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50 Years of BASIC, the Language That Made Computers Personal 224

harrymcc (1641347) writes "On May 1, 1964 at 4 a.m. in a computer room at Dartmouth University, the first programs written in BASIC ran on the university's brand-new time-sharing system. With these two innovations, John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz didn't just make it easier to learn how to program a computer: They offered Dartmouth students a form of interactive, personal computing years before the invention of the PC. Over at, I chronicle BASIC's first 50 years with a feature with thoughts from Kurtz, Microsoft's Paul Allen and many others."
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50 Years of BASIC, the Language That Made Computers Personal

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  • by DiscountBorg(TM) ( 1262102 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @11:41AM (#46868617)

    I grew up with a little TRS-80 on which you had to learn BASIC to so much as load a file. In Grade Three I was learning things like coordinate geometry and algebra, while my peers were struggling with their multiplication tables. I remember when my peers were introduced to algebra for the first time, some of them had difficulty understanding how x could be a number, while I was busy making adventure games at home.
    Thanks to this head start in life, I now have a job in IT. BASIC gave me a great head start in computer literacy!

  • by Captain Emerald ( 2882375 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @11:46AM (#46868687)
    10 PRINT "Happy Birthday, Basic"
    20 GOTO 10
  • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @11:48AM (#46868725) Journal

    The BBC Model B equipped with BBC BASIC was released in 1981. As well as the usual litany of BASIC like features (i.e. goto), it had proper named procedures and functions with local variables, which allowed structured programming. It didn't have proper block structured if though.

    It also had dynamic memory allocation and pointer indirection (not that wretched peek and poke stuff).

    It was still tied to line numbers though, but in practive you (a) didn't need them except for computed goto and jump tables and (b) it had a proper renumbering command if you needed to insert space which corrected all the gotos, gosubs and jump tables (but not obviously computed goto).

    It had a 5 byte floating point system build in too, which while slow was pretty decent.

    Was quite powerful. It also had graphics and sound built in, which made it very nice to play with.

    And then I graduated on to QB when I switched to a PC. Mostly QBasic then a pirated version of QuickBasic. Actually my dad was very against piracy but relented when we phoned a Microsoft sales office and they denied all knowledge of such a product and tried to hawk us an early version of Visual Basic.

    QBasic was a fantastic system, especially given it was free with PCs, and I challenge anyone to claim otherwise with good justification.

  • by null etc. ( 524767 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @11:50AM (#46868751)

    Richard Garriott (of Ultima fame) is running an interesting challenge to port his very first RPG computer game, written in BASIC on a teletype connected to a PDP-11, into a web-friendly or Unity version. https://www.shroudoftheavatar.... []

  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @12:01PM (#46868865) Homepage Journal
    It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration.
  • by Jahta ( 1141213 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @12:04PM (#46868895)

    Ob. quote from Real Programmers [].

    "Real programmers don't write in FORTRAN. FORTRAN is for pipe stress freaks and crystallography weenies."

    Of course, it also says this about BASIC :-)

    "Real Programmers don't write in BASIC. Actually, no programmers write in BASIC, after the age of 12."

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @12:50PM (#46869349)

    That's not really a good idea, Basic is hardly thread-safe!

Do not underestimate the value of print statements for debugging.