The use of a microcomputer as an aid to Winter Camp dates back to 1978, when the chapter was fortunate to have use of one at Winter Camp II owned by Mike Osvath. At the time few people were familiar with the microcomputer and several members of the chapter were pioneer programmers and users. In the subsequent years, computers have become more available to the common man and are now much less a mystery. However, they remain widely used as a vital part of the Winter Camp program.
In the early days of microcomputing, little prewritten software was available. The user had to be a programmer. It is mixed blessing today, that much software is available and most computer owners and users know very little of computer programming. Fortunately, Winter Camp computing is based on a tradition of programming and all participants are encouraged to make this use of the computer.
Many programming languages have been developed for various applications, but the high-level language called "BASIC" is available for most personal computer systems. Winter Camp participants will want to learn the syntax of BASIC, so that they can communicate with the computer and write their own useful programs. As one increases in proficiency in the vocabulary of BASIC, learning the additional enhancements of the Disk Operating System will provide the ability to communicate with a disk drive.
By far, the most challenging computer programming is writing a machine language program, probably through use of an assembler program. This is the high speed language that provides the single simple commands that make sense to the computer. BASIC and other high-level languages must eventually use these simple machine commands in there own execution. Winter Camp participants may want to explore the almost limitless possibilities of assembly-level programming.
Since the computers and the peripherals brought to Winter Camp are more than cheap toys, there use must be strictly regulated. Improper use of the computers could spell disaster. Unauthorized users should not turn on or off the equipment, particularly when a TRS80 computer is being used. While all Winter Camp participants will be allowed access to the computer equipment, they must do so only under the permission and supervision of the equipment owner.
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