As described by The Register in 2001, around 1987 journalists and others started asking Bill Gates for a copy of the source code for the original version of Altair (eventually Micro-Soft) BASIC, written for the Altair 8800 and other 8080-based machines. This turned out to be fruitless, but a paper copy eventually was discovered at Harvard and copies of that now apparently reside in the Pusey library there and are available for public viewing. Ian Griffiths visited, read some of the code and write about his experience here. (There are various other copies of this page on the net.)

Since then the source for various derivatives of this BASIC has appeared on the 'net, apparently without major issues or takedown threats. BASIC-80 5.2 appears to contain substantial amounts of code from Altair BASIC, and the 6502 port also clearly has substantial reuse. Compare, for example, the PTRGET routine in those and you'll see that the header comment has the same structure and several identical phrases, many symbol names are identical, and the structure of the code is the same.

Why, though it's been preserved and bits of it are available through other versions anyway, does there seem to be an issue with making the early 8080 BASIC source code available? The reasons do not seem to be technical, since scanning paper documents from that era and making them available on-line is commonly done.

To be clear, I know that the object code and annotated disassemblies of it are widely available. I'm posting this question not becuase I'm looking for the details of how this BASIC works, but because I'm interested in the details of the original code (particularly naming conventions and comments) as written by Gates, Allen and Monte Davidoff.

  • 5
    Why not contact the Pusey library and ask them if there are any reasons not to make it available online? If anyone, they should know.
    – dirkt
    Jul 26 '19 at 14:26
  • 1
    I have a strong feeling this is off-topic here, at least as long as the only person being able to answer properly has not joined the group.
    – tofro
    Jul 26 '19 at 16:08
  • 3
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is a question of permission or law, not of technology or history Jul 26 '19 at 20:30
  • 3
    Voting to leave open. I am willing to give it a chance, and would be happy to see an answer, but I suspect we won't get one. Editing it to "Is the source available" instead of why would avoid the concerns that this is a legal question.
    – DrSheldon
    Jul 26 '19 at 22:37
  • 5
    I also voted to keep this open, it is possible a person with direct knowledge of why could join this site at some point and provide a useful answer. Plus, I'm really curious too.
    – Geo...
    Jul 27 '19 at 0:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.