The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Yes, You Can Write an Awesome Game in Just 10 Lines of Basic

An annual contest challenges programmers to create 8-bit games of intrigue and adventure

3 min read
Image of a clone of a popular 1980s arcade game.
Image: Víctor Parada

Image of a clone of a popular 1980s arcade game.Ready Player Two: This is a clone of a popular 1980s arcade game written for the Atari 800 in just 10 lines of BASIC code. Two people can play at once.Image: Víctor Parada

There’s life in the old dog yet. The original computer language designed to help students learn programming was Beginners All Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, or BASIC. Although invented in 1964 at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, BASIC had its heyday in the 1980s, when it was hardwired into the microcomputers finding their way into people’s homes by the million. Then it became unfashionable, derided for its limitations—and now languages like MIT’s Scratch are the go-tos for teaching children. But, as the April winners of the annual BASIC 10 Liner Contest show, in the right hands the language can still be a remarkably expressive tool.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush

Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

Keep Reading ↓Show less