The Next Step

written by Matthew Reed

“The Next Step” was a popular column written by Hardin Brothers that began in the February 1983 issue of 80 Micro. Originally conceived as a five part column about integrating BASIC and assembly language, “The Next Step” went on to become one of the longest running columns in the magazine.

The focus of “The Next Step” was programming the TRS-80 in assembly language. It covered the Model I and Model III at first, but had largely switched to the Model 4 by 1984. The name was a reference to assembly language as being the next step beyond BASIC, as was stated in the first column:

You’ve learned to program your Model I or Model III efficiently in BASIC. You’ve also started learning to program simple Assembly-language programs. You are ready for the next step.

The wide range of topics was one of the things that made “The Next Step” interesting. Hardin Brothers once estimated that more than half of his columns were inspired by readers' suggestions. His columns ran the gamut from tutorials to code snippets and even to finished programs. He had a very engaging writing style and the knack for making even complicated topics interesting. Some of the topics covered included:

  • a windowing video driver for the Model 4
  • uses of the Z80 DAA instruction
  • a tutorial about using macros in various assemblers
  • documenting the inner details of the Model 4 TRSDOS help files
  • a program to retrieve sectors off a damaged disk (which I once used to rescue several of my files)

“The Next Step” remained focused on the TRS-80, even as 80 Micro moved more and more into the Tandy MS-DOS world. Hardin Brothers also wrote the column “PC Techniques” in PC Resource, a magazine spun off from 80 Micro to cover MS-DOS topics. “PC Techniques” was largely a MS-DOS version of The Next Step.

80 Micro finally ended TRS-80 coverage with the December 1987 issue. “The Next Step” changed with the magazine to focus on programming Tandy’s MS-DOS computers. The change meant that Hardin Brothers was writing a column about MS-DOS programming in both 80 Micro and PC Resource.

“The Next Step” ended with the final issue of 80 Micro in June 1988. Hardin Brothers continued writing columns and articles for PC Resource, DOS World, and other magazines. “The Next Step” is still remembered fondly by many people, especially those who credit it with helping them learn to program.

Categories: Magazines