge installed or the disk-system DOS installed. You can display characters on the screen, but that's about all.
What does screen editing mean?
This refers to the ability to move the white cursor around the screen by pressing [CTRL] (the control key) and the up/down or left/right arrows simultaneously. Additionally, errors can be corrected and lines inserted without the necessity of retyping entire lines. Look at Chapter Three of BASIC Reference Manual for more edit features. They're very powerful and can save you much time.
Why does my screen change colors when I leave it for a while?
This is called Attract Mode. If there has been no input from your keyboard in the previous nine minutes, the colors begin to change on your television. This occurs to protect the color phosphors of your picture tube. Just press any key and the colors will return to normal for at least nine minutes more.
How can I be sure my equipment is operating properly?
Modern electronic equipment is extremely reliable. In almost all cases your computer either will fail in the first 50 hours of use, or continue operating for the next five years. Whenever you power-on your computer with the BASIC cartridge installed, the friendly message READY should appear in the upper-left corner of the screen. Almost always computer failure will be total. It will either run properly or it won't run at all. If you should develop trouble, read the instructions and recheck your power and connectors. Begin to eliminate probable causes one by one. Be methodical! If your cassette doesn't work, try it on your friend's computer. Try to isolate the problem. You can save yourself unneeded trips to the repair center by thinking through the problem, trying and retrying again. These techniques work for professionals and they'll work for you.