It's easy to get started. You can buy a graphics-oriented home computer and teach yourself in a few weeks. There are products as inexpensive as $249, while others cost up to an average of about $800. You could easily spend up to $2000 if you go for the best of the home computers that feature graphics. You could postpone your purchase, because prices will surely drop in the next few years and by then computers will do more, but (and this is a big “but”) you'll also miss out on a lot of the fun.

A more cautious way to begin is to visit a computer center and play some games on various personal computers there that feature good graphics effects. When you think you're interested in learning how some effect in the game is created, you can get the manual for the product and a listing of the program, and then study both until the creation of the effect becomes clearer.

Today most computers for the home consumer are programmed in the BASIC language. To create your own programs you need to learn how to use simple graphics “instructions” that are provided as part of this language. Although you need to know more about BASIC to complete a complex graphics function, in some applications your knowledge can be minimal due to the simplicity of the graphics instructions. In other words, the graphics function you wish to accomplish may be so simple that little programming expertise is required.

The best way to approach learning graphics is by tying it into an existing project you are already turned on about. For example, if you're into electronics you may wish to develop a 24-trace digital storage scope for designing and troubleshooting computers. You could use a graphics computer to draw the traces on the television that were picked up by your custom interface. If you're into astronomy you might wish to computerize a starmap and have a microplanetarium in your bedroom. If you like playing with the stock market you could get a high-resolution computer to spit out accurate Dow Jones reports just like the graphs in the newspaper.


Fig. 1-7. Other uses of computer graphics.


Of course, if it's games you enjoy you can start now by thinking of how wonderful your favorite game would be on the computer with full-color graphics, sound, and moving figures.

However you decide to start, keep in mind that there are literally thousands of computer programs already written and available for you to play with on your computer. In fact it may turn out that you'll spend so much time playing the new games that you never find time to write your own. Fig. 1-7 is just a sampling of the things we will learn about in this book. All of these effects were run on the author's personal computer. In the next chapter we will take a look at some of the important concepts you should understand before you buy a graphics computer.

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