Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 4, NO. 4 / AUGUST 1985


Animated cartoons for your computer

by Matthew Ratcliff

Create funny and inventive cartoons with remarkable ease by animating text. Save your creations and play them back at any speed. Use ATARI 'Toons for animated title screens on your BBS If you're a sysop. Send Antic your best ATARI 'Toon by Oct. 1, 1985 and you could win a brand new MPP 1200 baud modem. ATARI 'Toons is a BASIC program which will work on all Atari computers that have 32K disk or 24K cassette.

animate adj 1: possessing or characterized by life: ALIVE. 2: full of life: ANIMATED syn see ATARI 'Toons

Because the Atari is a creative, graphic computer with several methods of animation built right into it, we tend to forget earlier computer animation techniques. Before player/missiles, page-flipping, and bit-mapping, there was something called "cursor art."

Mainframe programmers who wanted to dress up their programs with a bit of graphics, but were limited by the constraints of text-oriented machines, used cursor art. They still do. It's the most compatible of all graphics techniques because it only requires a cursor and a few simple screen editing commands.

So what is cursor art? It might be defined as animation through editing. Use [CONTROL] [ARROW] keys and move the cursor – like a small square "bug" – around on the screen. You've just animated the cursor. Place the cursor at the beginning of a line of text, hold down the [CONTROL] [DELETE] keys, then watch as the square bug swallows the sentence.


With ATARI 'Toons you can create amusing cartoon shows that are easily animated with Atari's [CONTROL] key functions. ATARI 'Toons will put together simple editing functions, memorize them, and play back simple character graphics movie shows which can be saved to disk or cassette. Text can be made to zip around the screen and, with practice, you will soon memorize the control-graphics keystrokes for creating all sorts of 'stick figures' for some quite interesting shows.

After you have mastered the operation of your cartoon studio, be sure to read the rules for the ATARI 'Toons Contest printed nearby. Send your best cartoon to Antic before October 1 and you could win a new MPP 1200 baud modem.

For Antic Disk subscribers a couple of demonstration cartoons have been included. KNIGHT.SHO is a "Knight Rider" spoof. POKER.SHO is a friendly game of poker between outlaw Black Bart and a tenderfoot. These demos should help you get those creative juices flowing. If you don't have this month's Antic disk you can create a short demo by typing in Listing 3.

Several bulletin boards are known for their good cursor art demonstrations.One is Magic Castle BBS in Los Angeles. Phone (213) 658-7378 between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m. Pacific time and select the Cartoon of the Month. On the East Coast try The Asylum. It's in N. Miami Beach, Florida at (305) 937-1880, available 24 hours at 300 baud.


  • DISK: Listing 1 is ATARI 'Toons. Type it in and SAVE it to disk. Be sure to verify it with TYPO II. Listing 2 must be typed in absolutely accurately. Even though it uses it's own checksums, it's a good idea to check it with TYPO II. After correctly typing in Listing 2, SAVE a copy. Then RUN it and it will create a file called CARTOON.SYS which should be on the same disk as Listing 1. Listing 3, when RUN, will create a sample cartoon file called ROBOT.SHO, which can later be loaded from the ATARl 'Toons program. You only need to type it in if you want a sample cartoon.

  • CASSETTE: Listing 1 is ATARI 'Toons. Type it in check it with TYPO II, and CSAVE it to cassette. Now, remove this first cassette, WITHOUT RE-WINDING IT and put in a fresh cassette. Carefully, type in Listing 2 and CSAVE a copy. Although it has its own checksum routine, use TYPO II for accuracy. Listing 2 must be typed in absolutely correctly. Listing 2, when RUN, will attempt to write to your cassette so, if you wish to test it, test it on a third "scratch" cassette. When you have Listing 2 correctly typed in, place the FIRST cassette back in, set your recorder to RECORD and RUN listing 2. Your cassette tape should now have a CSAVEd version of listing 1, followed immediately by the data generated by listing 2. Listing 3, when RUN, creates a sample cartoon which can be loaded from ATARl 'Toons. Though it need not be typed in, should you decide you want it, be sure and CSAVE it to fresh cassette, then put in another fresh cassette before RUNning it.

  • Antic DISK SUBSCRIBERS: The main ATARI 'Toons program is on your disk with the filename ATARTOON.BAS. You can select it from the menu or, from BASIC, type RUN "D:ATARTOON.BAS". There are two cartoon files on your disk, KNIGHT.SHO, and POKER.SHO, which you can load and run from ATARI 'Toons. Both cartoons should run at a speed of 200, with the cursor ON. Note: If you choose to move the ATARTOON.BAS file to another disk, you must also move the ATARTOON.SYS file.


Wben you RUN ATARI 'Toons, a menu will appear, showing the current size of your cartoon buffer – or memory space – and how much room is left to add onto your cartoon. Below this are nine numbered options and a command prompt. We'll first describe each menu option, then talk about how to use the program.

  1. Load a Sbow – When chosen, you will be given the option to enter a filename, or press (RETURN] to first see the directory of any drive (if you're using a disk). You can also press [ESC] at any time to return to the menu. If a cartoon is already in memory, you will be prompted to delete the current show first. Cassette owners type C:[RETURN] to load a cartoon. If you have a disk, type D:FILENAME[RETURN]. When the load is complete, the buffer figures will change depending on the size of the cartoon file.

  2. Save this Show – Save the show currently in memory. This uses the same procedures as 1, above. If the buffer is empty you will be told and returned to the menu. If the "save" disk filename already exists you will be prompted to overwrite it.

  3. Merge a Show – This function comes in handy for putting many small shows together as one cartoon series. Once a filename is given, the show's site is checked against the amount of buffer space left. If there is enough room it will be appended to the current show in memory.

  4. Playback Show – Play the cartoon show at a user selected speed of one to 256, using the last character set enabled (see 8 below). The best animatlon speeds seem to be from 150 to 200. You may interrupt the show at any time by pressing [START]. Press the [SPACE] bar to start and stop the display.

  5. Edit this Show – Add to the current show in memory. The display will be switched from the menu to the edit screen. If the show has not been played back in its entirety since it was loaded, merged, or played last; it will be played back at maximum speed to position the cursor.

    Any keystroke combination is allowed while editing including the [SHIFT] [CLEAR]. You may use the [CONTROL] [ARROW] keys or a joystick in Port 1 to move the cursor. The proper [CONTROL] [ARROW] keystrokes are placed in the buffer for playback. Press the fire button to place the last character typed on the screen.

    Even [SHIFT] [DELETE] and [INSERT] work to move text below the current line up and down. Use [CONTROL] [INSERT] and [DELETE] to move characters to the right of the cursor back and forth. These key functions will "animate" the cartoon show for you. Use [TAB] for fast cursor moves horizontally.

    Console keys perform special functions too. Press [START] to playback the current show, at the last speed chosen. Press [SELECT] to delete one or more characters from the end of the show. You will be returned to the menu screen and asked how many characters to delete. Press [RETURN] only to take out the last one typed. If more than one is to be deleted, type the value and press [REURN].

    The program will prompt you for verification before a large delete is performed. After the delete is done the EDIT screen reappears. The show is played back from the start to reposition the cursor. Note that shows always begin with a clear screen character automatically (keep it in mind if you plan to merge shows). Press [OPTION] to exit the EDIT mode and return to the menu sceen. If, while editing, the buffer is completely filled you will automatically be returned to the menu.

  6. Make New Show – Erase the current show in memory and begin editing another.

  7. Disk Directory – List a directory of any disk drive to the screen.

  8. Character Set – If you wish, you may load a custom character set for use during EDIT and Playback. If you don't choose this option, ATARI 'Toons will use the standard Atari set.

    If you want ATARI 'Toons to automatically load and enable your favorite character set, put it on your ATARI 'Toons disk and name it CHAR.SET. Other character sets may be loaded using menu option 8. Automatic loading is not available to cassette owners, but custom character sets can be loaded from cassette with this menu option.

  9. Quit ATARI 'Toons – Exit the program. All RAM previously reserved for the character set and screen flipping will be returned for program use.


If you've typed in Listing 3 and RUN it, you should have a small demo file which can be loaded with menu option 1, and played with option 4. It's short but will give you a good idea of the potential of ATARI 'Toons.

If you are still a little unsure, the following will lead you through creation of your first ATARI 'Toons show. Select option 6 from the menu, then answer [Y] at the prompt to clear memory. You will be presented with a blank screen and the cursor in the "home" position in the upper left corner. Put a joystick in Port 1 and move the cursor around with the stick to get a feel for its function.

Return the cursor back to the home position. Type [CONTROL] [Q], [CONTROL] [R], [CONTROL] [E], and press [RETURN]. Type [SHIFT] [=], [CONTROL] [T], [SHIFT] [=], and press [RETURN] again. Next press [CONTROL] [Z], [CONTROL] [R], [CONTROL] [C], and press [RETURN].

You should now have a box in the top left of the sceen with a ball inside it. If you make a typing mistake along the way, just press SELECT and [RETURN] to delete the last character typed.

Now use [CONTROL] [UP] or the joystick to home the cursor again. Press [SHIFT] [INSERT]. Notice that the box and ball just jogged down one line. Press the fire button a few times. Now press [SHIFT] [DELETE], and then the fire button until the box is back where it was. Now press [CONTROL] [INSERT].

Move the cursor down one line with the joystick and press the fire button. Repeat this procedure once again. Press file, move up one, press file, move up, and press fire. You have just moved the box and ball two places to the right. Try this a few more times and then repeat the procedure with the [CONTROL] [DELETE] key function until the box is back in the home position once again.

Finally press the [OPTION] key to return to the menu. Choose option 4 for playback. Use a speed of about 75 to 100 since this is a short "movie". Select playback with the cursor on. Press [RETURN] to start the show, and presto you have your first cartoon show.


These picture files can be loaded into your own programs and played. I modified an AMIS BBS progam for one of the local sysops a while back. A new menu option was added so that remote users could see the "movie of the week." This was a quite a popular feature. A short routine to read a show and play it back might look like this:

20 INPUT #1,A
30 FOR I=1 TO A:GET #1,B
35 ? CHR$(B);

(Note: The first byte of a cartoon file contains the length of the file.)

An AMIS BBS could be modifed similarly, but the ? CHRS$(B) would have to be changed to something like

35 ? #MODEM;CHR$(B);

Since this would be sent over the modem at a relatively slow 300 (or 1200) baud, the delay loop in line 40 would not be necessary.

Matthew Ratcliff has been one of our top program contributors since the early days of Antic. His last appearance was in March 1985 with "Custom Print." ATARTOON.BAS Download



POKER.SHO Download