DEFine FuNction

Syntax DEFine FuNction name[$ | %] [(item *[,itemi]* )]
Location QL ROM

This command marks the beginning of the SuperBASIC structure which is used to surround lines of SuperBASIC code which forms an equivalent to a machine code function, which can be called from within SuperBASIC and will return a value dependent upon the code contained within the structure. The syntax of the SuperBASIC structure can take two forms:

DEFine FuNction name[$ | %] [(item*[,itemi]*)]: statement *[:statement]*:RETurn value


DEFine FuNction name[$ | %] [(item *[,itemi]* )] *[LOCal var *[,vari]*]* *[statements]* RETurn value END DEFine [name]

When the specified function name is called, the interpreter will search the SuperBASIC program for the related DEFine FuNction statement.

If a related DEFine FuNction cannot be found, then the interpreter will search for a machine code function of that name.

If the definition of name cannot be found, then the error ‘Not Found’ will be reported if name was defined in the past, but the definition line has since been deleted.

If name has never been defined in the current SuperBASIC program, then it will be treated as a normal variable and relevant error messages reported.

Under SMS in both instances the value 0 will be returned (name is treated as an undefined variable).

The method of searching for a FuNction means that if a SuperBASIC FuNction is defined with the same name as a machine code one, the machine code one will no longer be available, and when the SuperBASIC FuNction is removed (for example with NEW), that keyword will no longer have any effect. If entered as a direct command, even the in-line structure will not have any effect unless it is also called on the same line, as the interpreter must jump to the relevant DEFine FuNction statement when the function is called.

If a DEFine FuNction statement appears in a program, if the code is not called, program flow will continue from the statement following the next END DEFine - it is however good practice to keep all definition structures towards the end of a program, and not to place the structure blocks in the middle of program code, as this makes it very difficult to follow the flow of programs.

It is also good programming practice to make FuNctions self-contained and not to jump out of them using GO TOs or GO SUBs (they can of course call other FuNctions and PROCedures).

To call the DEFine FuNction, you merely need to include its name in an expression. If however any parameters are listed in the definition, you will need to pass the same number of parameters in brackets after the name of the FuNction, separated by any valid SuperBASIC separator {ie. comma (,), semicolon (;), backslash (\), exclamation mark (!) or TO }. You can also place a hash (#) before the parameters if you so wish to indicate that it is a channel number.

If not enough parameters are supplied, the program will report ‘Error in Expression’ when the missing parameter is used, except under SMS where the missing parameters are treated as unset variables and will therefore have the value 0 (if a numeric variable) or else contain an empty string (if a string variable).

If however, too many parameters are passed, the extra parameters are ignored. Parameters are passed by reference which means that the list of items in the DEFine FuNction statement are deemed LOCal to that definition - this means that any previous values of the items are stored whilst the definition block is active. What is more, the type of each item does not actually matter - they assume the type of the passed parameter. For example, the following short program will work without any problems:

10 a$=QUERY$('What is your name')
20 DEFine FuNction QUERY$(x)
30   INPUT (x)!b$
40   RETurn b$
50 END DEFine

Note though that the name of the FuNction must end with the correct variable type, ie. $ if a string is to be returned, or % if an integer is to be returned (although see note 7 below).

One of the results of passing variables by reference is that if the item is altered within the definition block, if a variable is passed as a parameter, the variable itself will also be altered (although see note 4). This can be shown with the following short program:

100 x=10
110 y=Square(x)
120 PRINT x;'^2=';y
130 DEFine FuNction Square(za)
140   za=za*za
150   RETurn za
160 END DEFine

This can be avoided by either assigning the item to a temporary variable and then using the temporary variable instead (see the example below), or by passing the variable as an expression, by placing it inside brackets; for example by replacing line 110 with the following:

110 y=Square((x))

Having passed the necessary parameters to the Function, you can then use each item inside the definition block as normal.


A short program to calculate the length of the hypotenuse in a triangle, given the length of its two other sides:

100 MODE 4: WINDOW 448,200,32,16: SCALE 100,0,0: PAPER 0 105 CLS: INK 7
110 AT 2,25: UNDER 1: PRINT'Pythagoras calculator': UNDER 0
120 INPUT \\'Enter length of base of triangle:'!base
130 INPUT \\'Enter height of triangle:'!height
140 hypotenuse=Pythag(base,height)
150 INK 4: LINE 50,20 TO 100,20 TO 100,70 TO 50,20
160 INK 7: AT 16,35-LEN(base): PRINT base
170 AT 11,46: PRINT height
180 AT 11,31-LEN(hypotenuse): PRINT hypotenuse
190 :
1000 DEFine FuNction Pythag(x,y)
1010   LOCal x1,y1
1020   x1=x*x:y1=y*y
1030   RETurn SQRT(x1+y1)
1040 END DEFine

See what happens if you replace lines 1000 to 1040 with the following:

1000 DEFine FuNction Pythag(x,y)
1010   x=x*x:y=y*y
1020   RETurn SQRT(x*y)
1030 END DEFine


A FuNction must return a value under all circumstances. If the END DEFine is reached without a value having been returned then SuperBASIC will report an ‘error in expression’ (-17), specifying the error as having occured at the line containing the END DEFine.

Under SMS the error ‘RETurn not in PROCedure or FuNction’ will be reported instead.


On pre JS ROMs, you could not define new FuNctions with names which had already been used in the same program.


On pre MG ROMs, any more than nine parameters may upset the program, corrupting it by replacing names with PRINT towards the end of a program. This can however be circumvented by increasing the size of the Name Table by 8 bytes for each name (plus a little more for luck), using the line:

CALL PEEK_W(282)+36,N


Although a sub-set of a simple string is an expression and therefore will not be altered within a function, a sub-set of a DIMensioned string is not treated as an expression and will therefore be altered!!


Recursive FuNctions (ie. FuNctions which call themselves, or call another PROCedure or FuNction which in turn calls the original FuNction) are allowed (up to 32767 recursions under Minerva). They do however gobble up memory at an amazing rate and can cause problems in compiled SuperBASIC due to the fact that they need an ever-increasing amount of stack space. They should be avoided wherever possible because they are also very slow.

On SMS, if you try to use recursive functions too much, you may end up with the rather esoteric error ‘program structures nested too deeply, my brain hurts’! It is however, more likely that you will end up with an ‘Out of Error’ memory and not be able to do anything else (not even NEW).


The LOCal statement (if used) must appear as the next statement following DEFine FuNction, otherwise an error will be reported. Under SMS if this is not the case, the error ‘Misplaced LOCal’ will be reported.


SMS and QLiberator do not seem to mind if you do not end the FuNction name with a $ symbol when a string is to be returned and the FuNction will work perfectly well in the compiled version of the program. However, this should be avoided as the program will not work on other QL ROMs and also cannot be compiled with TURBO. For example, take the following program, which works under SMS or when QLiberated.

For other ROMs and TURBO, rename the function to GETSUBDIR$:

100 file$='n1_win2_test_bas'
110 test$=GETSUBDIR(file$)
295 :
300 DEFine FuNction GETSUBDIR(s$)
310   IF s$(LEN(s$))<>'_':s$=s$&'_'
320   IF LEN(s$)=5:IF s$(4) INSTR '1234567890':RETurn ''
322   REPeat t_loop
325     root=1
330     FOR x=1 TO LEN(s$)
340       IF s$(x)='_'
350       IF x=3:IF s$(2) INSTR '1234567890':root=3
360       IF x=5:IF s$(4) INSTR '1234567890':root=5
370       IF x>5:IF root=1:s$=PROGD$ & s$:NEXT t_loop
380       IF x=8:IF root=3:root=8
390       END IF
400     NEXT x
410       IF root=1:s$=PROGD$ & s$:NEXT t_loop
415       as$=s$
420       IF root=3:s$=s$(1 TO 3) & PROGD$
425       IF root=3:IF LEN(as$)>3:s$=s$&as$(4 TO):NEXT t_loop:ELSE EXIT t_loop
430     END FOR x
435     EXIT t_loop
440   END REPeat t_loop
445   as$=s$
460   RETurn s$(1 to root)
470 END DEFine


Do not try to DEFine one FuNction inside another - although this is actually allowed under most implementations, compilers presume that an END DEFine should be placed before the start of the next DEFine FuNction and it makes programs very difficult to follow.

Under SMS the error ‘Defines may not be within other clauses’ will be reported when you try to RUN the program.


On Minerva pre v1.96, if you try to link in machine code procedures or functions from inside a DEFine PROCedure or DEFine FuNction block, problems could occur after a CLEAR command.


On most ROMs (at least on JM, MGx, AH and Minerva up to v1.97), a single line recursive FuNction will not respond to the break key. For example:

10 DEFine FuNction Root(a): a=2^Root(a)

The solution for all ROMs (or all those tested so far!) - insert an additional colon (:) as in:

10 DEFine FuNction Root(a)::a=2^Root(a)

This is fixed on SMS v2.59+.


All ROMs also suffer from this problem on multiple line recursive FuNctions, where there is no active program line between the definition line and the line which calls the FuNction. For example:

10 DEFine FuNction Root(a)
20   a = 2^Root(a)
30 END DEFine

The solution here is to insert another active program line at line 15 - for example:

15 :



Do however note that a REMark, DATA or LOCal line at line 15 will not be sufficient as these are not active commands. Again, this is fixed under SMS v2.59.


Except under SMS, if you assign the same name to a FuNction as a resident command, not only will you no longer be able to use the resident command, but it may crash the system!


In v2.59+, if you fail to create a SuperBASIC function correctly, the error INCOMPLETE DEFine appears (for example if you omit the END DEFine). Prior to v2.89 SMS would only allow a single line DEFine FuNction if END DEFine appeared on the same line. However, although v2.89 would allow a single-line DEFine FuNction without an END DEFine , it would report an error if the END DEFine existed!! Thankfully, v2.90+ fixes this problem, allowing both.


END DEFine tells the interpreter where the end of the definition block can be found. RETurn allows you to return the result of the Function. DEFine PROCedure is very similar. LOCal allows you to assign temporary variables with the same name as variables used outside the definition block. PARUSE and PARTYP allow you to examine the type of the parameters which are passed to the definition block.