Description of the languages for Atari 8bit computers (mostly for XL/XE models)

Atari Basic

Atari Basic is built-in interpreter of Basic language. It is available, if OPTION key wasn't pressed during start of system. Atari Basic is simple implementation of Basic with some instructions which handles specific features of Atari 8bit computers (graphics, sound, etc.). Atari Basic (and many other languages) is using standard Atari editor. You can enter command for immediately executing or for memorize it by Atari Basic. Program in Atari Basic is composed of many lines with commands separated by colons (:). To enter line write commands preceded by number of line (from 0 to 32767). To remove any line from program, just type its number. To executing your program enter command 'RUN'. Program would be executed line by line, considering their numbers. If you enter command that could not be interpreted by Atari Basic, it would be displayed with marked point of error.

Description of the Atari Basic instructions.
Atari Basic error codes description.

Turbo Basic XL

Turbo Basic XL has been written in 1985 by German programist Frank Ostrowski. It is public domain program, so it can be free distribiuted. It is interpreter of Basic language. Every program in Atari Basic can be also executed under Turbo Basic XL, but programs in TBasic wouldn't work in Atari Basic. TBasic is much faster then Atari Basic, programs under TBasic works about 2-8 times faster (it depends of kind of instructions). It is also compiler of programs in TBasic available. Compiled programs can work much faster again.

Basic XE

Basic XE has been developed in 1985 by Optimized Systems Software. This interpreter is next version of Basic XL. It is destined for Atari XL/XE, mostly for Atari 130XE. Basic XE is placed on 16 KB cartridge. Every program in Atari Basic works under Basic XE, but programs in Basic XE wouldn't work in Atari Basic. Some instructions of Basic XE are placed on disk instead of cartridge and they must be loaded during start of system. If they hasn't been loaded, Basic XE would work, but these instructions wouldn't be implemented. On computers with more memory then 64 KB, Basic XE makes accesible using this memory for program and its data (variables, arrays, strings, etc.). This mode of work is called EXTEND mode.

Microsoft Basic

It has been developed in 1981 by Microsoft corporation. MS Basic is not compatible with Atari Basic, but it is compatible with other implementations of Microsoft Basic (for example MS Basic for Apple II, or for IBM PC). Many program in these implementations would also work on MS Basic on Atari 8bit. MS Basic is about 1.5 times faster (even 5 times faster about numerical routines). It has many features useful for numerical computation, like multi-dimensional arrays or double-precision variables.

Atari LOGO

Atari LOGO has been developed in 1983 by LOGO Computer Software Inc. (LCSI). It is implementation of LOGO language with some procedures that are using special Atari features (like Player/Missile Graphics). Atari LOGO has two versions: disk and cartridge. In LOGO, we are not using lines with instructions. There is some pre-defined procedures and we can define our own procedures witch can use pre-defined procedures LOGO or other procedures defined by user.

Kyan Pascal

It has been developed in 1985 by Kyan Software. It is full implementation of Pascal language for Atari 8bit computers. Kyan Pascal set contains: text editor, compilator and runtime library. When main program is loaded it will prompt you by '>'. You can enter name of your program to execute its, or 'D:ED' for text editor, or 'D:PC' for compilator. You can also enter '!' for executing last loaded program.

List of instructions in Kyan Pascal language.

Deep Blue C

It has been written in 1982 by John Howard Palevich. This is almost full implementation of C language (floating point routines, some operators and some programming structures haven't been implemented). Deep Blue C set contains: compilator, linker and runtime library. It is also aditional library that implements floating point functions (it has been written by Frank Paris). You'll have to use external text editor to edit source code of programs, because Deep Blue C doesn't contain text editor.

There are also some other implementations of C language for Atari 8bit computers.


Action language has been developed in 1983 by Optimized Systems Software. It has been made especially for Atari 8bit computers and there isn't its implementations for any other computer. Action is placed on cartridge which contains: monitor, text editor, compilator and runtime library. There is also disk 'Action! Tool Kit', which contains aditional procedures for Action. Text editor in Action is very powerful, for example it can edit two files at the same time, lines can be up to 240 chars, there is also tags available and many other features. Monitor is main part of Action system. User can edit, compile or execute his program by enter short commands in monitor. Action allows of easy using system's procedures and hardware registers. It can be also included short routines in machine code.


It was published by Datasoft and is a relatively small implementation of Interlisp. It has a few Common Lisp extensions and runs off a single SD floppy under DOS 2.0. It comes with the normal complement of demo programs, Towers of Hanoi, Eliza, Animals and a couple others, and implements Atari specific graphics primitives.

Last updated on 6-November-98