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ANTIC The Atari 8-bit Podcast

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Aug 7, 2021

Tom Halfhill discusses Charles Brannon and SpeedScript

Charles Brannon was program editor at Compute! Publications from 1980 until 1986. He wrote and edited articles for Compute! Magazine and Compute!'s Gazette. His Linkedin profile says that his "primary responsibility was crafting BASIC and assembly language software creations. Secondary was managing other young programmers." Charles' wrote and ported many type-in programs for the Atari 8-bit and other computers. His Atari programs included FontMaker, a character set editor and The Atari Wedge, for adding commands To Atari BASIC.

His most popular and well-known program was SpeedScript, an assembly language word processor that was available first for the Commodore 64 in the March 1985 issue. In subsequent issues -- one month after another -- versions were published for VIC-20, then the Atari 8-bits, then the Apple II. Each version was a type-in listing that -- after excruciating hours of careful entry -- would build a powerful, functional word processor. Charles wrote a couple of books about SpeedScript (one specific to Atari and one specific to the Commodore versions) which contained the manual, type-in program code, and commented assembly language source code.

I've been trying to get an interview with Charles Brannon since 2015, to talk about his time at Compute! in general and SpeedScript specifically. This year, I heard back from his wife Margaret, who told me that Charles suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2016 and no longer feels confident in his memory. I won't be able to interview Charles.

But, Tom Halfhill, Charles' old friend and colleague at Compute!, volunteered to talk to me about Charles. Tom was a supervisor at Compute! when Charles wrote SpeedScript, and often discussed which features to include and the problems he encountered. Tom worked at Compute! Publications from 1982 to 1988, starting as the first Features Editor for Compute! Magazine later becoming Editor. He was the launch editor of Compute!'s Gazette for Commodore, Compute!'s Atari ST Disk and Magazine, Compute!'s PCjr Magazine, and Compute!'s PC Magazine.

This is not the first time I've talked with Tom: I interviewed him about his time at Compute back in 2016. This time I talk with him with an emphasis on Charles Brannon and SpeedScript. (To be perfectly honest, we stuck to those topics for about 35 minutes. After that, we found other interesting things to talk about, most of which I left in this episode.)

This interview took place on July 22, 2021.

This interview at Youtube

Compute! articles by Charles Brannon at

SpeedScript book, Atari version, at Internet Archive

SpeedScript book, Atari version, at

Download SpeedScript for Atari or try it in your browser

My 2016 interview with Tom

Tom's web site

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