Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 6, NO. 11 / MARCH 1988

Type-In Software


Text for your programs or videotapes


Big Letters is a user-friendly display program that makes it easy to create flashy text screens in large-character Graphics Modes 1 and 2. You can even create title screens for your videotapes with this BASIC program, which works with Atari 8-bit computers of any memory size, disk or cassette.

One reason I bought my trusty Atari 800 back in 1982 was the ease of using large letters in Graphics Modes 1 and 2. My daughter is visually impaired, and I've used these modes in many successful math and spelling tutor programs for her.

Over the years, I tinkered with my Big Letters program until it did everything I want for this kind of specialized text editing. Big Letters quickly creates large, clear HELP pages, title screens and menus for your BASIC programs. And you'll never need to type a single PRINT #6 or POSITION statement because Big Letters creates all the subroutines!

When my family bought our first VCR, we discovered a bonus--Big Letters is also great for titling our videotapes.

For newer Atari users, these are the large-text graphics modes used in Big Letters: Graphics 1 is double-width with 20 lines on the screen. It has 20 characters per Line instead of the 38 per line in Graphics 0, which is the mode that goes on automatically when you turn on your Atari. Graphics 2 is double-width, double-height, still 20 characters per line but only 1O lines fitting on the screen.

Graphics 17 is simply Graphics 1 with four extra lines at the bottom of the screen gained by removing the Graphics 0 text window. Graphics 18 is Graphics 2 with an extra 2 lines gained by closing the text windows.

To put the power of Big Letters at your command, type in Listing 1. BIGTEXT.BAS, check it with TYPO II and SAVE a copy before you RUN it.

Figure 1
1 20 20
2 10 20
17 24 20
18 12 20


Each Big Letters text screen is created on a Graphics 0 editing screen. Your editing commands are listed on the left half of the screen. The right half of the screen contains your editing window. The size of this window is determined by the Graphics Mode your Big Letters will use.

Editing your text is easy. Individual characters or whole lines of text can be inserted or deleted with the same familiar keystrokes used for programming and word processing.

You can also use [CONTROL] [ARROW] key combinations to move the cursor one space at a time.

Try to avoid using the ["] character, though, because it will appear in a different color than the rest of your text.

You can preview your work anytime by pressing [CONTROL] [G], then answering a prompt to select a Big Letters display with or without a Grarphics 0 text window.

And here's the best part: You can move between the editing window and the Big Letters display at will, without losing your work. If you're working in Graphics 2, for example, and want to see your work in Graphics 1. press [CONTROL] [C]. Press [CONTOL] [G] to return to your original Graphics Mode.

You can use combinations of lowercase and inverse video characters to create Big Letters in four different colors. Figure 2 shows the available colors and how to get them. The background color is black. If you don't like those colors, feel free to alter the SETCOLOR statements located throughout the program.

Figure 2
small letters
inverse small letters







When you're satisfied with the large text displays you've created, you can record them with your VCR.

The following method assumes that you own at least two video monitors or TVs--one for your Atari and one attached to a VCR. If you only own one TV, make sure it's connected to your VCR before proceeding.

First, unscrew your Atari's switchbox from the back of your television set. Next, pack up your computer, disk drive and power supplies and carefully carry them over to your VCR. Set up your Atari next to your VCR and connect your Atari's switchbox to the VCR INPUT terminals of the VCR.

Next, tune your VCR to the same TV channel that you use for your computer (channel 2 or 3).

Finally RUN Big Letters and create your display.

If you have several different Big Letters displays to record, you can create them one at a time, starting and stopping the VCR for each one. This is the method recommended for beginners.

Once you feel comfortable using Big Letters, you should try this advanced techniclue. Ilsing this method, all of the Big Letters displays are created beforehand. Then, Big Letters will displa)r each one, one at a time, like a slide show.

Begin by creating several display pages. As you complete each page, you must merge it into the program in memory by pressing [CONTROL] [M].

The [CONTROL] [M] function takes the current display from the editing screen, translates the display into a BASIC subroutine, and appends it to the end of the program in memory.

When you have completed all required pages, press [CONTROL] [R] to start the review routine. This routine lets you display (and videotape) any or all pages in the large-character text modes. The [START] and [SELECT] keys control forward and reverse page-flipping, while the [OPTION] key returns you to the editing screen.

When you're finished, press the [RESET] key. The subroutines that Big Letters created for you begin at line 10000. To store these subroutines, Disk users should type LIST "D:FILENAME.LST",10000,32767. (Cassette users, type LIST "C:",10000,32767).

To use these display subroutines in your own BASIC programs, simply ENTER them into memory. Disk users should type ENTER "D:FILENAME.LST", Cassette users type ENTER "C:". (Remember these display programs use line numbers above 9999, so make sure your original BASIC programs don't.)

Note: After appending a page to the program in memory, pressing [SHIFT] [CLEAR] erases your work from the string-handling part of the program by refilling all strings with blank spaces. You are then returned to the introductory display, where you can select the mode to work with next.


Line 50 executes the introductory display routine starting at line 1570 where mode 1 or 2 is selected, then executes the appropriate editing window starting at line 520.

Lines 60-530 accept and process all keyboard activity and displays the editing windows.

Lines 540-560 initialize our strings.

Lines 570-890 set up editing windows.

Lines 1180-1185 changes all &"] characters to inverse video.

Lines 1410-1570 append all text in the editing window to the end of the program in the form of program statements.

Lines 1580-1600 contain the error trapping routines.

Lines 1610-1720 contains the intoroductory display routine.

Jerry Vanden Bosch is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force working with NASA. This is his first publication in Antic.

Listing:BIGTEXT.BAS Download