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Re: [gforth] I found gforth in the Android store and tried it

From: Joel Rees
Subject: Re: [gforth] I found gforth in the Android store and tried it
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2016 07:23:15 +0900


I am by no means an expert on forth or gforth.

On Wed, Jul 20, 2016 at 1:09 PM, Jason Damisch <address@hidden> wrote:
> Dear Forthers,
> I have used Forth before.  I have SwiftForth installed
> on my Windows machine.  I have used ForthMacs
> on the Atari ST.  I have thought about trying to write
> my own Forth, but am not quite sure that I am up to it.

It's fun! Go for it.

But the system support library is always rather involved. (That's one
of the places I'm stuck with my own lousy implementations of forth.)

> I wanted to give my very first impression of gforth for the
> Android.  I recently bought a low end Android phone and
> was in the Google app store when I stumbled upon gforth
> by accident.  I could not resist downloading it.


Resist or whatever, yeah. I grabbed it when I saw it, too. Haven't
been able to break time out to really use it, unfortunately.

I don't know what I'm talking about, but I'll point you to the gforth
development site that I am aware of:

There's a manual in there somewhere, in pdf and html. It doesn't cover
the Android specific stuff yet, I think.

> First thing I noticed is that 'help' is not defined.  It was one
> of the first things that popped into my head, so I tried it.
> Ok, never mind I could just Google stuff to learn more.
> Then I tried 'words'.  That works just like I would expect.
> The next thing that came to mind was that I do not know
> how to get into a serious development loop.  I typically use
> a separate text editor with SwiftForth, and use 'include' to
> bring in files.  I might use 'marker' to forget words or I
> might be lazy and just restart SwiftForth every time I want
> to try again.   Remember that I just downloaded gforth for
> Android for the first time so I don't know what others might
> do.

Yeah, you need an external editor at this point. I'm not going to
recommend one, because I haven't found one I like.

But it doesn't go as smoothly as it would on a full Linux because
Android engineers decided ages ago that it made more sense to isolate
apps instead of users, and they only realized their mistake recently
(and haven't yet fully understood how serious a mistake it was).

> My next "complaint" is really my own fault, probably.  I am
> unfamiliar with using the flat screen keyboard.

On-screen keyboards are one of those things that should never have
been invented. :-/

Well, I guess that's a little extreme. Cell phone keypads are two
levels worse than on-screen keyboards, as user interfaces.

> That made
> typing in my test definition difficult for me.  But, there were
> a few things that got in the way regardless.  The keyboard
> program which lies between gforth and the Android OS
> likes to try to type for me.  It tends to add a period to the
> end of words when I type more then one space after a word.
> Also, it likes to make little suggestions as to what word
> it thinks I want to type.  Overall, I found typing on the flat
> keyboard to be frustrating.  I don't blame the creators of
> gforth for this at all.  As far as I know, some other guy
> ported gforth to the Android and just connected it to the
> regular old Android OS key typer layer and I am not used
> to typing that way.

Android is really clumsy with keyboards. It's part of the package of a
visual display without a proper pointing device. (No, current
implementations of touch-screen are nowhere near proper pointing
devices. Good enough for some things, but not general pointing

Mind you, Apple's keyboards are only marginally better. For e-mail,
it's better than a cellphone keypad, but that's not praise.

The physical keyboard interface also bites badly. Again, they stripped
too much of the Linux system out of Android. So your physical keyboard
will have misplaced keys, unless they have fixed that in the most
recent versions of Android.

> Some other things that come to mind is this.  If I was to
> try to continue with it, what could I do with it?  I suppose
> that I could get developers documents for the Android OS
> and make calls to the OS.  Maybe I could do things like
> play back sounds, or open other applications.  Sprites?

Android gets in your way when you try to find things, but there are a
lot of samples in the gforth app you downloaded.

If you get a good text editor, it may be easier to use them.

But you should probably get a good file manager/explorer app, anyway,
so you can find them.

(By "good" I mean something you can stand to use if you hold your
nose, in both cases.)

> My impression is that gforth was made for other Linux
> environments, and that people probably use a regular
> keyboard at a regular PC to develop with gforth, and this
> Android version is more of an experimental gforth.  But,
> I could be wrong.


That's basically what it is. (Compare to your Android apps for Python,
perl, lisp, "Java", "C", etc.)

> Maybe its possible to connect a real keyboard to my
> Android.  Honestly though my eyesight is not what it
> used to be.  I like to think that it'll be another 10 years
> before I have to get glasses to drive with.  Lets hope
> so.  Maybe I could get one of those Android powered
> laptops and develop on that and then run it on my
> cell phone?

Most serious Android app development is done by physically hosting a
development-oriented device on a PC. (Development-oriented means an
expensive one that is not locked down by the ISP, or one that has been

I lost interest, in no small part because I'd already learned to hate Java.

> But, this was more of an experiment for me and I have
> some other projects going on.  I just wanted to drop in
> and say hello, and tell people that I tried gforth on the
> Android.
> Happy Forthing.
> Jason

The above negativity is not criticism of gforth. It's criticism of
Android. (And I'm biting my tongue. Acknowledging that Android is
better than the Microsoft's comparable offering is also not praise.)

I do wish I had time to have fun with gforth on Android. I know there
are a number of people here that are having fun with it.

Joel Rees

I'm imagining I'm a novelist:

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