Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 6, NO. 3 / JULY 1987

Ghost Writer

Transmit your own subliminal messages


Ghost Writer lets you experiment with subliminal messages on your Atari-- anything from "Feed Spot" to "Feel Good" to "Use TYPO II." Just don't use the power of subliminal text to influence your friends with sneaky messages such as "Buy Lunch." Ghost Writer's influence should only be used for positive-thinking, self-improvement messages. This BASIC program works on all 8-bit Atari computers of any memory size, with disk drive.

Warning: the Ghost Writer program makes USR calls to the spirit world. Not only that, techniques of subliminal suggestion are employed and you could be subconsciously influenced.

But if you're brave enough, douse those lights, lean back and commune with another world via your Atari. Ghost Writer works best from a distance and with the lights out. Try to get a black background on your monitor or TV.

Ghost Writer calls the spirits randomly--and it seems that insulting, obnoxious spirits are the most prevalent. . . "Here--we die," said the Ghost Writer. "Profound," I thought. Then came a couple of screens of gibberish. Then "Kiss--Moi" (A French ghost?) and suddenly I had this crazy urge to go jogging--so I did.

What's going on here? Actually those random phrases that Ghost Writer flashes over the flickering screen patterns are just a coverup for your secret subliminal message.

For a while during the '50s, use of subliminal messages was a hot controversy. Subliminal messages are flashed on film or TV so fast that the eye doesn't consciously notice them--but the brain gets the message anyway. People were worried that unscrupulous advertisers or politicians would use the hypnotic power of subliminals to control the minds of citizens.

As it turned out, subliminal messages weren't all that effective. A couple of low-budget horror movies used subliminals as a gimmick, but drew more giggles than shivers. However, there were also occasional tantalizing reports of successful experiments. For example a movie theater snackbar was supposed to have increased business substantially by flashing subliminal messages like "Eat Popcorn" and "Drink Cola" during the films.

Ghost Writer lets you experiment with subliminal messages of your own writing. Ghost Writer's influence is best applied to "self help" sayings such as "Be Positive" or "Make Sure." Don't misuse the power of subliminal text to bombard your friends with sneaky messages such as "Buy Lunch."

I've tested Ghost Writer on several unsuspecting friends and they found the spirits' ramblings surprising. More surprising, however, was my friends' unconscious desire to do something. Even when pointed out, the message still has impact--watch what you say.


Type in Listing 1, GHOST.BAS, check it with TYPO II and SAVE a copy to disk. Next, type in Listing 2, GHOSTA.BAS, check it with TYPO II and SAVE a copy before you RUN it.

When RUN, Listing 2 creates a file called GHOST.FNT, the special character set used by Listing 1. (Antic Disk Subscribers will find GHOST.FNT on the monthly disk).

Keep GHOST.BAS and GHOST.FNT on the same disk. To use the program, simply type RUN "D:GHOST.BAS".


TOM$ and MOT$ contain your message, located in line 1220. The strings are dimensioned at 20, so you could have a message that's 40 characters long--but it would look a bit shoddy. Short messages (four letters or less) are picked up most effectively by your subconscious mind. To center the message you'll have to use words or sentences that contain an even number of letters and spaces.

Ghost Writer uses a display list that allows smooth vertical scrolling to create the effects you see. There's also a great variety of colors on the screen. If your eye's not fast enough to catch them all, press [CONTROL] [1] when the words "Ghost Writer" start flashing at the top of your screen. This is when the most colors appear on-screen.

GHOST.FNT is the character set the spirits write with. Feel free to change the character set as you wish (but keep a back-up copy of my original in case you don't like the changes). Try editing the [ * ] and the [!] and their [CONTROL] key equivalents for the most radical changes in the appearance of the writings. I used Envision ($15.95, The Catalog, APO185) for my character creating, but other character editors such as Ultra Font (Antic, Augusl 1986) will work just as well.

For a different look, try this: Hold down the [SELECT] key when you type RUN. When the Ghost Writer screen appears, press the [BREAK] key to stop the program. (Programmers Note: GHOST.BAS uses a fairly common DEBUG routine. Holding down the [SELECT] key activates this routine and lets you use the [BREAK] key. When the DEBUG routine is not used, the [BREAK] key is disabled.)

Once the program is stopped, type something such as ? FRE(0), or ? TOM$. Press [RETURN] and then type RUN. You can repeat this procedure until you get a spirited lock-up. (Make sure the program has been SAVEd to disk before you try this.) Once the spirits lock up your computer, even an exorcism can't help it. Time to reboot.

If you own a BASIC compiler, give it a spin. The speed of events is critical, so you may have to tinker with lines 2430 and 2440 to achieve the speed that works. Simple delay loops are tough, so you might use system timers to cue your subliminal (PEEK 20 and 19).

Tom Moore is a 3l year-old designer and builder of professional audio/video systems in central Florida. A former pro musician, he is now totally immersed in MIDI and is working on turning his Atari 800 into a MIDI velocity meter for use alongside his 1040ST.

Listing: GHOST.BAS Download

Data file: GHOST.FNT Download