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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 TIME.com, 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 Bill, Shooter of Bul ( 629286 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @11:41AM (#46868609) Journal

    I mean Basic isn't difficult either, but I really don't understand the perspective at the time that FORTRAN was so complex that BASIC and COBOL were really needed for their syntax changes alone. All of the explinations I've read about them, invariably have the line somewhere about FORTRAN being so difficult to understand that only scientists could master it. I understand they were all invented for different problem domains and that's kind of a good reason in and of itself, but sheesh, its not like it was brain fudge.

  • by DiscountBorg(TM) ( 1262102 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @11:57AM (#46868833)

    I wouldn't contend for an instant that the kids I grew up around were 'retards'. 8-year-olds can't magically know things without experience.

    How many kids have the chance to sit down in front of a computer and learn that the reason a ball goes across the screen comes down to something as simple as x=x+1? Schools won't teach them that until the end of primary.

    BASIC does probably teach some bad programming habits but at the same time it's accessible to an 8-year-old, and you're learning concepts that are applicable for life: file management, how to store and retrieve data, syntax, etc etc. If the goal is to introduce kids to ehmm.. basic computing concepts, it worked admirably.

    Compare to someone with no knowledge of programming concepts at all whatsoever trying to grasp how to call a function for the first time in their life.

  • by unfortunateson ( 527551 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @11:59AM (#46868849) Journal


    Long before Lisp or Perl, Basic made things much, much easier to deal with text.
    C (and its children) had pointers and allocation to deal with.
    Cobol, Fortran and Pascal, by default, dealt with fixed-length strings (yes, later versions improved it).

    On the Digital operating systems (RSTS, RSX, VAX/VMS -- whose technology ended up influencing WinNT), BASIC was relatively sophisticated, long before Visual Basic: explicit variable declaration, access to database routines, etc. I got a LOT of stuff done where the Pascal and C programmers were spending time just making things work. Speed? Perhaps slower, but most of what I worked on was interactive, where the bulk of the time was waiting for a human being.

  • fuck beta (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @12:13PM (#46868973)

    fuck beta

  • LISP instead! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @12:22PM (#46869065)

    Lisp was invented in 1958. Can you imagine a world were personal computers had Lisp instead of BASIC? We would have had the singularity the year after IBM released the AT!

  • by Adam Colley ( 3026155 ) <mog&kupo,be> on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @12:40PM (#46869251)

    Real programmers toggle in the boot code on the front panel.

  • Re:In 3, 2, 1... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WillAdams ( 45638 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @12:43PM (#46869279) Homepage

    ``Pascal as defined was not suitable for large projects...''

    Unless of course, one is Dr. Donald Knuth, then one creates a brand new programming paradigm: http://www.literateprogramming... [literateprogramming.com]

    and writes programs such as TeX: http://www.ctan.org/tex-archiv... [ctan.org]

    Somewhere, I have a copy of the Oberon language manual printed out --- it's quite cool, and very concise.

  • Idiots (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @12:58PM (#46869413)

    So, if you are surrounded by idiots as early as middle school, you'll get better grades.

    When I was a kid, I wanted to be a machinist. I love working with my hands.

    In Middle School and High School, there were these "idiots" who took shop barely passed Algebra and took jobs that gave them credit to graduate.

    My parents didn't want me to be a blue collar worker and demanded I go to college. Part of it was that they wanted something more for me - blue collar jobs were being sent down South (Carolinas, GA, FL, etc ..) at the time and the "college boys" had their cushy salaried jobs and were the ones laying people off and sending jobs to the South - "those Southerners took our jobs!" (The good ole days before Globalization).

    Years later, I was patting myself on the back for making 6 figures when I bumped into an "idiot" I went to school with. Well, I met him for lunch at his $5 million tool and die company - and I let my parents know about it.

    Well, today he's lost a bit of business because of off-shoring but is still doing well and he's still respected for being a business owner.

    I'm unemployable with savings dried up, investments gone, and people telling me that I'm no good and stupid - Maybe so.

    Of course today, being a machinist is pretty much "monkey pushes the button" for these high tech CNC machines - the designers write the programs.

    I digress.

    tl;dr: "Stupid people" have their place and don't be surprised if they are more successful than you.

    PS, think about what you are doing in IT/Software development. What do you really offer society and humanity?

    Looking at the "apps" and "technology" coming out of Silicon Valley, I have to say, they offer no value. The just contribute to our mindless consumer society.

    Google, Yahoo!, Apple, etc ... are just consumer products and services that exist for us to ... consume. No value.

    My corner mechanic offers more to society than all of you in Silicon Valley. Same goes for the nurse at my hospital. We in software and IT like to think we offer so much but really, what do we do? Or what does you job do? All of you working at Facebook are a waste. Same goes for you Google "engineers" - you are nothing but marketing people.

    Just a waste.

  • by z80man ( 3532145 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2014 @02:21PM (#46870431)

    Every processor I've ever used has a "JUMP" op-code, synonomous to the "GOTO" statement. If its good enough for the processors machine code, its good enough for me :-)

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly