OrbBasic, like the macro executive, is another powerful resource that Sphero provides for autonomous behavior and integration with smart phone applications. It runs as another thread in the main system in parallel with driving and macros.

With execution rates of well over 3000 lines/second and support for both a helper program (resident in RAM) and a permanent one (resident in Flash), orbBasic adds an entirely new dimension to gaming and apps. It is the ultimate helper app.

Program Format

Ultimately an orbBasic program is a sequence of program lines ending with a NULL (00h) character.

<program> := <line(s)> <NULL>

Each line begins with a line number, some whitespace, a program statement and a terminating LF (10h) character:

<line> := <line number> <space(s)> <statement> <LF>

The interpreter is given a starting line number when invoked as programs do not need to start from the first line in the program. Once the statement on a line is complete, execution continues at the next line in the program stream which may not actually be the next line numerically in the program. Although this is a side effect of a less than well-formed program, it is entirely legal. Good practice is to send down programs where the line numbers are in ascending order.

Statements are covered in detail below but currently only one statement per line is supported. A future enhancement to the interpreter will be to add the colon ":" token which separates multiple statements on a line.

Specification and Limitations

As of version 0.9

Constraint Value
Program size, RAM 1K
Program size, Flash 4K
User variables, direct access 25
User variables, indexed access 25
User data, sequentially accessed 25
Variable data type 32-bit signed integer
Maximum For..Next nesting depth 4
Maximum Gosub nesting depth 4
Maximum expression complexity 4 levels
Print string length 32 bytes

Known Issues

As of version 0.9

  • There is no handling of negative literal numbers, like "A = -9". The workaround is to form an expression, "A = 0 - 9".
  • There is no support for an "input" statement. I'm working on how best to abstract this.
  • You can send down programs with unsorted line numbers and it will run top to bottom. But I don't recommend this.
  • There is no support for REM; it would burn up important program space anyway. Just write self-documenting code and you'll be fine.
  • I suggest coding simple expressions until orbBasic 1.4 is released. It's still easy to blow up.

Errors Reference

Since orbBasic isn't tokenized during download both syntactic and runtime errors can occur. ASCII versions are sent via asynchronous message ID 09h in the format:

Line xx:

or as a 4-byte binary message through ID 0Ah in the format:

Line # Line # Error # Error #

The following error messages are currently defined:

Error Message Code Description
Syntax error 01h This is somewhat of a catch all, indicating something unexpected was encountered during interpretation of a statement or expression(versus during execution of the said element).
Unknown statement 02h An unknown keyword was encountered, perhaps due to a capitalization error (i.e. "rgb" was entered instead of "RGB").
GOSUB depth exceeded 03h Too many nested gosub statements were encountered.
RETURN without GOSUB 04h A return statement was encountered but there was no previous gosub command that matched it.
NEXT without FOR 05h A next statement couldn't be matched with an appropriate for.
FOR depth exceeded 06h Too many nested for statements.
Bad STEP value 07h This really only comes up if the step value in a for...next statement is evaluated to zero. You're never going to get from A to B if the step is zero.
Divide by zero 08h Bad math.
Bad line number 09h The target of a goto or gosub wasn't found.
Illegal index 0Ah Either the value of Y is outside the boundary of 1..25 when dereferencing the Z variable or there aren't enough target line numbers in an indexed goto/gosub.
Expression too complex 0Bh The expression evaluator is recursive and it must be bounded for safety. To get around this error either use fewer levels of parenthesis or break up the expression across a few lines.
Bad numeric parameter 0Ch This is like the Illegal index error but when a parameter would like to be used as something non-indexing (like for the rnd() function)
User abort 0Dh This isn't really an error message but an alert if an abort command terminated execution.
Out of data 0Eh The sequential data set wasn't large enough for the number of reads performed upon it.