Atari Assembler/Editor

You can think of assembly language as the lowest-level computer language on a microcomputer: that is, very close to how to the machine works, and very far from human language. Few programmers mastered its intricacies. It was hard to learn and hard to program with, but done right, programs written in assembly language ran much faster than ones written in languages like BASIC. The best computer games were typically written in assembly.

Atari Assembler/Editor was Atari’s cartridge for programming in assembly language on the Atari 400/800 computers, released in 1979 or 1980. Its compiling was painfully slow, it lacked useful features like macros, and it couldn’t handle very big programs. (Programmers created better assemblers before too long.) But you can use it with Atari8BitBot. Doing anything useful in a tweet-length assembly language program is a particular challenge.

In order to tell Atari8BitBot that your program is in assembly (as opposed to BASIC) the first word of your tweet must be {A} followed immediately by your first label or opcode.

The {A} switches to the assembler editor cart, and gives you the following line of code for free. This line needs to be in every program, so the bot puts it in for you. You don’t need to include it in your tweet.

*= $3000

For the technical among you (and let’s face it, you have to be technical to be programming in assembly,) the system running the assembler is an Atari XL/XE running the Atari Assembler Editor cart, rev. B, under Atari DOS 2.0S. Do not use line numbers: the bot adds them for you.

Atari’s own Assembler Editor Manual can be a handy reference, but isn’t a great starting place beginners. Atari Roots is a much better place for assembly newbies. Assembly language is tricky, and doing it with the constraints of Twitter is tricky. Have fun 🙂