Linux Format

FOCAL point


Mike Bedford’s article on FOCAL in LXF301 reminded me of my senior year of high school in 1973. I took a course in Basic programmin­g on a DEC PDP-8/e with 8k of magnetic core memory and two ASR-33 teletypes like the one pictured in the article. I remember there was a manual for FOCAL in the classroom and maybe a paper tape for it, but since it took 45 minutes to reload the Basic interprete­r through the TTY’s paper tape reader, I never saw it tried. Perhaps because it had the imprimatur of Dartmouth College, Basic was more popular with local schools. DEC computers were also quite common because they were (relatively) inexpensiv­e and DEC seemed to promote them for educationa­l use, perhaps hoping that students would favour them in their later careers.

After I started working, I bought a refurbishe­d ASR-33 that I found on consignmen­t in a local ham radio store. When I got into Linux, back when Slackware was loaded from a stack of floppies, I thought I might some day use the ASR-33 as a Linux terminal. I revived that thought when I started playing with Raspberry Pis. Then one night while I was trying to fall asleep, out of the blue it finally dawned on me: you may be able to run Basic or FOCAL on an ASR-33 teletype, but you can’t run Linux through it!

Geoff Gidman, Connecticu­t

Neil says…

It’s really a delight that so many readers are getting a kick out of Mike Bedford’s series on classic languages. If any of these have sparked memories or there’s a machine or topic we’ve not covered, please let us know!

 ?? ?? Here’s a stack of punchcards ready for the DEC PDP-8. One is a FOCAL interprete­r.
Here’s a stack of punchcards ready for the DEC PDP-8. One is a FOCAL interprete­r.

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