FutureBASIC

FutureBASIC

FutureBASIC is a free, 32-bit BASIC compiler for Apple Inc.'s Macintosh.

It consists of a complete integrated development environment (IDE), editor, project manager, debugger, profiler and compiler for both PowerPC and Motorola 68000 microprocessors. Since 1 January 2008, the package also contains a cross compiler, FBtoC, that converts the FutureBASIC syntax to C and automatically calls Apple's GNU Compiler Collection (gcc). FutureBASIC supports access to Mac OS library calls. The integrated compiler is extremely efficient: on a Dual 1 gig G4, it will zip through 850,000 characters (850 pages) of source code per second. The resulting code is tight and also very fast, near C speeds. Unlike other BASIC language implementations there is not a p-code stage; the applications are standalone programs, "double-clickable", and do not require a separate interpreter.

History of FutureBASIC

FB began life in the mid-1980s as ZBasic, which was created by Andrew Gariepy and envisioned as a cross-platform development system. Before long, the cross-platform aspects were dropped in favor of focusing on Macintosh development. ZBasic acquired a devoted following of developers who praised its ease of use and the tight, fast code produced by the compiler (a legendary labor involving extensive use of hand-built 68K assembly language code). In 1992 and as the next major step after ZBasic version 5, Zedcor Inc., the company of the Gariepy brothers Andy, Mike, Peter and friends based in Tucson, Arizona presented FutureBASIC (later called FBI). In 1995 Staz Software, led by Chris Stasny, acquired the rights to market FutureBASIC. Chris Stasny started this business with an upgraded version, namely FBII, and with his own development, the Program Generator (PG PRO), a CASE tool.

The transition from 68k to PowerPC central processing unit (CPU) was a lengthy process that involved a complete rewrite of the editor by Chris Stasny and an adaptation of the compiler by Andy Gariepy. This was undertaken during Apple's darkest days when the further existence of the Mac and Apple itself was in the news every week. The result of their efforts, a dramatically enhanced IDE called FB^3, was released in September 1999, featuring among many other things a separate compiler application, various open, hence modifiable runtimes, inline PPC assembly, a simplified access to the Macintosh Toolbox Application Programming Interface (API), as well as an expanded library of built-in functions. Major update releases introduced a full-featured Appearance Compliant runtime written by Robert Purves and the Carbon compliance of generated applications. Once completely carbonized to run natively on the Mac OS X, the FutureBASIC Integrated Development Environment (FB IDE) was called FB4 and first released in July 2004.

Based in Diamondhead, Mississippi, Staz Software was severely hit by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 and development pace was slowed at a time when major effort was required to keep the IDE up to date with Apple's evolution towards the Intel-based Macintosh. More recently, an independent team of volunteer FB programmers developed a cross-compiler (FBtoC) that allows FB to generate applications as Universal Binaries through the use of the open source GCC compiler which is included with each copy of Apple's Mac OS X system software. On January 1 2008, Staz Software announced that FB4 would henceforth be freeware and FBtoC 1.0 was made available.

Processor and Operating System Support

FutureBASIC continues to support several versions of Mac OS

System requirements to create universal binaries with FBtoC: Mac OS X v10.4 or higher, GCC 4.0 or higher, and the Cross-development SDKs must be installed.)

Syntax

FutureBASIC syntax supports procedural, modular styles of programming using function calls and local variables.

Program flow & structural blocks

User-defined functions (a.k.a. LOCAL FNs in FutureBASIC) are much like C or Pascal functions.

  • They can also be totally insulated from the main program (LOCAL MODE statement);
  • they allow recursion;
  • they can be called dynamically at runtime (DEF FN USING statement);
  • called automatically by FutureBASIC built-in event vectors (ON EVENT FN statement);
  • used as cooperative threaded functions (THREADBEGIN statement).

Specific structures (ENTERPROC/EXITPROC) are used for callback procedures when calling the Macintosh Toolbox.

The language provides the programmer with a complete set of vectors for event-driven applications, such as ON MENU, ON MOUSE, ON DIALOG, ON APPLEEVENT, ON EDIT, ON TIMER, etc.

Other structured keywords include conditional blocks such as:

  • LONG IF .... XELSE ... END IF
  • DO .... UNTIL
  • WHILE ... WEND
  • SELECT ... CASE... CASE ELSE ... END SELECT
  • FOR ... NEXT

Old style BASIC language with GOTO, GOSUB/RETURN, line numbers and labels is also supported for educational purposes.

An example of a simple program to input a number and display "Hello World" is given below

//Example FutureBASIC program

dim i,num,a$ //These are our variables

window 1 //open standard window input "Number of loops "; a$ //BASIC input from user num=val(a$) //convert text to number long if num>0 //Structured IF

 for i = 1 to num              //BASIC loop
   print "hello world"         //output text
 next i                        //end of loop
xelse                          //Otherwise
 print "Not today"             //no number entered
end if

do //Wait until Apple-Q

 HandleEvents
until (gFBQuit ) //so that we can see results

Data Types

FutureBASIC supports complex data types include single and double precision floating points, double length integers, arrays, strings and records (similar to struct in C). Of note is the DYNAMIC array structures (size of memory footprint grows only when used) including DYNAMIC string arrays called INDEX$ and "container" variables which can perform string-like operations on data streams up to 2Gb in size.

C and Pascal borrowed coding styles

Commenting in the code is substantial allowing REMark statements, and C style /* remark */ statements, and images within the source code. Sections of code can be bookmarked for easy reference.

Other alternate syntax borrowed from C allows the use of operators such as ++ -- == != += -= || &&

Characters in Pascal strings are accessible much like items of an array: a$[0] (length byte); a$[1] (first character in string a$).

While the FutureBASIC language still supports old style variable typing with suffix identifiers, it provides a modern alternative with the as clause: dim b as byte; dim s as short, dim l as long; etc.

Runtimes

Due to the open nature of its runtime files, the FutureBASIC language can be enhanced with user routines, altered with the OVERRIDE directive or even fixed in case of bugs that went undetected before release. The main runtimes are:

  • Appearance Compliant runtime: recommended runtime for modern full-featured applications.
  • Console runtime: mostly used for testing snippets of code or performing calculation. It provides a minimal user interface.
  • Standard BASIC runtime: present for the support of legacy code, mainly inherited from the 68K era of the Macintosh.
  • Toolbox runtime: almost free of BASIC keywords; the programmer must rely exclusively upon Toolbox functions and procedures to create applications.

Bridges to other languages

  • The compiler allows inline 68K and PPC assembly. Examples (from a runtime file)

Calling 68K assembly (unavailable in FBtoC):

  1. if cpu68K

runtime "_MovePascalStr" beginassem

    move.l   (SP)+,D1;Return Address
    move.l   (SP)+,A1       ;Dest Address
    move.l   (SP)+,A0;Src Address
    moveq    #0,D0
    move.b   (A0),D0;Byte Count
mlp1 move.b (A0)+,(A1)+
    dbra     D0,mlp1
    move.l   D1,A0
    jmp      (a0)
endassem return'MacsBug Label end fn

  1. endif

Calling PPC assembly (unavailable in FBtoC):

  1. if cpuPPC

local fn SysMoveString(Src&, Dst& ) beginassem

lhz    r5,0(r3); len<<8 + 1st str byte
srawi. r0,r5,9; len/2
sth    r5,(r4)
mtspr  ctr,r0
beq    sysMoveString ; skip loop if len/2 = 0
sysMoveStringLoop
lhzu   r0,2(r3)
sthu   r0,2(r4)
bc     16,0,sysMoveStringLoop ; bdnz
sysMoveString endassem end fn

  1. endif

  • AppleScript scripts can be assembled with FutureBASIC statements then executed on the fly by a running application. Example:

route _toAppleScript

print "return the path to me as string"

route _toScreen



long if usr ApplescriptRun(message$ ) = _noErr


 print message$

end if

  • On Mac OS X, FutureBASIC allows to trigger UNIX commands. Example:

// print a calendar for 2008


open "UNIX",1,"cal 2008"

dim a$



do 
 line input #1,a$ 
 print a$ 
until eof(1) 

close 1

  • FBtoC only allows inline C code for the Intel-Mac compilation. Example:

missing example

Limitation

  • Missing CASE/RAD tool

The development of PG PRO was stopped on the road to Mac OS X. While it is still possible to create applications that run on 68K and PPC including Carbon with that CASE tool, its use is highly discouraged. Programmers should use instead Apple's Interface Builder to handle the user interface of their applications.

  • Missing runtime for object oriented programming

In the early 2000s, the CD that was delivered with the FB releases used to contain an experimental Object Oriented runtime; an interesting new paradigm for the FB programmers. However this runtime was withdrawn without explanation.

  • No 64bit support

FutureBASIC doesn't support natively 64bit variable types. There are programming techniques to mimic this feature.

  • Compilation for the Macintosh platform only

FutureBASIC supports Macintosh Motorola 68000, PPC and Intel architectures but does not compile for or upon any Microsoft Windows operating systems.

References

  1. An history of Basic wars on the Mac platform by Jonathan Hoyle for MacCompanion
  2. ZBasic 5 reviewed by Dave Kelly for MacTech magazine
  3. FBI introduced major enhancements to the BASIC language, encouraging the developers to use named constants and local functions instead of subroutines for better structured programs and re-usable code.
  4. Home of Staz Software,inc.
  5. FBII was 32bit-clean and could run from Mac 128 to G5-based Macintosh in emulated mode.
  6. Program Generator is a Rapid application development tool that is flexible enough to build sophisticated applications quickly for the Macintosh pre-Mac OS X environments. For Mac OS X, Appearance compliant programs onwards, FutureBASIC uses Apple's Interface Builder.
  7. pronounced FB cubed.
  8. A week later the European edition was released which included English, Italian, German (now discontinued) and French language versions. There is also a Japanese language edition.
  9. Starting with FB^3, a runtime consists of include files written in FutureBASIC that are compiled along with the source code written by the programmer. It contains various declarations for structures, constants, global variables, resources, functions and procedures that constitute the FutureBASIC language. The main runtimes are: Standard BASIC, Appearance Compliant and Mac Toolbox.
  10. The Appearance Compliant runtime allows access to most of the features of Apple's Appearance Manager.
  11. Welcome to the FBtoC Project and FutureBASIC Freeware

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