Sunday, June 16, 2019

In Honor of BASIC

I found an interesting article today New Hampshire installs first historical marker to honor computer programming The BASIC programming language was invented at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Today it gets a bad rap and perhaps the original version deserve it compared to modern programming languages. For its time though it was pretty important.

The early personal computers all came with some version of BASIC.There were books one could buy that has listings of BASIC programs that we used to enter and play with. A lot of people got their start in computer science by teaching themselves BASIC.

The first language  I learned was FORTRAN but the next year my university got a Digital Equipment PDP-11 running the RSTS/E operating system. It cam with a great version of BASIC called Basic-Plus. I taught myself that on my spare time. As an interpreted language on a time sharing system, unlike the compiled FORTRAN on a batch system, this allowed a lot more and more frequent experimentation.  That really opened things up for me.

After university, knowing Basic-Plus got me my first professional software development job.

Later I learned Visual Basic and then Visual Basic .Net. Today’s Visual Basic is a far cry from the original BASIC of course but a lot of the basics are the same. There isn’t much you can do in C-family languages that you can’t also do with Visual Basic. And it is still more friendly for beginners than Java or C++ or C#.

It is still looked down upon by many and yet as the same time it still shows up on lists of most used languages (

These days I use C# for a lot of my personal programming but I still like to use Visual Basic (as I did for a quick hack today) Over my career versions of BASIC have been very important to me.


Garth said...

We had a soccer coach for a while who was a professional programmer. He wrote inventory software for large retailers like Home Depot. He worked in VB. I asked him why VB. The answer was "It works and I know VB." The best language for a task is often the language you are best at.

Robin Andrews said...

I remember many happy hours learning and writing BASIC on the ZX-81, Grundy New Brain, ZX Spectrum and BBC Micro. These days I still use it on the TI-84 graphing calculator.