Re: [stella] [Stella] I'm new here and have some question.

Subject: Re: [stella] [Stella] I'm new here and have some question.
From: Mark De Smet <de-smet@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2000 22:56:52 -0600 (CST)
> How hard is it to learn to program for the Atari 2600? I have no programming
> experience but I'm willing to learn.

This is a loaded question as it depends on your experience.  More later.

> Does anyone have any new info the might help someone who doesn't understand
> how to use or read machine language programming for the Atari 2600? What
> would be the best way to start learning? I have download the doc's, game
> source code and program's that are available, but it all looks greek to me.
> Is there a better programming doc than Stella.pdf or a FAQ file yet? Too bad
> there isn't a "Dummies guide to programming for Atari 2600 VCS" book.
> **Grin**

As a start, the stella programmer guide describes the hardware
architecture of the VCS, and do not cover anything about programming.  It
is called a programmer's guide because it is intended for a programmer to
use to write a vcs game.  Step one is to learn/familiarize yourself with
6502 assembly.  Step two is to go through the stella programmers guide.
Step three is to play around with demo code, such as Nick's "how to draw a
playfield", change it, add stuff, and just generally learn practical
things from it before having to worry completely about how the vcs all
works.  Then you can start on your own project.

As someone who has never programed assembly, or any other language, you
need some sort of book on assembly language programming.  I have never
seen or heard of any such thing on the net etc.  You are not very likely
to find such a book new as assembly language programming is not very
common.  You could try a college book store, but these will almost all
assume previous programming experience.  If you find a book at a college
book store, it will most likely not be on the 650x processor.  Your best
bet is to go to used book stores and sales.  Look for programming books on
computers with the 650x processor in it.  This will most likely be the
6502.  Computers that had it are very common, so many programming books
from the early 80's will include this.  These include the appleII series,
and some(most?) commodores.  You are not likely to find a book on the VCS
itself(I've never heard of one).  You can also just look in some general
programming books then check out the index and see if they have chapters
on the 6502.

If you are unable to find a book on the 6502, and you are still
interested, you can find a book on any assembly language.  Use it to learn
the basics of how assebly language works.  Then you will have to look
around to find something that talks about how the instructions for the
6502 specifically work and interpolate how to program in 6502. HOWEVER,
this is quite a leap, and I would not normally recommend it to someone
with no programming experience.  As an example of how this would work, I
present what I did.  I learned basic(no, not visual, or basica, basic...)
when I was young.  Nothing serious, just playing around.  Then learned C++
quite well.  Then I went on to x86; my first assembly language.  I got
very good at x86(haven written over 10k lines of code for several embedded
systems).  Then I came to the 6502.  By this time, learning 6502 was a
matter of spending 60 minutes reading the description of the opcodes
available and how the registar/flag system worked on it.  Then I was
writing 6502 code.  It was then just the task of learning how to display
and do stuff on the VCS.  So, having no experience under your belt, it is
a much more likely path to just find a programming book that covers 6502.

> Would someone be nice enough to show me how to read and interpret
> hexadecimal numbers or point me to a web page or text file that can? All I
> know is it's a base16 number system (0-9 & A-F).

Any assembly language book should cover this.  Hexadecimal numbers are
base 16. 

> I would be grateful for any help. I look forward to learn a new skill.

I hope you are able to take up a fun hobby programming games for a classic


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