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10 PRINT "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" 20 GOTO PARTY
May 1, 2014 1:00 AM   Subscribe

"At 4 a.m. on May 1, 1964, Dartmouth professor John Kemeny and a student programmer simultaneously typed RUN on neighboring terminals. When they both got back answers to their simple programs, time-sharing and BASIC were born." This post from the '60s at 50 blog about BASIC's 50th Birthday/Anniversary has several good historical links (including Dartmouth's Anniversary Celebration, which started about 15 hours early), but as for recognition by 'today's media', the 'Guarniad' may be best, with memories of a half-dozen veteran programmers and developers, and Jack Schofield, their "computer editor" (isn't that job title obsolete?), wondering if Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" may have been inspired by the computer language.

You can still get into BASIC today, with one of several compilers that work on today's computers, including the open-source, free-as-in-beer FreeBasic.

(hits POST at exactly 4 a.m., Dartmouth time, more-or-less)
posted by oneswellfoop (57 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
The highway's jammed with broken GOTOs
posted by thelonius at 1:04 AM on May 1 [11 favorites]


Walpurgisnacht is an excellent birthday for BASIC.
posted by frimble at 1:06 AM on May 1 [3 favorites]


As a child of the 80s, I cut my teeth on BASIC - it's hated now, of course, for GOTOs among countless other reasons. But imperative programming isn't actually a bad way to learn about computers - it's a much closer reflection of what CPUs actually do than more recent abstractions like OO. Your CPU runs on JMP instructions.
posted by Jimbob at 1:16 AM on May 1 [10 favorites]


My first computer booted directly into a basic interpreter, as did many others of the time. Possession of this device and exposure to BASIC at such a young age (I was 6) was undoubtedly one of the defining turning points of my life. Various broadly similar, albeit more complex, dialects of BASIC were my main creative outlet for the next 10 years. I finally graduated to "more advanced" languages just before I left school.

When I look at my life now I simply cannot imagine it without having those years of BASIC in my childhood.

I've never been a part of a religion, I fanatically followed a football team but can easily see how it could have been another one, I've many friends but assume I would have others if they hadn't been there. But that little computer, and that exposure to BASIC... I cannot comprehend how different my life would be without it. Maybe I'm just the logical type, maybe I would have found some other computer, some other language. But I'm so BASIC-centric in my memories that I cannot imagine how that scenario would play out.

I fondly remember my childhood home. Old relatives that have passed away exist in some rosy memory deep in my mind. BASIC has a similar nostalgia for me, and I say that proudly even though people now sneer at it's many flaws. Although I still program almost every day, as I have done for perhaps 3 decades, I've not touched BASIC for many years. Today is the day I change that!
posted by samworm at 1:30 AM on May 1 [13 favorites]


It's sad that Dartmouth isn't a hub of exciting computer innovations nowadays.
posted by MadMadam at 2:29 AM on May 1


Self-taught BASIC kid here, and proud of it. As Jimbob notes, it's surprisingly close to how CPUs actually work - the move from BASIC to assembler (actually, machine code in my case - hand-translating the mnemonics into decimal, POKEd into the REM statement that was at the start of the program, 'cos that was where you knew to find it in the memory map) was conceptually easier for me than the move from BASIC/Assembler to C - although, again, understanding the compiler output helped.

But oh, the excitement when you moved from one dialect of BASIC to another with more features. DATA and READ were big for me, as were multi-statement lines, multidimensional arrays (BASIC could be very good at those), 'high-res' graphics, and clever little expression evaluators which could lead you into the Mysterious Lands of Recursion and proper, grown-up programming problems that edged into philosophy.

Sure, BASIC can lead one into bad habits, but so can any programming language where you're left to your own devices with a manual and a computer. In many ways, it was an excellent match for the computers and users of that era: quick, small, dirty and fun. These mammalian traits are not all bad, in an age of dinosaurs.
posted by Devonian at 3:04 AM on May 1 [6 favorites]


["Elitist developers" rant / derail removed. Maybe just talk about the post?]
posted by taz at 3:38 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


I learned BASIC in 1969, on a teletype I had to sneak in to use after school because only the Honors Math kids were allowed to use it (guess it was a good thing I wasn't in honors math because then i never would have found my calling). I soon moved on to FORTRAN, and then PL/I, bringing all my GOTOs with me until I discovered, years later, the advantages of structured programming and recursion, but BASIC was a great introduction to the way computers worked and to their potential. Happy birthday, first language! I'll never forget you.
posted by ubiquity at 3:39 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


Learned BASIC on a teletype too. Our high-school had two paper teletypes connected to an HP 2000 at the state department of education in Trenton, NJ. I still have a few programs that I wrote saved on paper tape.
posted by octothorpe at 4:08 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


sudo apt-get install basic256 bwbasic sdlbasic

posted by one weird trick at 5:02 AM on May 1 [3 favorites]


  “… the open-source, free-as-in-beer FreeBasic.

Which doesn't install from a build under Linux; its install script is broken.

BBC Basic was nice, if smugness-inducing in owners of the machine (hey, my Basic would be as fast as yours if it didn't have a garbage collector). There are rather too many Basics these days, and none quite matches the satisfaction of immediate-mode 8-bit Basic; every computer should have a Ready prompt …
posted by scruss at 5:08 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


Oh, I hand copied those stupid BASIC programs into my computer from books and magazines in the early 80's so that I could maybe (if I didn't make any mistakes) play a game or try an app. I don't miss those days of cargo cult programming, but I do wonder what the equivalent for my son will be once he's old enough to compute.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:17 AM on May 1 [4 favorites]


Real BASIC should have line numbers. Nothing like the panic when you realize that you need to add a block of code into your program but didn't leave enough available numbers between the two lines that you need to insert between.
posted by octothorpe at 5:23 AM on May 1 [8 favorites]


I don't see how I can be considered a baby boomer when I am 21 days younger than BASIC.
posted by JanetLand at 5:26 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


We had a couple of Apple IIs and a few teletype machines hooked into the base mainframe where I went to school in 1984 that we used for a BASIC and FORTRAN class that was offered. Well, we had the teletype machines until me and a friend socially engineered the admin password out of a teacher, and got ourselves admin access to the school account. The base pulled the teletypes machines out of the school a few days later, and the school had to shell out for a couple of new Apple IIs that probably weren't in the budget.

I like to think we did them a favor.

I got a 99 on my final BASIC project - I wrote a craps simulator. The thing that kept me from a 100 was that I didn't account for negative betting. Lesson obviously learned, as I remember it 30 years later.
posted by COD at 5:28 AM on May 1


BASIC was the first programming language I ever learned. It was part of an intro to computers class and we used to fight over user terminals to get the DECwriters instead of teletypes because the printouts looked nicer for handing in. After that it was FORTRAN on punched cards, and even then it was obvious that interactive was the way to go.

The thing about BASIC is the syntax. It's been 30 years or more since I last wrote anything using it and I could still write a program without having to look anything up.
posted by tommasz at 5:34 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


Various broadly similar, albeit more complex, dialects of BASIC were my main creative outlet for the next 10 years. I finally graduated to "more advanced" languages just before I left school.

Most modern languages are horrible to learn on - almost every tutorial starts out with the caveat "This assumes you have some programming experience."

In the '80s, we had BASIC and LOGO - You could do all kinds of stuff with these languages, from make a little robot turtle draw a picture to engineer an inventory tracking system for a major warehouse. Today, we have Python, which is easy for people used to Perl, Java and C to learn; Scheme, which is easy for people used to LISP and self flagellation to learn; and Javascript, which is easy for no-one to learn but looks C-like if you squint at it and frown.

The closest to a clean and simple n00b-friendly language we have these days is Coffeescript, which gets all kinds of shit for leaving out the stuff (mostly indecipherable collections of punctuation marks) that makes Javascript comfortable for C-oriented coders and impossible for learners to parse. Even then, it's being positioned as syntactic sugar for Ruby fans who want in on the browser-as-a-platform rather than as a teaching tool for kids and coding tyros. You can sort of see the smalltalk left over in it, the good parts that made it popular as a teaching platform before C++ and Java devoured the industry.

Maybe Applescript? Nah.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:35 AM on May 1 [3 favorites]


Or Lua
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:39 AM on May 1


Before I had a standalone computer, I had the Atari BASIC Programming cartridge, with which I learned rudimentary programming skills to make a program that made a block move around on the screen by itself and beep when it touched another block that I was moving around with the joystick. A primitive video game.

Then there was the Timex Sinclair 1000. At last, a real computer! A young hacker's delight, with a Z-80 processor and an entire kilobyte of RAM to play with. Soon I was writing BASIC programs over a dozen lines long.

Imagine my excitement when I upgraded to the Commodore Vic-20! Color! Sound! Over triple the RAM of the Sinclair! A character-set in RAM that could be hacked via POKE commands, and tricked with bitwise operations into creating high-resolution (128x128) graphics! At age 14 I was teaching myself 6502 assembler, having written a hexadecimal converter in BASIC so that I could look up the assembler code in a magazine and type it.

A few years later, my nerdo friends and I went to go check out this new "Apple Macintosh" thing that was being demonstrated at a tech show. Rather than the comfortable, familiar BASIC prompt, it booted into this screen with little pictures, and had some kind of movable cursor with a gadget called a "mouse" that you moved the cursor with. It looked cool, but we couldn't figure out what use it really was, since you couldn't program it. You could buy software for it. But what fun is that?
posted by Cookiebastard at 5:46 AM on May 1 [8 favorites]


And five minutes after BASIC was invented:


10 PRINT "butts"
20 GOTO 10
posted by MartinWisse at 5:58 AM on May 1 [8 favorites]


I grew up in the 90's in Hanover NH, a townie. BASIC was taught in the local school district to 5th graders. My friends and I would sneak on to campus to access the computer network. A paycheck from the college radio station (WDCR AM 1340) got me legitimate access to the UNIX system. Enough hanging out got me working the summer in the the machine room at Kiewit. I am blessed to have interacted with bunch of really great folks that laid a great foundation for the rest of my life. I wasn't their in the 60's of course but the idea's and spirit of those time were still in a lot of ways still resident till they tore it down in the late 90's.
Good times.
posted by Agent_X_ at 6:09 AM on May 1


(the three BASICs I list above are the ones I can find in the Ubuntu 12.04 "precise" repos. bwbasic seems to be the only really old school one, interactively interpreted with line numbers for cumulatively building a program to RUN later, and with a very curious history found at the end of its man page. Check it out.)

The Time article pointed to from the Dartmouth page gets to many points important to me about BASIC and its role in history, best summarized by
thinking of its invention as a major moment only in the history of computer languages dramatically understates its significance.
Like most of us of a certain age, I learned BASIC first. I then learned to be a bit ashamed of that, because it is supposedly such an awful language compared with Real Programming Languages used by Real Programmers.

And that's too bad, especially in today's world where "digital natives" are considered as such simply because they've been drooling on iPads since infancy, whether they know anything about how it works, or not. Many of us grew up not just using, but programming, computers, starting with BASIC, from when we were in elementary or middle school. Not that it's a label I necessarily want to claim, but you could think of us as the original digital natives.


What was Micro-Soft's first product? a BASIC

What was shipped in the boot ROM of Apple's first (Apple I) and iconic first mass-produced computer Apple II? Integer BASIC

A pre-RMS use of the term "copyleft" to describe something clearly treated as free software? a TinyBASIC

The article includes the TRS-80, too, which I used for my first extensive BASIC programming, the first personal computer I ever saw, for sale, (in a Radio Shack, of course) and which I had access to (privilege, much?) in a lab at the high school. Later, CP/M word processors and original IBM-XTs in the high school computer lab, and a T/S 1000 gave me more opportunity to play this way.

This anniversary puts me in a similar frame of mind as when Steve Jobs died, thinking about how computing came to so many of us back in the day.

I remember gradually learning that folks had had to use punch cards, and in college was probably one of the few, if not the last, undergraduates to pull the dustcover off and use a vestigal teletype terminal sitting next to one of the then-more-current VT220s. I did some pencil-and-paper programming, but am really quite thankful to be able to use a "glass teletype" interactively these days, albeit in bash rather than BASIC.
posted by one weird trick at 6:25 AM on May 1 [3 favorites]


I'm another self-taught BASIC programmer. It was how I learned about porting code since my dad bought an Apple II+ which came with Applesoft basic which included (oooh!) FLOATING POINT NUMBERS. Most of the manuals we had, including the Red Book were written for its predecessor, Integer Basic. Then dad went to a computer fair which had a table run by Creative Computing. He brought home a book by David H. Ahl that contained a whole bunch of GAMES written in BASIC!

Those were a real bear to port since his BASIC was totally different from Applesoft, but the appeal of getting Schmoo or TV Plot running was enough incentive to push past the incompatibilities.

Then came the the fateful day when I was home sick. I was used to writing a little piece of code like this:

400 FOR X = 0 TO 100 : POKE -16336,0 : NEXT X : RETURN

A little one-liner subroutine to make a horrible buzz on the speaker.

I took out the Apple II+ Reference Manual and Programming the 6502 and typed something like this:
] CALL -151
* 300:2C 30 C0 4C 00 03
* 300G

which made a very high-pitched, barely audible whine from the speaker. Holy shit. So I looked at the various subroutines available and tried this:
* 300:A9 C8 20 ED FD A9 C9 20 ED FD A9 A0 20 ED FD 4C 00 03
* 300L
0300: A9 C8    LDA #$C8
0302: 20 ED FD JSR $FDED
0305: A9 C9    LDA #$C9
0307: 20 ED FD JSR $FDED
030A: A9 A0    LDA #$A0
030c: 20 ED FD JSR $FDED
030F: 4C 00 03 JMP $300
* 300G
HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI H
I HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI
 HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI 
HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI H
I HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI
 HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI HI 
Except that those 'HI ' strings filled the effing screen in an instant, whereas the BASIC equivalent was more of a wash.

At that point, I said, "thanks BASIC, it's been fun, but I've met someone new." From then on, BASIC became a bootstrap tool for loading binaries and for file I/O, which was a real bear in 6502.

I found it very entertaining when I was a freshman in high school helping juniors with their programming assignments. Gaussian elimination FTW!
posted by plinth at 6:42 AM on May 1 [6 favorites]


Real BASIC should have line numbers. Nothing like the panic when you realize that you need to add a block of code into your program but didn't leave enough available numbers between the two lines that you need to insert between.

A ha! My favourite flavour of BASIC, Locomotive BASIC on the Amstrad CPC had a "renum" command that renumbered the program in memory back into intervals of 10!

I agree that I fret a little that my son is now within months of the at which I first discovered BASIC and computer programming, and I don't know what's out there for him - but on the other hand maybe I should relax, since my parents were just as worried that I was spending *too much* time on computers, and I turned out fine.

However, I think Processing has some strengths as an introductory language - certainly the ability to very easily make it draw interesting things on the screen makes it attractive.
posted by Jimbob at 6:44 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


The monthly BASIC program was one of my favorite pages in 321 Contact magazine. The PCjr needed an outboard BASIC cartridge to make it work.
posted by dr_dank at 6:45 AM on May 1


Then dad went to a computer fair which had a table run by Creative Computing. He brought home a book by David H. Ahl that contained a whole bunch of GAMES written in BASIC!

Ah, the days of typing out BASIC programs from Creative Computing on my old Trash-80 by the viridian light of the TV-style monitor. Games are more fun, more engaging, and more interesting when one has to input them line by line...
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:47 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


And lo, there was GORILLAS.BAS
posted by miyabo at 6:56 AM on May 1 [5 favorites]


Did anyone else get Enter Magazine? The programs section from there was what was folded into 3-2-1 Contact, after they shuttered Enter.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:02 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


Nothing like the panic when you realize that you need to add a block of code into your program but didn't leave enough available numbers between the two lines that you need to insert between.

I was filling up the VIC-20 memory with ridiculous spaghetti code one day when I went to look up something in the manual and discovered that my parents had been trying to learn BASIC. They had seen the line numbers 10, 20, 30, ... and decided it was some kind of printing error, because obviously they should be 1, 2, 3. So they took a pen and carefully crossed out all those extra zeros in the example programs for the first several pages, up to the point where the instructions got to inserting a line 15.
posted by sfenders at 7:14 AM on May 1 [4 favorites]


On the Amstrad CPC, someone came up with a sort of plug-in (I guess it hooked into the BASIC interpreter somehow) that added check-sums to each line you entered, and magazines started including these check-sums alongside the code they published. It was supposed to make it easier to check you'd typed things correctly and find bugs, I guess, but in reality it just meant every time the checksum came out wrong you had to go searching for which digit or punctuation mark printed in the magazine you hadn't read correctly.

You'd read, in the tiny blurred print:
50 print "No, stop; You can't go that way!"  A6BF
So you type
50 print"No, stop:  You can't go that way!"
6DF2
OH WTF.
posted by Jimbob at 7:19 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


thelonius: "The highway's jammed with broken GOTOs"

Can't go without linking Djikstra's GOTO Considered Harmful
posted by symbioid at 7:25 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


I grew up with Macs, which were (for practical purposes) non-programmable (except for Hypercard I guess). I was always super jealous of friends who had older/cheaper machines which came with Basic installed. I'm a little afraid for the next generation which may only have easy access to touch devices which are not easy to program on.
posted by miyabo at 7:28 AM on May 1


I remember teaching BASIC as a TA in college, on a DEC TOPS 20 system at Cornell. Being able to leverage my minimal programming attention span into a lifelong career (in software development and management ha!) is one of the great accomplishments of my life. Unlearning linear programming constructs to understand objects was one of the challenges. Having to continually conceptualize emerging technologies one of the great benefits, allowing me to stay a bit less hidebound than some of my friends. Thanks BASIC!
posted by sfts2 at 7:30 AM on May 1


My whole life and all the things around me are based on BASIC. Happy Birthday.
posted by mrgroweler at 7:38 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


I started out with BASIC on a VIC-20 like most people my age, but I learned to program a little differently than most. Sure, I typed out programs from magazines and books, but I also had access to pads of Burroughs COBOL Coding forms from my "uncle". So I would write my programs out in school or on the bus and then type them in when I got home. This also made it easier to share the programs with "Uncle" Bob, who took up BASIC as a hobby even though he was already a COBOL programmer/analyst because he wanted to get closer to the computer. He and I would go on do a few projects together and he got me my first real job in the business.

Jimbob: “I agree that I fret a little that my son is now within months of the at which I first discovered BASIC and computer programming, and I don't know what's out there for him - but on the other hand maybe I should relax, since my parents were just as worried that I was spending *too much* time on computers, and I turned out fine.”
I've thought a lot about this and I've almost convinced myself that the best thing is to just give kids a VIC-20, C64, Atari ST, or equivalent when they're starting out. The main reason is they can't "ruin" it. The worst that can happen is they have to turn it off and turn it back on.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:47 AM on May 1


Real BASIC should have line numbers.

Not only that, but line numbers that are searched linearly, so you GOTO 60000 at the beginning of your program to free up those choice lower line numbers for frequently-called subroutines. (Applesoft BASIC, looking at you)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:57 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


There is at least one BASIC machine for iOS that works just fine. I got an old game working in it. I've also played around with a couple of Lua implementations. While it's true these can't affect the device itself, there are still some programming options on mobile.
posted by curious nu at 7:57 AM on May 1


Did anyone else get Enter Magazine? The programs section from there was what was folded into 3-2-1 Contact, after they shuttered Enter.
I can still remember the helpless disappointment I felt upon reading the announcement that they were discontinuing Enter magazine; it was an early "this is how the world works, better get used to it" lesson for me. The crummy, tiny programming section that followed in 3-2-1 Contact was somehow worse than if Enter just gone away entirely.

The programs in Enter were usually short enough that you could type them in without incident. For real heartbreak you had to turn to Commodore Power Play magazine, which featured BASIC program listings that went on for pages and pages with hundreds of lines of inscrutable DATA statements. I spent more than one entire weekend laboriously typing in code for a game, only to type RUN and find out that I had entered some crucial thing incorrectly.
posted by usonian at 8:29 AM on May 1 [3 favorites]


Android has a really nice free (speech and beer) version of Basic called RFO basic.

Apparently, looking at the site, it is written by the person who created Apple DOS and Basic for the Atari. Small world.
posted by zabuni at 8:34 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


Yeah, My first BASIC was TRS-80 COCO (link goes to my picture of the Color Basic book :D)

We also had a PCjr a few years later which had a BASIC interpreter ROM cartridge (link goes to some dudes images of carts, the left one is the BASIC, as you can read).

I was quite young (5) when we had our TRS-80, and I tried to program, and I did as good as I could, but of course, grokking $DIM and arrays and all that data just looked like gobbledy-gook to me. And PEEK/POKE didn't quite make sense either.

Still, it was a good thing to get a start, even though I wasn't proficient, and I'm still learning so much about programming so many years later.

The name I make music under is "COLORBASIC" and I'm attempting to make a game in Unity3D, so...

And the magazines! With Code... Family Computing! And David Ahl's 2 books More Basic Games and Basic Games...

My dad's purchase of that computer at such an early age certainly had an effect on me, and I'm grateful I live in a world where I had that opportunity at such a young age. And of course, the other computers in my life. Shame that we don't install a good teaching language by default in systems anymore. I suppose with the net, if a kid is interested, they'll go seek it out, but... There's something about just having it there, ready to go.

I'm not sure what the best pedagogical language for young children is. I know there's talk of Python or Ruby. Then you have Squeak designed as a pedagogical tool. There's an online language called blockly that's a bit like Squeak.

I definitely think for an early language, kids need rapid feedback. LOGO was interesting, and I think a visual approach would be nice to the output, though I'm not sure if a visual approach to the language (as Squeak/Blockly do) is necessarily a good thing. I mean, it does convey the ideas, but maybe if the language was designed to start with the visual approach and slowly strip it away as the child passes tests, then add new features? I dunno.

I still wish Nintendo made a Mario LOGO. Can you imagine how rad it would be to have a Koopa Shell moving and making images???
posted by symbioid at 8:40 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


Wow, RFO Basic looks like the real deal. It lets you play in a sandbox right on the Android device and generates standalone apps you can redistribute.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:46 AM on May 1




Oh, also? Anybody think Google's Dart language name might have been inspired by Dartmouth as a little nod?
posted by symbioid at 8:58 AM on May 1


Happy birthday, BASIC! I owe you everything. MS BASIC-80 and GFA BASIC will live forever in my heart.
posted by jewzilla at 9:15 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


Oh, I hand copied those stupid BASIC programs into my computer from books and magazines in the early 80's so that I could maybe (if I didn't make any mistakes) play a game or try an app.

I got them from Dragon magazine: an endless column of capital letters that never quite worked. :7( Here's one for anybody willing to take a shot: scroll to page 42 of Issue #74 and start typing.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:20 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


There was also the MAD Magazine Computer Program from 1985.
posted by usonian at 9:27 AM on May 1 [4 favorites]


I got them from Dragon magazine: an endless column of capital letters that never quite worked. :7( Here's one for anybody willing to take a shot: scroll to page 42 of Issue #74 and start typing.

Since whoever scanned that issue also included OCR text, copy-pasting the program is an option, too.
posted by Doktor Zed at 9:41 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


I got them from Dragon magazine: an endless column of capital letters that never quite worked. :7( Here's one for anybody willing to take a shot: scroll to page 42 of Issue #74 and start typing.

Heh... A BASIC (Color Basic!) program that generated character tables and scored various encounters was my second real program on my Coco. If BASIC had not existed on these machines, ready to go when you turned the machine on, I doubt I would be doing what I'm doing today.

posted by smidgen at 10:14 AM on May 1


I grew up with Macs, which were (for practical purposes) non-programmable (except for Hypercard I guess).

I think my first programming language (yes, after Hypercard) was Chipmunk Basic on System 7; it's still being developed, apparently.
posted by junco at 10:22 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


If anyone's missing GFABASIC, X11-Basic (for Linux, Windows and Android; don't know if it builds on OS X) is rather nice. The graphics are a bit sluggish if you refresh the screen on every draw; batch a few operations, though, and it flies.

Processing's the nearest thing I can think of for a modern BASIC replacement. Just wish I had it in ROM ...
posted by scruss at 10:51 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


I too started with basic on my Atari 600XL. One of my brothers would buy a copy of A.N.A.L.O.G. magazine and my other brother would read the code listings to me while I, naturally being the youngest, typed them in. This would take an hour or two, particularly before they started printing CRC codes for each line. Once done, we'd play the video game (it was always the video games) for a couple of hours and because we could not yet afford the tape drive to save anything, we just switched it off. I learned how to type very fast and (eventually) I learned how to code by modifying lines in funny ways as I typed them in. Good times.
posted by Poldo at 11:47 AM on May 1


> Processing has some strengths as an introductory language - certainly the ability to very easily make it draw interesting things on the screen makes it attractive.

Python has turtle graphics and here's an in-browser implementation. Neat thing about IDE + interpreters written on top of javascript is that they run on sandboxed devices as long as they still have web browsers. Tinkerer's sunset pshaw!
posted by morganw at 1:29 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


I have fond memories of writing Applesoft BASIC interactive fiction on my friend's computer while he dictated what would happen next, eventually moving on to GW-BASIC on a different friend's computer, and, finally, QBasic when I got my first computer. I think somewhere tucked away I still have a floppy disk full of QBasic programs I wrote. I think I'll hunt for those when I've got a chance.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 1:58 PM on May 1




I have never been able to understand people who dislike GOTOs. How else do you fit things in when you run out of line numbers? You just take one of the lines, retype it as (e.g.) line 10000, follow it with whatever else you want, replace the original with GOTO 10000 and put another GOTO to take you back where you were. Easy-peasy, and so much easier to read than trying to fit lots of instructions on a single line.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:08 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


Regarding that Woz article;
I sniffed the wind and knew that the key to making my computer good (popular) was to include a high-level language and that it had to be BASIC. Engineers programming in FORTRAN were not going to be what would start a home computer revolution.
This seems to strange to me, from a modern perspective, because I actually deal with FORTRAN code quite often - a lot of mathematical / scientific code has been floating around in it for years, and I frequently have to translate it into R, or examine FORTRAN source code for libraries that R is calling for various functions. And FORTRAN, really, looks 90% the same as BASIC to me! Particularly the old-school line-numbered FORTRAN. Differences seem mostly cosmetic; GO TO instead of GOTO, EQ instead of =.
posted by Jimbob at 10:02 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


That Springsteen / BASIC shirt from NTK.

Not me, but I do still have mine in the closet.

What's with the inverted L? It's a Sinclair BASIC thing.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 11:53 PM on May 1


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