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QBASIC Programming for Dummies 630

Posted by timothy
from the truth-in-nomenclature dept.
HeavyJay writes "When I purchased QBASIC Programming for Dummies, I expected a clear, concise tutorial on how to construct programs in QBASIC. I'm new to the world of programming, and, having had luck with the Dummies series before, thought this the best place to start off. How very wrong I was." Read on for more; readers with recommendations for better (newer?) QBASIC books are encouraged to contribute.
QBASIC Programming for Dummies
author Douglas Hergert
pages 399
publisher IDG Books Worldwide, Inc
rating 5 out of 10
reviewer HeavyJay
ISBN 1568840934
summary "The Fun and Easy Way to Learn QBasic Programming."

I've read countless books and online tutorials on QBASIC, C++, PHP, and other various languages. I'm sure all you wise programmers can tell me the first sample program that comes to mind with any language, can't you? The classic 'Hello, world!' example. This easy app starts off would-be programmers with a level of confidence and understanding. To my surprise, Douglas Hergert decided not to use the ever-popular example program. So, you might be wondering, what did he use in it's place? A four-page-long currency converter.

This was Mistake #1.

The book started off making me feel stupider than I actually am. This oftentimes discourages readers from pursuing, and the book takes to the shelf, perhaps never to be picked up again. I've noticed that the best way to capture a reader's attention (and explain the most) is to start off with PRINT, INPUT, IF...THEN and GOTO. Then move on to loops, and get technical from there. It best prepares the reader for everything in store, rather than making them feel like idiots. The book didn't do this at all. It started off making in such a way that anyone without experience would be completely lost. IF...THEN doesn't even come in until the eleventh chapter, despite being one of the most important tools in the language!

So, what good can I say about the book? Not much, except that it came with some practical applications. This brings up another grievance I have with it, that being the lack of an accompanying disc. I feel every book on programming with long examples ought to come with a disc containing all example programs, so that the reader can tweak and observe them as he sees fit, without typing in five pages of code. The best way to learn is often by example, and discouraging lazy people doesn't help the learning process along.

Alas, the book does contain some humour, as it's other brothers and sisters from IDG often do. With chapter titles such as Text, Lies, and Videotape and How to Manage Arguments and Influence People, a book can't be completely bad.

Although I suggest beginners steer clear of this book, it can be useful to experienced programmers (supposing they don't think QBASIC a waste of time). It goes deeply into data structures, arrays, and databases. There are many helpful features, but it's definitely not a book to learn from.


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QBASIC Programming for Dummies

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  • by Omni Magnus (645067) on Friday June 13, 2003 @12:34PM (#6191757)
    I can't even count how many educational institutions use QBASIC to teach programming. With QBASIC, you can learn the fundamentals very easily, and that is why it is still used. Granted, these fundamentals are being taught in junior high and sometimes at high school. If he is reading about QBASIC he probably isnt a skilled programmer and he is just starting out, and that is what he needs to do, start with QBASIC.
  • Re:Redundant??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WndrBr3d (219963) * on Friday June 13, 2003 @12:36PM (#6191774) Homepage Journal
    You know, flame all you want but we all know everyone started in this programming language. And if you were any good at it, you could make some pretty dope applications. I mean, what better way to show off to your junior high programming class than making a DOS based Paintbrush application by hooking the mouse interrupt.

    Didn't get me any women, but it (QBasic) as a good springboard into computers.
  • by halivar (535827) <bfelger&gmail,com> on Friday June 13, 2003 @12:44PM (#6191877) Homepage
    For all those folks ranting at WHY someone would want to learn QBasic, I like to consider myself a QBasic "success story."

    WAY back when when I got my first computer, DOS was this wierd arcane alter-world from Windows 3.1, I found QBasic. It CAME with my computer. I didn't have the internet, so free, downloadadable compilers were not an option. For me, QBasic was my only link to the programming world.

    I never had a book, btw, so all I had to learn BASIC was a vague memory of LET and PRINT commands, and the help file. The help file was awesome. It is, to date, the only good docs I have ever seen from MS. After 6 years, I could do stuff in BASIC that my friends who started out in Pascal and C++ could not dream of doing. Why? Because their learning curve made it impossible.

    Before I found QBasic, I wanted to be a writer or a chef or something silly like that. QBasic introduced me into the programming world in which I can now call myself a professional.

    So, I'm going to do something right now that, as a Linux user, I thought I would never do...

    Thanks, Microsoft.
  • Re:QBASIC ?? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonvmous Coward (589068) on Friday June 13, 2003 @12:48PM (#6191932)
    "if it's in a corporate world, flee while it's time else, why not use python as a first language ? or, Java ?"

    Programming is a rather abstract concept. Best to start with something where you don't have to trip over stupid things like case sensitivity or declaring variables.

    Nothing wrong with starting with Basic.
  • Page 1 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by numbski (515011) * <numbski@nOSpam.hksilver.net> on Friday June 13, 2003 @12:50PM (#6191952) Homepage Journal
    "Close this book and burn it. Go buy O'Reilly's elephant book, and learn PERL instead." :P

    Seriously, I learned QBASIC, and it had me so brain damaged for so long that it took me forever to grasp PERL, and I've still never quite gotten Java, even though I took a college course on the subject.

    Stay faaaaaar away from anything with the word 'BASIC' in it. You've been warned.
  • by reallocate (142797) on Friday June 13, 2003 @12:56PM (#6192020)
    Ummm...I've been involved with more than a few folks spending great chunks of money on software and can't recall any of them ever asking what language was used. Or, frankly, needing to ask. What they need to know is the vendor's track record, financial status, support record, etc. Companies care that problems will be fixed per their schedule, not the language used to code the stuff in the first place. Buying a $50,000 QBasic program is just fine as long as the vendor can provide QBasic coders.

  • Re:Redundant??? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WndrBr3d (219963) * on Friday June 13, 2003 @01:00PM (#6192071) Homepage Journal
    Not everyone possesses the obvious programming genius which you inherently do. I myself find some of my friends asking me what is a good language to start in, and it all depends on the person. If I think they're ready for it, VB. If not, then QBasic. Both are excellent starting languages. It all depends on how well they understand the concepts.

    NOW, the POINT of this book review would be more or less to the people (or perhaps parents) looking for books to recommend to their friends/children looking for a foot in the door.
  • QBasic vs. Others (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hendridm (302246) * on Friday June 13, 2003 @01:02PM (#6192093) Homepage
    Hmmm, although I started out on QBasic, I'm not sure it's the best language to start on today. If you're looking to start with a programming language, I think the easiest semi-modern language would be ASP (not ASP.NET) if you already know HTML or Visual Basic *6* if you don't. Some would argue that VB teaches you the wrong way to program, but I think the basic concepts are the same. Avoid .NET. Although I think its a decent platform, it can introduce some unnecessarily confusing concepts that a newbie probably doesn't care about. If I were you, I would seriously consider a beginner book on Classic ASP. You don't need to know advanced HTML to play with ASP output (in fact, most of the books will tell you all the HTML you need, and ASP doesn't HAVE to output HTML, just text), and you will sort of be killing two birds with one stone (HTML + scripting). Plus, some would argue the web is the platform of the future anyway.
  • by Mr_Silver (213637) on Friday June 13, 2003 @01:17PM (#6192278)
    Go ahead and laugh, but I work for a company that still writes/maintains qbasic software and sells it to unsuspecting clients for $50,000 bucks a pop. I think we need a "software purchasing for dummies" book.

    Am I the only person who sees nothing wrong with this?

    As long as the application does what the client wants, is bug free, works well, easy to use and saves them money - who cares what it is written in?

  • by JerryKnight (465510) on Friday June 13, 2003 @02:31PM (#6193171) Journal
    Yes, availability was the issue in those days. For alot of us, the internet hadn't exploded yet when we were poking around the contents of the Win3 install, so besides BBSes (I never got into that), we were cut off from other sources of instruction. All there was was that help file (I think QB4.5 had a better help file and everything else).

    After my first few years in QB in Jr. high, I stumbled on 4.5 and a SVGA graphics library that among other things had easy-to-use 3-d projection. Talk about fun stuff when 3-d accelerators or opengl/directx hadn't gotten big yet (I am not sure if they had been introduced yet).

    Now there are better languages and we are not all so isolated, so self-teaching is not an option anyone has to resort to anymore. For that reason, I would not recommend that anyone run off and learn QB unless all they ever want to do is write better VB. In that case, I am sure there are good VB books. BASIC in general makes it too easy to learn bad techniques and could cripple someone hoping to go further in the field. Try to explain OO to someone who only knows GOTO and GOSUB. QB was good back in the day, but it should be only be a display at a museum [catb.org] today, and not in actual use.
  • Re:Redundant??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Atzanteol (99067) on Friday June 13, 2003 @02:43PM (#6193321) Homepage
    Ahh, the good old teenage "Well, I've never used it, and don't know where it's used, so it *must* be obsolete!" attitude. You use 'PASCAL'? How ten years ago!

    What's wrong with PASCAL? I'd rather learn on PASCAL than VB anyday. PASCAL looks more like C++ and Java (and C#) than VB does. Learning VB from any other 'decent' language is a snap. But learning C++ or Java from VB is a pain in the ass.

    Students should be learning with a command line. No GUI apps to start. Learn from the ground up. Otherwise you'll be able to do things, but not necessarily understand them.

    And yes, I still believe in teaching assembly...
  • by Old Wolf (56093) on Friday June 13, 2003 @05:21PM (#6195118)
    There are only two construable reasons one would learn QBasic. You've correctly stated one: very shallow learning curve. All the old micros came with Basic because even the dumbest people would be able to do a little bit of coding, and not feel bamboozled. This is how I got started too (on my Speccy when I was 4 years old, AAMOF, Win 3.1 was still 7 years away).

    The second reason: if you know Qbasic then you may be able to maintain VB programs with little or no further training -- a good skill to have on your resumé, and if (god forbid) you want to learn VB properly, you will already be half way there.
  • Re:Redundant??? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cgreuter (82182) on Friday June 13, 2003 @05:58PM (#6195468)
    Students should be learning with a command line. No GUI apps to start. Learn from the ground up. Otherwise you'll be able to do things, but not necessarily understand them.

    The problem is not with GUI-based languages; it's with tools that hide their inner workings from you. VB is like that but so is VC and MFC.

    Smalltalk, on the other hand, is also purely GUI-based but it's also completely transparent. The entire system--including the GUI (usually)--is written in Smalltalk and you can browse it and modify it just like any other part of the system.

    (A good open-source Smalltalk system is Squeak [squeak.org] if you're interested.)

    I get the impression from looking at M$-ware that they have divided the world into rulers and peons with their developers in the ruling class and the customers as the peons. When this extends into their development tools it's either "this is too hard for you to understand" (in the case of VB and the like) or "you don't need to know this--just read the API documentation" for VC. Whether or not a GUI is involved is relevant only in that MS seems to be trying to get rid of the CLI.

    If I were teaching a programming course, I would avoid MS tools (and those that try to emulate them) like the plague.

If Machiavelli were a hacker, he'd have worked for the CSSG. -- Phil Lapsley

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