GFABASIC Forum – a report


Since 1986 the programming language GFABASIC has a strong reputation on the Atari ST and its compatibles. This dialect of the BASIC programming language with many elements of structured and procedural programming still has many advantages over other programming languages on the Atari ST.

The GFABASIC Editor on the Atari ST

The GFA-BASIC Editor on the Atari ST

On the Atari ST GFABASIC makes access to its operating system and hardware comparatively easy. For the novice programmer its integrated development environment and the interpreter allow an easy introduction into programming. A lot of debugging help is available and most errors result in clean error messages and a clean exit from the buggy code instead of machine crash with bombs on screen.
A compiler has been available as well which allows to translate the finished program into Motorola 68000 machine code and to release the software standalone.
In short, anyone who wants to start coding on the Atari ST, even in 2009, should take a look at GFABASIC. Even professionals can make use of it to create tools, subroutines or for calculating tabulated data to be used in software written in machine code.

Both novice and seasoned coders need advice, help, documentation and exchange of information and discussions with fellow programmers. In the past there have been no dedicated forums for GFABASIC. Some small scale projects were founded but didn’t have an impact. Isolated attempts of such forums at dialup BBSs died with their host systems and more or less have been forgotten.

More generic forums on the web like [1] tried to cover GFABASIC as a separate subtopic. But naturally a forum which deals with all aspects of the Atari ST and its compatibles is likely not to care for all specialities of a specialized topic such as GFA-BASIC.

GFABASIC forum banner

GFA-BASIC forum banner

A couple of French GFABASIC enthusiasts, including Tomchi/NoExtra of r0x fame, decided to change this and open a forum on the World Wide Web with the purpose to care only for GFABASIC. The forum is located at [2] and worth a visit.

The GFABASIC forum

The GFA-BASIC forum

Upon login you can change the basic layout of the forum to English language if desired. Being a French website, the default is French of course.

Any modern web browser with cookie support should allow you to use the forum. For better readability proper support of CSS is of course of help. But even the available web browsers on the Atari ST (e.q. CAB or Highwire) should allow you to visit and navigate the forum.

The forum itself is divided into several subcategories. Programming GEM compatible applications is a special subtopic as well as games and demo coding. Even the small sub community of users of GFABASIC on the PC is treated well here.

Most sections of the forum are in French language but there is an international sub forum where all topics can be discussed in English as well. Basically all questions in regard with the programming language GFABASIC are treated and cared for. Don’t hesitate. Just ask for help or provide help in the form of the knowledge you gained for yourself. Even a 5 line PROCEDURE or a tricky one line statement can be of use to others.

Even in the French section, trying to ask for help is well worth the effort. The active people are helpful and willing to help, even if the language barrier imposes a problem. It shouldn’t be one, at least not in such a friendly and tight sub community.

Many interesting topics in GFABASIC are available in the form of articles. Those were written in the early 90s and most of them are in French. Naturally the forum should be a place to translate them, allowing a wider public to read and benefit from them. Even if you are not a 100% technical person who can understand everything, helping to translate such articles would be of use to all others. Don’t just consume information, help to make more information available and accessible.

Using a forum like this one is a key resource to share knowledge. A few years back I started to write a small tutorial on using GFABASIC. Although the original web page disappeared from the net, I added the tutorial into the international section of the GFABASIC forum. It stays accessible in this way – and it even is easy to extend. Do the same, share your knowledge to the benefit of others!

All in all the GFABASIC forum is a large resource of help. It’s existence will not only allow GFABASIC to stay active as a used programming language but it also enables more coders to produce new software for the Atari ST line of computers. Let it be utilities, applications, games or demos, every piece of new software helps to keep the Atari ST alive.

Did you code Atari today? If not, you might want to learn it. With GFABASIC, it is very easy and the forum will give you plenty of help and examples to learn from.


  2. GFABasic forum
  3. GFABASIC at Wikipedia

6 Responses to “GFABASIC Forum – a report”

  1. stickhead Says:

    Excellent! I had no idea about this GFA BASIC resource. Now there is nothing holding me back in the switch over from STOS ; )

    I was thinking about writing a boot-up menu that offers a choice of HD compatible games when you start up the machine. I figure even GEM games would be compatible with a little manipulation of the DESKTOP.INF file. This was basically so I could make a game-orientated SD card for my Ultrasatan. Anyway, it seems silly getting my hands dirty with assembler code when it would not be resource intensive (I don’t intend on making it all pretty like a demo). I mentioned this to someone before and they said “Well, why not just use GEM?” It’s a good point, but even I forget some of the games full titles when given the 8+3 version. Also, there is future possibility for expansion: showing game details, reviews, box scans etc.

    Maybe it’s all a pipe dream, I have been meaning to get around to some serious coding for ages, but there is always an excuse. (It’s trying to complete Mega Man 2 atm)

    • ThorN Says:

      Good idea StickHead, a bootloader that also could load games or demos would be a really nice application. So a good topic for the next issue.

    • ChrisTOS Says:

      Unfortunately that is not very easy to do. The program will consume memory and passing parameters to the GEMDOS after exit doesn’t seem to work. Basically since we are talking about ULS or HD patches, only a small number of games will run..

  2. Tom Says:

    I can understand the reasoning and I hope this site is successful, but sometimes I feel the ST scene on the internet is so fractured, with everyone splitting off into even smaller parts

  3. lp060 Says:

    It depends what you are trying to do I guess. However a specialized forum just for GFA is far better than some generic one. You tend to find people who are much more into it and actually use it, if not down right fanatical. lol

    Nothing more annoying than posting on AF and getting several replies from people who “used to code in gfa” x years ago trying to help, that end every other post with, I think that’s how I did it back in the day. Not really helpful. 😛

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