Where have all the programmers gone?

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Hated Moron
Posts: 131
Joined: Thu 07 Apr 2022, 10:10

Where have all the programmers gone?

Post by Hated Moron »

A few years ago there were several programmers active in writing and publishing excellent programs in BBC BASIC, often games. Here are a few, with some of the programs they created (apologies to anybody who should have been included, but isn't):

Usama Amin: Copter.
Geoff Gibson: Storeman.
Jeroen Groenendaal: Joop, Soap, Vapiki.
Rob Jeffs: Choplifter, Citaquexyle.
Paul Marshall: Dibley, Quirk.
Simon Mathiassen: Blast!, Unnamed Shooter.
Kian Vincent: Set.
David Williams: Too many to mention!

I've not seen anything from them for quite a while. Some may have migrated to a different programming language, or may no longer have the time or inclination to write code, or have suffered from some illness (or worse: I fear at least one may sadly have died).

If anybody can shed any light on this (without revealing anything confidential or personal, of course) I would be interested to know.
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Hated Moron
Posts: 131
Joined: Thu 07 Apr 2022, 10:10

Re: Where have all the programmers gone?

Post by Hated Moron »

Hated Moron wrote:
Sun 12 Jun 2022, 17:47
A few years ago there were several programmers active in writing and publishing excellent programs in BBC BASIC, often games.
I should emphasise that, of course, I am not only interested in games. It's just that games (or at least non-trivial ones) tend to push the language to its limits, and that is what I am interested in.

With the programmers that I listed seemingly having departed the BBC BASIC scene altogether, I worry that we have lost a core knowledgebase of how to use some of the more powerful features of the language such as 3D graphics, shader graphics, the Box2D physics engine etc.

It's those, and similar, features that make BBC BASIC 'special' and without them being used it is just another programming language, one of dozens which are equally capable of carrying out everyday tasks.
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Hated Moron
Posts: 131
Joined: Thu 07 Apr 2022, 10:10

Re: Where have all the programmers gone?

Post by Hated Moron »

On 13/06/2022 05:58, Maksim AbuAjamieh wrote (cross-posted from the Discussion Group):
Is there an accessible recent resource (book/tutorial) which newcomers
can refer to for learning the modern BBC Basic with its recent features
you mentioned?
I think most people learn these kinds of things by example, and there are over 160 example programs supplied with BBC BASIC for SDL 2.0 which illustrate virtually every aspect of the modern language. In addition to that there are more specific resources, such as the conversions to BBCSDL of David Williams's GFXLIB demos that he refers to here.

I would expect that somebody wanting to write a program, which requires some knowledge outside their existing skill-set, would firstly try to find something similar in the supplied examples that they could adapt, or at least use as a framework. With that as a starting point, and the detailed descriptions of libraries etc. in the main Help documentation, they should be able to make progress.

If they can't find the information they need there, they can look in the Wiki, or search the archives of the forum(s) and discussion group, or Google for it on the internet, or actually ask at one of the forums, which is what they are for! I'm afraid I just don't buy the argument that the information has to be spoon-fed to them.

After all, those eight programmers that I listed never had access to any book or tutorial telling them how to write top-quality games in 'modern' BBC BASIC. How did they do it? If they were still around they could tell us, but sadly they seem to have disappeared.
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p_m21987
Posts: 154
Joined: Mon 02 Apr 2018, 21:51

Re: Where have all the programmers gone?

Post by p_m21987 »

It's sad they're all absent, I hope to see them return.

Richard, if you would like, I could port my animating graphics demos and various GUI programs I've made recently to BBCSDL, they might make good example programs.

Hated Moron
Posts: 131
Joined: Thu 07 Apr 2022, 10:10

Re: Where have all the programmers gone?

Post by Hated Moron »

p_m21987 wrote:
Tue 14 Jun 2022, 18:42
I could port my animating graphics demos and various GUI programs I've made recently to BBCSDL, they might make good example programs.
I'm sure they would be welcome, but it's not a lack of example programs that particularly concerns me (hopefully there are already enough to cover virtually every application type) but rather the loss of expertise in key areas such as writing top-quality video games.

As things stand we can't ever expect a BBC BASIC program to win a prize in a SyntaxBomb games programming contest again, as three of David Williams's programs (and at least one by another author) have in the past. I find this really depressing.

It feels to me that at the same time as I've been trying to improve the capabilities of BBC BASIC (for example in writing the gfxlib and imglib libraries) the interest in using such capabilities, by the user community, has declined. :cry:
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kigohhere
Posts: 43
Joined: Fri 20 Apr 2018, 00:56

Re: Where have all the programmers gone?

Post by kigohhere »

p_m21987 wrote:
Tue 14 Jun 2022, 18:42
It's sad they're all absent, I hope to see them return.


This is sad but it is not a major issue. In my opinion, one major issue may be that BBCSDL didn't enlarge the user base too much last several years.

Hated Moron
Posts: 131
Joined: Thu 07 Apr 2022, 10:10

Re: Where have all the programmers gone?

Post by Hated Moron »

For my behalf, I badly needed a better editor and debugger. I ended up with C++ mixed with a bit of C and CodeBlocks, after trying several languages.
That's fine, but I don't think the comparison is valid.

Suppose you wanted to use "C++ mixed with a bit of C and CodeBlocks" to write a program like pinball.bbc, which would run in Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS or in a browser. The program combines 3D graphics with a physics engine, so before even starting to write code you would need to include the necessary libraries, for example OpenGL and Box2D. Then to make it cross-platform you'd probably need to pull in a framework like SDL2.

Once you've incorporated those libraries into your C++ project, and assuming you know enough about them, you could start writing code, but you'd only be able to test it on the particular platform you're using for development. To get the program going on all the other platforms you'd need access to each of them for testing. And I'm willing to bet, based on the issues I've encountered in porting BBC BASIC itself, you'd encounter all sorts of compatibility problems on the way.

How long would all that take, I wonder, and what level of understanding of the intricacies of OpenGL, Box2D and SDL 2.0 would it require? I don't think the average hobby programmer would have a hope in hell of achieving it!

Yet in BBC BASIC I was able to write that program from scratch in a couple of days. I didn't need a detailed understanding of OpenGL or Box2D, because I was able to call upon the standard libraries supplied with both BB4W and BBCSDL, which provide a simplified interface. I didn't need to think about the cross-platform issue, because BBC BASIC takes care of that for me. And the program runs on either BB4W or BBCSDL!

So, as I see it, the productivity of BBC BASIC in a case such as this (and this thread is about video games after all) is hugely more than that of C++ or C or CodeBlocks. It's much easier and faster to achieve a working program, and it will run on a wide range of platforms with no extra effort. In a head-to-head coding competition, to write a cross-platform program such as this, BBC BASIC should win easily!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hh7r7zRAeNw
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kigohhere
Posts: 43
Joined: Fri 20 Apr 2018, 00:56

Re: Where have all the programmers gone?

Post by kigohhere »

Hated Moron wrote:
Tue 14 Jun 2022, 20:48
It feels to me that at the same time as I've been trying to improve the capabilities of BBC BASIC (for example in writing the gfxlib and imglib libraries) the interest in using such capabilities, by the user community, has declined. :cry:
Wow..oh..

After I read your several posts, I believe that they will make BBCSDL users think that the future is not too good. In my view, a good complete plan is required to make BBCSDL great again.

Hated Moron
Posts: 131
Joined: Thu 07 Apr 2022, 10:10

Re: Where have all the programmers gone?

Post by Hated Moron »

kigohhere wrote:
Wed 15 Jun 2022, 13:34
In my opinion, one major issue may be that BBCSDL didn't enlarge the user base too much last several years.
Indeed. There needs to be a core of enthusiastic users who can show what can be done, encourage others to try things, exchange ideas, provide a broader support base etc. And that's exactly what we did have a few years ago, with the group of programmers I listed - and several more when one includes applications other than video games.

But whilst I have been trying to make BBC BASIC more relevant to the modern computing scene, by porting it to platforms like the Raspberry Pi, mobile devices and browsers, these people seem to have drifted away. Maybe they were so wedded to Windows that they couldn't see the benefits of cross-platform operation, I don't know.
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Hated Moron
Posts: 131
Joined: Thu 07 Apr 2022, 10:10

Re: Where have all the programmers gone?

Post by Hated Moron »

kigohhere wrote:
Wed 15 Jun 2022, 14:14
In my view, a good complete plan is required to make BBCSDL great again.
I'm all out of ideas. :(

I'm pleased with BBCSDL's performance, productivity and compatibility, and I don't think there is much that needs to be 'fixed' in those areas.

I've done what I can to 'spread the word' by posting about BBC BASIC on Social Media (where the enthusiasm seems much higher than here).

I've - contrary to my better judgement - given a presentation to ABug which was recorded and is available for anybody to view. :shock:

If there's anything more that I could have done, I don't know what it is.
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