The Apple ][ Does Not Fall Far From the Tree

DigitHeadPrimo wants to learn how to program a computer; his goal: write a game for the iPad, or something.

Cool, I can deal with that, and it certainly beats playing games all day. We haven’t had video games in the house until recently. Never had much use for them when I was younger. Still we installed X-Plane and the occasional board game (chess, checkers, 4-in-a-row, etc). But since we got the iPad the boys have taken a liking to some of the more creative ones, and have started critiquing them; although their favorite is actually NOT a shoot-em-up game. Primo and Secondo have taken a liking to PocketPlanes, which is a beautifully pixelated, vintage looking air port/travel management simulation; there is both a mobile and desktop version.

But I digress. So Primo wants to be a creator rather than a user. I’m stoked!

But where to start? I mean, after all, I have a computer and a compiler with all the usual suspects (java, C, C++, Objective-C)… but with some 33 years of programming experience, I have to ask if modern languages are a good place for a tween to start? I started searching the web for simpler things, like BASIC or <<gasp>> Logo!

The I came across this site (! I cut my digital denticles on a Franklin Ace 1000, an Apple ][ clone in the early 1980’s! Wow! What an opportunity to teach Primo programming the “old fashioned way”.That’s right… Applesoft BASIC, 6502 Assembly language… PRODOS!


A few disk image downloads later and we were up and running enough to create “HELLO WORLD”. I was even able to download BUGBYTER and demonstrate single step processing at the assembly language level with the help of an old copy of Zak’s book on the 6502.

Well it was enough to wet his appetite and he started building up little tests of Applesoft to print things to the screen, test conditionals, and get input from the user. Before we knew it he created a simple program to create some algebra problems with random coefficients so he could practice. I even played around with displaying a Mandelbrot set in LO-RES graphics! Click here to see the source code: Mandelbrot-in-Applesoft


Needless to say, a lot of questions were asked and one thing lead to another… we are now the proud owners of an Arduino and Primo is learning about embedded programming! So the transformation is complete (bwahahaha!): Primo is officially a digit head and teaching Secondo how to program!

Click here to see a demonstration of his automatic toilet flusher prototype (inspired by Secondo) and our SimpleSimon game complete with breadboard, schematics and PCB done in Fritzing.

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