Tweet Your BASIC Programs at an Atari 8-Bit or Apple II Computer and Watch Them Run!

Send a tweet with a short program to @Atari8BitBot or @AppleIIBot and your program will run on an emulated Atari 8-bit or Apple II computer.

Taking inspiration from the Twitter account @BBCMicroBot, which runs an emulated version of the popular UK computer model, the BBC Micro, Kay Savetz and Bill Kendrick have teamed up to create twin Twitter bots of their own, @Atari8BitBot and @AppleIIBot. These two accounts run any program tweeted at them on an emulation of either an Atari 8-bit or an Apple II computer. Python scripts check Twitter every two minutes for incoming tweets tagging the accounts, imports the tweets into an emulator, records the emulator’s output as a video, and then uploads that video to the social network as a reply.

Users can tweet at the Atari bot in Atari BASIC, TurboBASIC XL, Logo, PILOT, or Assembly, while the Apple II bot accepts Applesoft BASIC code. Since they debuted in early September, the accounts have replied to over 500 tweets each. Twitter users have taken the opportunity to draw fractals, animate sine waves, write messages, and more. There is no sound included in the videos yet, but from the bios for each account, it seems to be in the works.

You are also to alter the output, the piece of video that is recorded, using a directive. By default, they will start running your program, let it run for a set amount of seconds, then start recording video and record for a set amount of seconds. Using directives, you can tell them how long to wait before beginning to record and how many seconds to record the program running. Simply input the kind of directive and a number in braces — {B} for begin and {S} for seconds of duration — and the program will adjust accordingly. This is useful if your program takes a long time to draw something or for any other instance in which you want to capture a specific moment of the program. The Apple bot has two additional directives — a {G} directive that gives you an authentic, old-school green screen and an {A} directive that gives an amber screen.

The creators have been troubleshooting and adding features along the way, but they’re perfectly functional for a bit of fun with old-school computer programming anytime you have the itch. They both run on a Raspberry Pi in the creator’s, Kay’s, basement. The Atari bot runs the Atari 800 emulator in an X virtual frame buffer, while the Apple bot runs the linapple emulator. Visit the Twitter accounts for any of these programs to check out what people have been creating, or tweet them a program of your own design.

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