Tired of slicing Python lists? Can’t face coding up another class in C++? Take break and try your hand at writing a little BASIC—very little, in fact, because the goal here is to write a game in just 10 lines!
The annual BASIC 10-Liner competition is now taking entries for the 2021 contest. Run almost every year by Gunnar Kanold since 2011, contestants must submit game programs written for any 8-bit home computer for which an emulator is available. Using the program to load a machine code payload is forbidden.
Some of the entries in previous years have been nothing short of astounding, leveraging the abilities of classic computers like the the TRS-80, Commodore 64, and Atari 800. Back in 2019, IEEE Spectrum interviewed Kanold about the contest, and he gave some tips if you’re thinking about throwing your hat into the ring:
While some contestants are expert programmers who have written “special development tools to perfect their 10 Liners,” the contest is still accessible to neophytes: “The barriers to participation are low. Ten lines [is] a manageable project.” … Kanold points to programing tutorials that can be found on YouTube or classic manuals [PDF] and textbooks that have been archived online. “But the best resource is the contest itself,” he says. “You can find the 10 Liners from the previous years on the home page, most of them with comprehensive descriptions. With these excellent breakdowns, you can learn how the code works.”
So take a look, download an emulator of your favorite machine (if you don’t already have a favorite, I’m partial to the BBC Micro myself) and start programming! This year’s deadline is 27 March, 2021.
Stephen Cass is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. He has previously written and edited for publications that include Discover, MIT Technology Review, Nautilus, and Popular Science. Most of his coverage has centered on computing, consumer, and aerospace technologies. Cass also has a strong interest in exploring the boundaries between science fiction and real science and technology: He has edited a number of critically acclaimed science fiction anthologies, been spotted on panels at events like the San Diego Comic-Con, and is the coauthor of Hollyweird Science, a nonfiction book about movie and TV sci-fi. He currently helms Spectrum's Resources section, where he revels in the opportunity to occasionally get paid to be a “maker" as the editor responsible for the Hands On column. Cass is also responsible for interactive projects such as the Top Programming Languages Web app. He has a bachelor's in experimental physics from Trinity College Dublin.