" there seems an emphasis ... on using DEF PROC, familiar to BBC Micro owners, to define subroutines"
Back in the day of the board computers of the late 1970s - your Scrumpi, your Nascom 1, your UK-101 et al - it was customary to build a case for it out of wood. If you were a better equipped "constructor" - what we used to call "makers" in those days - you’d build a box out of metal. Folk like Tangerine offered optional cases …
That sparks a very faint glimmer of recognition in my mind - recognition of a term I had absolutely no idea the meaning of back then and am none the wiser now; though as a grown up would hazard a guess is an abbreviation for "define procedure" or "process". I'm probably wrong. Perhaps it is "cool public relations orange county". The problem was IT teaching back then fell to the maths teacher and basically (no pun intended) consisted of typing out code in a book. Or maybe the problem was just me. Either way, I rarely understood a line of it ; and being a slow and bad typer, the computer rarely understood me. To me it seemed unintuitive abbreviations of unintuitive words, and if the computer could understand weird obtuse stuff, why didnt they just make it understand words that were easy to understand? It really did seem that they had been deliberately designed to be as incomprehensible as possible. I think most of the class was the same, but a couple of kids just "got it" and raced a couple of books ahead of everyone else. Needless to say, I dont have anything to do with code as a grown-up. They are probably .com millionaires. I kind of like the idea of Raspberry Pis and similar as I love gadgets and Making, but unfortunately the memory of programming misery the first time around is still enough to keep me put off dipping a toe in the water at this stage. I'd like to think that the education system has had a lot more time to get to grips with teaching programming effectively; but to be honest I still think it is far far more important & useful to teach kids how to use web browsers & Office than how to code. There will always be a couple of adept kids honing their skillz in their bedrooms & after-school classes who will become the programmers of the future; but for the majority, knowing how to use software is more important to their career prospects than knowing how to make software. Probably the wrong place to air a view like that - but I come here mostly for EMP weapons, molten salt reactors and Playmobile reconstructions...
No. No. No.
The key question is: How much BASIC can you cram into *ONE* line of code?
What's the character count maximum per line of BASIC?
About 240 characters in just one line of BASIC code should be enough for any project, such as replicating SAP in its entirety.
At one time Motorola used to make a 6800 variant with a built-in terminal interface (LILbug).
It would be nice (I think) to have an equally low level kit today, as even the Pi and the Arduino have a considerable learning curve at the machine code level. Maybe I'm just extremely old fashioned, but I feel that with these new toys there are just too many levels of abstraction between monitor and LED. The essential connection between machine code and I/O is lost.
To use the usual analogy, the Pi is like a small but very customisable car, but where is the learning equivalent of the bicycle?
It is important that we still teach machine coding at some level. I have included coding very simple programs on a simulated microprocessor in our course "Introduction to Computing Science". It helps people understand what goes on "under the hood" when coding in C (in the course "Imperative Programming" running in parallel). These simulators can run on the Pi or Arduino controllers, I suppose. In particular, simulators can show what is going on graphically, and that helps understanding as well.
Procedural languages, Functional languages, OOP, etc., are mostly just different kinds of organisational scaffolding. No mainstream CPU actually gives a toss about any of that stuff; it all ends up as machine code in the end. Often on an Intel or ARM CPU, neither of which care one whit about whether you like to organise the original code in your source files as subroutines or as objects. Same meat, different gravy.
None of that stuff matters.
What matters is understanding how computers "think", because programming is just a synonym for "translation" and is actually pretty easy to learn at that level. I was far more productive coding Z80 or MC680x0 code in assembly language than I ever was writing in C++. I used to be proud of writing bug-free code, and it really *was* bug-free. But those days are long gone. The hardware has become orders of magnitude more powerful and capable, but the tools we use to program it all have barely changed since the flint axes of the 1970s.
It's 2013 and we're *still* writing code using artificial languages that require us to walk on eggshells due to their cruel and unusual punctuation. My *phone* can render a Mandelbrot set in real-time and run full-on 3D First-Person Shooters at HD resolutions, and yet we insist on forcing *humans* to do stupid grunt-work like adding a semicolon at the end of a line to save the compiler from a picosecond of calculation? How the hell is this even acceptable? How is this not front-page news in The Register and all its rivals? THIS is the scandal of our time.
No wonder today's software comes wrapped in legalese instead of warranties.
Compilers can cope with syntax errors - they tell you there's a problem and to go away and fix it!
The problem with automatic syntax correction raises the possibility that the correction is ambiguous and an automatic corrector has a different idea of which correction to make than the engineer.
Better for the compiler to say 'I think this is the problem' and let you review and fix the error rather than blindly fixing it so you have no idea where the fixes are.
Don't talk to me about indentation levels in Python. Especially when someone uses an editor with spaces to modify code originally indented with tabs.
A stupid, stupid, stupid design decision.
Like making the assignment operator in C '=' and equivalence '=='. AND making assignments within conditional statements valid syntax!
Like making fall-through the default in switch statements.
Utterly brain-dead decisions that have cost millions of man-hours of debugging time.
Make the C assignment operator ':=' like Pascal. Allow fall-through only if you add 'continue' at the end of the case block. And just fucking introduce braces to Python. It's FAR easier, and visually more obvious.
> stupid grunt-work like adding a semicolon at the end of a line
That is (possibly) a task for the IDE, definitely *not* the compiler.
I really haven't got the faintest idea what programming a computer is supposed to be looking like by now, but it sure as hell isn't even in the same galaxy with what we are still using - yes, that includes whatever happens to be the cutting edge these days.Think of it for a moment: we all possess incredibly powerful machines now capable of incredibly useful stuff - but 99.99% of us can only use them for things someone else considered worthwhile doing.
Yes, there's no way to escape having to define rigorous logic, but someone able to clearly articulate the logic he wants implemented should never be required to master obscure and arcane tidbits of syntax, APIs, frameworks, and a thousand other arbitrary language and compiler idiosyncrasies. Right now, a compiler can't even point me to the ACTUAL syntax error I make - it just dumbly panics on the NEXT structural block that doesn't sync up. You need to be an anointed High Priest of Coding just to figure out what the actual error you committed is while the compiler whines on about something apparently entirely unrelated. This is incredibly wrong.
We need a usable, robust way to handle arbitrary levels of complexity - and OOP in anything like its current form isn't it. We need true code reusability, not the joke we have today that breaks without even touching it on a tool version change (let alone on a move to ANY different environment). We need tools that can proof logic and help pinpoint errors efficiently when they happen, tools that understand that complexity, not merely point to the instruction it happened on. We need standardized ways to implement unambiguous interfaces that can contain and encapsulate that complexity and mechanisms that deal with the unforeseen more effectively than the occasional tentative try-catch.
We'll know we got there when a randomly crashing flash plugin or a bloody Facebook button on an unresponsive internet link won't effectively freeze my entire Firefox window motionless, all 101 tabs of it, for as long as it wants; when I'll be able to effortlessly tell which recalcitrant piece of garbage causes my PC to apparently twiddle its thumbs at 98% idle while it's taking five minutes to boot; when instead of a blue screen or a stop error I get a tasteful notification saying "your webcam driver has repeatedly malfunctioned and has been unloaded"; but most of all, when all that just stops happening altogether.
...the funny thing is, there is an opportunity of staggering proportions here, and whoever finds a way to cater to it would overnight become bigger than Microsoft, Google and Apple all together. A pity that nobody seems to know how.
I want one, even though I stopped fiddling with electronics many years ago. So wish I had one of these when the first computers were coming out. I can easily imagine this sitting gathering dust in my home, just waiting for me to start that great home project (sigh). Still nostalga isn't what it used to be.
I used to have the Philips EE Electronics Engineer kit when I was a youngster (liberated from my brother) and it lead me into a career in electronics, computing and now software. So who says these kits won't encourage today's youth. Something like this is so much more practical in schools than just a bare board Pi and a bunch of connectors. Most teachers don't have the time or the resources to assemble a workable experimental kit and develop teaching material to support it. This at least goes half way there.
"Philips EE Electronics Engineer kit"
The one where the transistors (a BC148 and a BF194 if I remember correctly) were mounted on little square PCBs and you built everything on little springs? I had one of those for Christmas when I was 11 and ended up with a career in electronics (which now seems to have degenerated to purely software) too!
The one I had (possibly an older version) had an AF116 and two AC126 transistors and these were raw unmounted components. Everything was built on a set of springs and clips pushed through a board which was overlaid with a circuit diagram with holes to place the springs at component junctions. Wonderful stuff, transistor radio, electric organ, flashing lights, etc. The disadvantage of the components not being set up as little modules was that the wires could break off after being used several times, especially before I learnt not to bend them too close to the component. For me, at least, this disadvantage was more than made up for by the fact that off-the-shelf replacements were cheap and easy to get, and you could also get bits not in the original kit and ad-lib. It was the perfect excuse to haunt establishments like Henry's in Edgware Road or Proops down at Tottenham Court Road. None of the emporia in Harry Potter's Diagon Alley could hold a candle to these for MAGIC! And now you can get all this and a computer too...
Your tales of visiting Henry's and Proops brought a little shiver of excitement to me as I remember my childhood days in Luton going to the electronics shop (I think it was in Leagrave Road) to buy components (all discretes I think in those days - if you wanted TTL you had to get it mail order) - ahhh ... the magic of a shop that smells of electronics.
Of course, it has to be an independent shop where the owner knows exactly what's what, Maplin's never has that magic. And Maplin never has that authentic smell - probably because everything that should smell of electronics is shrink wrapped!
On the Philips kit, I'd forgotten about the circuit diagram templates that told you where to poke the springs through.
The BC148 and BF194 (rings a bell) silicone based kits had their trannies on little PCBs (some with heat sink?) because their geranibum based predecessors (AC126, AC128, AF 116?) used to have factory-fresh transistors whose flying leads didn't always last all that long under the stress of repeated insertion and removal.
More at http://www.hansotten.com/index.php?page=ee8-a20-e20
The Interwebs still hasn't found me a copy of the Meccano Magazine articles on their modular digital computer which if I remember rightly was based on OC71-class stuff. Maybe it's out there somewhere but a quick look at e.g. http://meccano.magazines.free.fr/index.htm hasn't found it for me yet.
Yes I know it's not really silicone or geranibum.
If it were just a keyboard and breakout port, then it'd be so so.
The addition of a breadboarding kit in the top, inspired.
The inclusion of a pre-loaded SD card with a complete dev environment, genius!
To me this completes the Pi 'package'.
Shame it's a tad expensive all considered.
"Or as a great way to put the Pi safely into schools."
I went to the audiologist for my Tinnitus and they gave me a noise generator to put by my bed. (white noise helped me sleep). But oh no! "we cannot give you the power supply 'cos of health and safety".
It runs on 6 volts FFS!
So I doubt if any Pis will ever been seen in a school.
Edit: Just checked and it uses 6V at 200mA
I don't know what aspect of H+S your audiologist was referring to, here are a couple of facts:
H+S understands all about safe voltages, the SELV (safety extra low voltage) specification allows voltages up to 70V absolute max to be put onto touchable connectors, this is known to be safe.
Supplying mains power adapters to members of the public requires that they are EC marked, which in turn requires they are tested against a proof voltage of several kV, they conform to EMC requirements, they don't overheat and (i think) they are fused or in some way protected against overdissipation.
PAT testing is used in addition to this if the parts are to be used at a given premises - a school or factory or office - and checks that each of the relevant type-approved items is not faulty.
I suspect it is this requirement that stops them offering you your power supply. If I were them I would ensure it uses a standard micro-USB then it can be your responsibility to source and use the adapter.
I'm pretty sure that as long as it's CE marked it can be sold in the UK to anyone; PAT testing only comes after the equipment is in use, usually as part of an annual inspection of electrical equipment.
Maybe your audiologist didn't get, or couldn't hear, the appropriate advice?
> H+S understands all about safe voltages, the SELV (safety extra low voltage) specification allows voltages up to 70V absolute max to be put onto touchable connectors, this is known to be safe.
I could be wrong but I thought SELV was max 50V, but my memory is not what it used to be.
But a tad out of the RPi price range, I feel. And I'm not exactly a RPi advocate despite owning one of the first models (I'm not an advocate BECAUSE I own one of the first models)... just too much geek-cred and not enough educational focus.
This brings it closer but I still can't see kids wanting to hack on it much. The breadboard is inspired, it has to be said. But £70 plus all the internal faffing about and USB power (which is already a problem)... it's sad. Maybe if it came down in price a little I'd treat myself to one, but it's fallen at the usual hurdles for RPi's in education - no real documentation, no focus, no support, just a geeky device and "there you go".
Think of 30 in a class x £180 = £5400 - Sure, you could do it cheaper if you have someone on staff "who knows", but you can get a netbook trolley for that, or a ton of tablets, or even an entire ICT suite if you're careful (I know - I've done it for that price). Let's not mention that you might need display devices too, if you want to do anything useful, and having the kids reaching down the back of the ICT Suite machines to disconnect VGA/HDMI cables to use the PC monitors probably isn't the best idea. And - again - the lack of educational support materials is going to hit hard unless you have someone "who knows". And schools with someone "who knows" will be doing all this stuff cheaper and easier already.
The BASIC is a good idea but I thought that we weren't supposed to teach children that anymore? Every time I mention it to other programmers, I get universally derided for doing so. Isn't it supposed to be the antithesis of good programming? (Note, I believe that all to be rubbish, personally).
It's a REALLY cool gadget. For me. For schools, etc.? Not so much. Same as the RPi.
Really I don't see this as the solution for the Computer Science / Computer Studies / ITC (or whatever it's called these days) room. More something for an electronics project lab where a few students may be working together on a project, or where not every project needs to be microprocessor based, so equipping enough for a whole class to use individually may not be necessary.
there was no PLOT command...
You have to define your plotting area as an array, plot your shapes into the array and then print the array to the teletype (even in the 1980s, I remember Spice printing waveforms as ASCII art)....
... and you never had enough memory for the whole image, so you had to do it over and over in little strips.
Nothing stopping you :-)
// circle - the old fashioned way
deg // degrees
origin (gwidth / 2, gheight / 2)
for d = 0 to 360 cycle
plot (sin (d) * gheight / 2, cos (d) * gheight / 2)
(if only there was a code tag ;-)
Ps. Joining the dots is left as an exercise to the user ;-)
@Gordon: neat! Now let's see you do it by placing pixels in assembly into the video RAM of the Spectrum - which is helpfully divided into three non-contiguous sections, each consisting of non-contiguous subsections (text rows), so filling up sequentially first fills up the first line of each row, then the second, then the third etc. then on to the next section etc. Well? Is the circle done? Ok, now fill it up please!
Unlike the BBC/ Electron the Spectrum had a CIRCLE command, if I remember correctly.
The BBC Master had PLOT144 to 151 to draw circles, as well as PLOT commands for ellipses, sectors and segments :
144-151 Draw a circle.
152-159 Plot and fill a disc.
160-167 Draw a circular arc.
168-175 Plot and fill a segment.
176-183 Plot and fill a sector.
Wow, I love the Register, more because their readers actually understand what we're trying to do here, no daft comments, no my C64/Amiga is better than your ZX Spectrum / Atari ST – just good old common sense, people actually ‘get it’.
Thank you. (although – what is that about noise generators?)
The above review is refreshingly accurate, very well presented and rightly so points out a few negative issues which of course I’d like to address;
The somewhat expanded Reference Manual or User’s Guide as it has now evolved into, is currently being copy checked for the umpteenth time before we put it up in PDF form on the Fuze website. It contains a very comprehensive guide for getting started with the Fuze and FUZE BASIC, and has a dramatically expanded reference section.
Ok next one’s a biggie – USB ports. A powered hub was always intended but it has many ramifications. Not least in that we are a small outfit without corporate scale budgets and as such every little thing we do costs a bloody fortune!
The extra USB ports require a powered hub, and the sockets must to go inside so it has to be designed for its purpose. Needless to say we now have one underway. This means a single Power supply goes in, powers the HUB which powers the Pi and provides enough current to support lots of GPIO antics. At least two but possibly three extra USB ports will be available shortly, and yes, we have upgrade options for existing users and no, they will not be very expensive – expect around £15 plus delivery as a new back panel is also provided.
I am a bit surprised by a comment suggesting no documentation. We include a user guide (an evolving one too) and Classroom friendly Project Cards. The project cards are free and available from the Fuze website as well as being provided on the SD card. We will continue to provide more projects as soon as we can – it is an on-going process and users are invited to submit more too – there’s a common goal here, make it easy to teach and therefore learn computer programming.
Once we are up-to around sixteen projects we are hoping to include a printed book version in the box. At the same time, they are all free to download on the website.
I don’t want to be canned for over stretching my welcome but just one more thing, we love criticism, good or bad. We have a short window of opportunity to get this right, but we are trying and every review and comment helps us to refine the product to meet its objective – make programming accessible again!
Sincere regards and again, many thanks
I was literally on the verge of ordering a basic setup (with additional breadboard), as I have a Pi, but I was also going to add a small open frame PSU, small fan, kettle plug, and 7 port hub (the parts are about £10), this would have left me with a rather messy backplate which I can live with - a completely blank backplate (with some standoffs) might be a good addition to your shop for people who want to customise?
Seriously consider extra USB, while 7 is obviously excessive (I had it spare) 2 could cut it a little fine - do you mean 2 extra (i.e. a total of three out the back), some unpowered USB drives need two ports, they can go really quickly.
Great product BTW, just so tidy, having a bare board is sometimes a little too much of a leap for people, vaguely reminiscent of when I got my ZX81, I got one of the first of the prebuilt ones, when I was 12, my soldering skills looked like welding, having a box you can just turn on and go is great - it's all about getting on the learning curve, perhaps you could consider trying to getting the OS/BASIC added into NOOBS?
I've posted this before, but still relevant:
- for those 'electronic engineers'* like me who occasionally dabbled in home electronics and want to get back into it:
- get an arduino nano (7 quid). It comes ready to plug into a 2 quid breadboard, USB to PC (or mac, etc) and you can be running your first program in 10 minutes (lovely basic IDE to write your app in C or C++)
digital input/outputs, analogue input/output, serial comms - it does the lot.
I've done a bunch of projects so far, the latest being my home made Sous Vide temp controlled cooker.
I love the simplicity. most sensors (serial comms) can be had for a couple of quid - everything from light, sound, etc to altimeter and carbon monoxide. easy control of motors, servos, steppers, relays.
really, the world is your lobster.
I work away from home out of a hotel all week at the moment, and have a Tupperware box full of arduinos and sensors, pocket digital oscilloscope, etc and wile the nights in to hotel away creating my latest 'inventions'**
*i.e. got a degree in electronic engineering 20 years ago, and have worked in IT ever since.
**I do wonder if the cleaner sees the box whether she'll think I'm making a bomb or something right enough, so hide it back in my luggage when I leave for work in the morning!
I do like the Arduino, it is all you say and more, but I do not consider it a replacement for the RPi, the Arduino & RPi compliment each other.
With the Arduino you can quickly get a LED to flash, after which you start to learn some serious programming if you want to get the most from it. Quite a few of the Arduino users work in the embedded arena and the discussions on the differences between C & C++ are very enlightening, just go to the forum and ask an innocent question on what type of strings you should use, it's the equivalent of lighting the blue touch paper :-) Joking aside the Arduino is an excellent platform for those wishing to experiment/learn about microcontollers.
The RPi is a general purpose computer which also has some I/O, you don't need another computer to program it. The RPi is despite what many think, is squarely aimed at the education market for teaching computer sciences. The Pi Foundation is growing it's educational resources at a fantastic rate and they have some very good professional educators on the team. I often see comments from "teachers" on this and other sites about how useless it is for education, however comment is all they seem good for I don't notice them doing anything more.
I like the RPi mascot Babbage because it always reminds me of the quote by it's name sake:-
Propose to an Englishman any principle, or any instrument, however admirable, and you will observe that the whole effort of the English mind is directed to find a difficulty, a defect, or an impossibility in it. If you speak to him of a machine for peeling a potato, he will pronounce it impossible: if you peel a potato with it before his eyes, he will declare it useless, because it will not slice a pineapple. Impart the same principle or show the same machine to an American or to one of our Colonists, and you will observe that the whole effort of his mind is to find some new application of the principle, some new use for the instrument.
"I do like the Arduino, it is all you say and more, but I do not consider it a replacement for the RPi, the Arduino & RPi compliment each other."
no argument there - wasn't suggesting it did. I was suggesting that old electronic geeks might prefer the arduino over RPI - more instant feedback and ability to prototype physical ideas quickly.
arduino isn't just about 'turning LEDs on and off' - arducopter for example is an open source project implementing an amazingly complex and advanced autonomous flight controller in one arduino.
You can do a hell of a lot with an arduino - it's really in a different ball park from an old PIC chip.
"arduino isn't just about 'turning LEDs on and off' - arducopter for example is an open source project implementing an amazingly complex and advanced autonomous flight controller in one arduino."
Sorry, I did not intend to belittle the Arduino, my point was to say the Arduino can quickly be setup and have kids flashing LED's in minutes which is great for them. After which there is so much more that can be learned from this little wonder in the field of microcontrollers and the need to code well and efficiently for these devices. Here I think it wins over the RPi for getting down and dirty and understanding low level programming techniques. Then as you mention the availability of cheap sensors, actuators and shields make it a winner.
As an old electronics geek myself I love them and agree for many it is a good way to go, you can get some nice toys for it as well :-)
I use www.ikalogic.com logic analyzer and Atmel studio with this little extra http://www.visualmicro.com/ this gives a rather professional setup for very low cost.
"You can do a hell of a lot with an arduino - it's really in a different ball park from an old PIC chip." - It is, in fact, in the exact same ballpark as an equivalent current PIC chip.
I have no intention whatsoever of starting Yet Another PIC/AVR Holy Flamewar, but for all intents and purposes PICs and AVRs in spite of some inherent differences are largely capable of doing much the same stuff in much the same way. Yes, obviously, there are families / classes of varying complexity in both camps; big deal. Next...
Ah! Nascom 1 - my first computer kit. Started with just 1K of memory and eventually expanded to a massive 32K with Basic and a colour board all in a wooden case and driving and ex Post Office tellytypewriter as a printer. Programmed initially using op codes and a calculator to change into hex code. Things really took off with the BBC1 computer.
The FUZE has been certified CE (not self certified either) so yes it conforms to LVD & EMC requirements. Saying that the Pi is of course also CE approved and we have really added very little in the way of circuit electronics. The PSU is also CE approved, but to be safe, the whole unit was certified with everything attached, program running and little LEDs flashing in sequence.
Please keep in mind though, we're not responsible for any gravitational electromagnetic spacetime disrupting gadget you happen to build on it Ok.... (you can do that in BASIC and a few flashing LEDs you know, well that's what you tell the kids. Now stand well back....)
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