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Born To RUN: Dartmouth Throwing BASIC a 50th B-Day Party

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the over-the-hill dept.

Programming 146

theodp writes: "Still hanging on to a dog-eared copy of BASIC Computer Games? Back issues of Creative Computing? Well then, Bunky, mark your calendar for April 30th, because Dartmouth College is throwing BASIC a 50th birthday party that you won't want to miss! From the 'invite' to BASIC at 50: 'At 4 a.m. on May 1, 1964, in the basement of College Hall, Professor John Kemeny and a student programmer simultaneously typed RUN on neighboring terminals. When they both got back correct answers to their simple programs, time-sharing and BASIC were born. Kemeny, who later became Dartmouth's 13th president, Professor Tom Kurtz, and a number of undergraduate students worked together to revolutionize computing with the introduction of time-sharing and the BASIC programming language. Their innovations made computing accessible to all Dartmouth students and faculty, and soon after, to people across the nation and the world [video — young Bill Gates cameo @2:18]. This year, Dartmouth is celebrating 50 years of BASIC with a day of events on Wednesday, April 30. Please join us as we recognize the enduring impact of BASIC, showcase innovation in computing at Dartmouth today, and imagine what the next 50 years may hold.' Be sure to check out the vintage photos on Flickr to see what real cloud computing looks like, kids!"

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We've come a long way (4, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | about 4 months ago | (#46703457)

We've come a long way from the original BASIC to VisualBasic.NET, which is basically C# with a BASIC type syntax.

Re:We've come a long way (3, Informative)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 4 months ago | (#46703571)

Yes very much so. And VB.Net still puts people off because of that long history. Even though it's pretty much exactly the same functionality as C#. Last I checked, it has some features C# didn't have, the biggest of which is better background compiling. You can add entire classes with actually compiling your project, and Intellisense will work. Maybe C# will do that now, but VB.Net has basically always had this feature.

Re:We've come a long way (4, Informative)

Chrisq (894406) | about 4 months ago | (#46703639)

Yes very much so. And VB.Net still puts people off because of that long history. Even though it's pretty much exactly the same functionality as C#. Last I checked, it has some features C# didn't have, the biggest of which is better background compiling. You can add entire classes with actually compiling your project, and Intellisense will work. Maybe C# will do that now, but VB.Net has basically always had this feature.

A developer who converted a lot of VB code from VB7 to .NET said that one difference with C# is that typing is more strictly enforced at compile time. After testing on a sample he discovered that porting to VB.NET was quicker, but converting to C# discovered some obscure bugs in the original code - some of which had work-arounds applied as they had ever been fully understood. We went for the port to C# with the result that the ported application was more stable than the original.

Re:We've come a long way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46703701)

Option Strict is your friend.

Re:We've come a long way (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 4 months ago | (#46703719)

Option Strict is your friend.

I'm not a .net developer but from what i was told C# was stricter than "Option Strict" in VB.Net

Re:We've come a long way (2)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about 4 months ago | (#46703903)

Option Strict is your friend.

In addition to Option Explicit. Friends indeed. But to the OP's behalf, Option Explicit is relatively new (2005 I think). There is still a lot of VB code out there that predates that feature.

But even then I think one should not need to rely on such things.

I used to be a QuickBasic and VB programmer back in Pre-(Internet)-Cambian times (and, oh, the horrror, PickBasic with numeric goto statements). We guarded ourselves (or I least I did) by using strict coding conventions and Hungarian notation on variable names and function names indicating the return values.

To a similar degree I did the same when I shifted from VB to FoxBase/FoxPro/VFP (what a nice product it was for its time). Anyways, it was obviously impossible to guarantee a type-mixing mistake would not occur, but software written this way tended to be very reliable and sufficiently type-safe.

Done this way, type mistakes were easy to spot by just looking at the code. At the end of the day, as Joel Spolsky once wrote, it is about making wrong code look wrong. [joelonsoftware.com]

Re:We've come a long way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46705415)

Same AC as above: Option Strict was part of VB.Net since at least VS2003 (.Net 1.1)

Re:We've come a long way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46705047)

Yes very much so. And VB.Net still puts people off because of that long history. Even though it's pretty much exactly the same functionality as C#. Last I checked, it has some features C# didn't have, the biggest of which is better background compiling. You can add entire classes with actually compiling your project, and Intellisense will work. Maybe C# will do that now, but VB.Net has basically always had this feature.

A developer who converted a lot of VB code from VB7 to .NET said that one difference with C# is that typing is more strictly enforced at compile time. After testing on a sample he discovered that porting to VB.NET was quicker, but converting to C# discovered some obscure bugs in the original code - some of which had work-arounds applied as they had ever been fully understood. We went for the port to C# with the result that the ported application was more stable than the original.

I thought type safety was only something old timers worried about? None of the cool new languages think it is important...

Re:We've come a long way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46704555)

No, VB.NET puts people off because it's a bad language. It's clumsy and verbose. I don't understand anyone who enjoys working in such a language. For the most part, VB.NET lets you keep all the bad practices you don't wish to unlearn. It's so sad that so many point to this language as the legacy of BASIC.

Re:We've come a long way (1)

maz2331 (1104901) | about 4 months ago | (#46705057)

Case sensitivity is the one big turn-off to using C-syntax to me. If I am going to deal with it, then I want my damn pointers back, so I'd just as soon work in C++ and have some actual power to go with the inconvenience. Otherwise, for just business-logic and general DB stuff, VB.NET is quite nice to work in.

Re:We've come a long way (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 4 months ago | (#46705197)

Why do you want case insensitivity in a language?

Re:We've come a long way (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46705251)

Why do you want case insensitivity in a language?

Because people lazy and stupid.

Case-insensitivity is a terrible idea in a programming language.

Re:We've come a long way (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 4 months ago | (#46705721)

What use case is there for having two variables with the same name that only differ by case? In VB.Net, you declare a variable using the desired case, and then when you use the variable, you can just type it completely in lower case (or upper case if you prefer) and it fixes the case to what was in the variable declaration. So the variables always end up with the same original case, and you don't end up with problem where 2 variables have been defined, with the only difference being capitalization of the first letter.

Re:We've come a long way (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 4 months ago | (#46706007)

Well that sounds good, or at least not bad, in that it eliminates potential case typos, and may reduce the need for the shift key for those who don't use it automatically anyway.

But it's neither case sensitivity, nor case insensitivity, but IDE case fixup.

For a language itself, I still can't see an argument for it not being case sensitive.

Re:We've come a long way (1)

mlw4428 (1029576) | about 4 months ago | (#46706429)

What argument do you have for a case sensitive language? It just seems like a REALLY easy way to introduce bugs into your code.

Re:We've come a long way (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 4 months ago | (#46706787)

In general for a similar reason that VB.Net IDE corrects case. Because you don't want different parts of a program using STATUS, Status and status for the same variable.

But there are also use cases for identifiers only varying by case. e.g. Many coding standards say that classes start with a capital, and objects with a lowercase. So:
TextView is a class.
textView is an object of the type TextView.

Then there's indicating word divisions by case:
"mId" may be a member variable identifier.
"mid" is a local variable, perhaps indicating the centre of something.

Re:We've come a long way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46705995)

The same could be said of C# in relation to Cobra,
for dotNet Cobra is the cleaner and less convoluted language,
but working with ms office objects... vbNet ends being simpler,
the most redeeming aspect of java and dotnet is the
ability to mix and match modules in several languages in
the same project, to use the better tool to solve the problem
most of the time Cobra/C#/vbNet and some times F#, Mercury, etc

Re:We've come a long way (1)

mlw4428 (1029576) | about 4 months ago | (#46706417)

Verbosity isn't necessarily a bad thing. I was (am?) a VB .NET programmer who turned C#. C# has a lot of little shortcuts because if its roots in C++ -- however these shortcuts can cause debugging to be painful, especially if one isn't familiar with them. Furthermore I'd rather, 1000% of the time, have a variable or function named something like databaseQueryForUser than dbqfusr with another DBQFUSR and another DbQFuSR. And I love C# if nothing else because of the extra love Microsoft and Mono give it. Quit telling people VB is a bad language, it's a language that is designed to be easy to read and understand. That's a good thing as far as debugging goes.

Re:We've come a long way (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 4 months ago | (#46707247)

The real issue about VB.NET is the .NET added technical complexity to the language.

BASIC then Visual Basic was intended to be a language that anyone can code without a strong Computer Science foundation.

Great for Engineers who need to do some complicated calculations or create some simulations. Or for Business folks who need to get these early computers to do things with it, as we didn't have Spreadsheets ready yet.

Visual Basic was still easy for these groups too. It did a better job of organizing stuff into a better model. But because it was point and click people still liked it and used it.

However VB.NET those Computer Scientists got to it and tried to make it a "Respectable" programming language, with classes and abstraction and a lot of stuff while useful if you know what you are doing, has in essence became too complex for generally smart people who do not code all the time, and just wants to get something quick and dirty out.

Re:We've come a long way (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46703931)

I think it would be more accurate to say that C# is Visual Basic with a C-like syntax so programmers no longer have to feel ashamed of using Basic.
Let's face it: no matter whether you're using Java, C#, Python or C++ with a modern toolkit, we're all programming in Visual Basic now.

Re:We've come a long way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46705837)

Started programming for a living in the late 80s and to me:
- Clarion first impression was like Modula2 meets Clipper
- VB first impression was like QuickBasic PDS meets HyperCard
- PowerBuilder first impression was like Cougar meets Access
- Java fist impression was like Strongtalk meets Modula3 libraries
- dotNet first impression was like Java runtime meets Delphi libraries

I loved TurboPascal for Windows to learn Win16 nuts and bolds,
modern rad cant help but obscure the os architecture striving to
increase productivity... there was better options that didn't survive
like Dolphin Smalltalk or the now open source BlackBox Oberon2

Multi-platform native generators like Haxe or Vala seems to me like
a better compromise between productivity and unconstrained by
framework or runtime access to the os/hardware

Re:We've come a long way (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#46704009)

Well, they have about as much common with each other as FORTRAN I has with Fortran 2008. ;-)

Memories (4, Interesting)

kria (126207) | about 4 months ago | (#46703465)

I remember as a child reading BASIC programs out of Compute Magazine for my dad to type in on our TI computer. That likely means I was reading code before I read my first real novel, which is amusing.

I try not to admit at work that I've had to learn VBA for Excel for a tool we use.

Re:Memories (5, Funny)

postbigbang (761081) | about 4 months ago | (#46703471)

Maybe you should GOTO the event.

Re:Memories (4, Funny)

invictusvoyd (3546069) | about 4 months ago | (#46703497)

And have spaghetti for breakfast

Re:Memories (4, Funny)

SigmundFloyd (994648) | about 4 months ago | (#46703787)

Maybe you should GOTO the event.

But then he can't RETURN...

Re:Memories (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46704113)

He could just have a PEEK, no?

Re:Memories (2)

Virtucon (127420) | about 4 months ago | (#46704791)

POKE a hole in it, it's done.

Re:Memories (1)

mlw4428 (1029576) | about 4 months ago | (#46706375)

Let's END these bad puns.

Re:Memories (0)

operagost (62405) | about 4 months ago | (#46706371)

Sounds harmful.

Re:Memories (2)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 4 months ago | (#46703857)

As a teen I remember writing a small game program in BASIC on a sheet of "programming pad'. Then calling my friend and reading it over the phone while he entered it on his TRS-80. The game was called Catch. A little man got fired out and you had to catch him with the curser before he hit the ground. It worked first time no flaws. I didn't get to see it for over a week. We played that game quite often.

Then it was on to FORTRAN punch cards.

NOT the good old days.

Re:Memories (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | about 4 months ago | (#46705795)

for me in college I would see a BASIC program (this was in pre-internet days when magazine articles listed programs) I'd type it in and run the program to see what it does. Of course I have to go back and read the article to better understand what I just entered into the computer. Not the best way to learn but had fun with it. Regarding pre-internet, I did have a Compuserve electronic mail account but far from going to article online and do copy/paste.

Re:Memories (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 4 months ago | (#46707065)

I was reading BASIC programs even though I had never seen or used a computer.

Basic consider harmful (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46703521)

So said that commie Dykejrkuf.

Posts like these (-1, Flamebait)

korbulon (2792438) | about 4 months ago | (#46703539)

lead me to think that slashdot needs a moderation system for articles.

-1 (Nobody cares)

Re:Posts like these (4, Funny)

dcw3 (649211) | about 4 months ago | (#46703649)

Funny. You care enough to post. Maybe, unlike many of us here, you didn't cut your teeth on it, and it's not of interest to you. But, unlike you, I had my first programming class in high school in the early 70s, and have fond memories of acoustic modems, hooked to teletypes, and punching out our programs on the paper tape unit attached to them. Maybe you'd consider those of us from that era to be dinosaurs. I have one thing to say to that...get the fuck off my lawn whippersnapper!

Re:Posts like these (-1, Flamebait)

korbulon (2792438) | about 4 months ago | (#46703709)

Oh OK: Let me change that to -1 (Most people here don't care)

And yeah but no: I went through all that shit you're talking about : hooking up the phone to 300 baud modem and the sound of the KRGHGRAHIHZZZ DDRRTTT ... ding ding!, and mucking about in BASIC and DOS 3.3, 6502 peeks and pokes, and the scream of the dot matrix while printing out ASCII boobs. All that shit, and I still don't care. Just let it go, some things are basically not worth remembering.

Re:Posts like these (2)

morgauxo (974071) | about 4 months ago | (#46703835)

Maybe you just don't have a very good grasp on who "most people here" are.

Re:Posts like these (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#46704033)

Maybe you just don't have a very good grasp on who "most people here" are.

If "most people here" care neither about the 50th anniversary of BASIC nor of time-sharing on computers ... one might argue that "most people here" aren't actually the target audience for Slashdot.

That's like saying on an aviation forum nobody cares about the Wright Brothers's place in history.

Re:Posts like these (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 4 months ago | (#46703871)

Oh OK: Let me change that to -1 (Most people here don't care)

That's probably true for most of the stories that get posted here, but normal people skip the stories they're not interested in and comment on the ones they are interested in without being whiny bitches.

Just let it go

I think you need to take your own advice. Why does it annoy you so much that other people aren't like you (or at least, aren't like you claim to be)?

Re:Posts like these (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 4 months ago | (#46704319)

Oh OK: Let me change that to -1 (Most people here don't care)

Your karma suggests that there is at least one thing that most of the people here can agree upon.

Re:Posts like these (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46703695)

Well, then if you don't care about the invention of BASIC or time sharing systems ...

Maybe you're on the wrong fucking website and should go someplace else?

Maybe nobody gives a damn about the stupidity of some 7-digit ID with no clue about what this means?

Re:Posts like these (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46705055)

lead me to think that slashdot needs a moderation system for articles.

-1 (Nobody cares)

10 PRINT "MOD PARENT DOWN"
20 GOTO 10

I still program in BASIC. (Sometimes) (3, Interesting)

MooseDontBounce (989375) | about 4 months ago | (#46703555)

My companies MRP is the (very) old CA-Maxcim written in BASIC. About every other year some change needs to be made to the code. I grab my old BASIC manual and CA-Maxcim API guide and go to work. We use SQL Server, C#, etc. for all new work and have a 3rd party product to access the CA-Maxcim files but it's funny to think of a $80 million+ company core application is written in BASIC. It just works with no problems.

Re:I still program in BASIC. (Sometimes) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46703621)

I still use PureBASIC or PowerBASIC for certain things-- sometimes it's much quicker and easier to whip up a solution in either of those than to futz around with Visual Studio, and even things like PERL. And my little utility is really little- far more compact and efficient than what's typically spit out by VS.

Re:I still program in BASIC. (Sometimes) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46706161)

Amen, PowerBasic is a god send, and followed by Delphi, is
was? the less bloated commercial supported option on windows.

 

BASIC is where M$ got its start (4, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | about 4 months ago | (#46703617)

If you wonder why people abbreviate Microsoft as M$ in articles, consider that Microsoft got its start as a developer of BASIC for 8-bit home computers, including every Apple II computer from the Apple II Plus through the IIGS, IIc Plus, and Macintosh LC with IIe Card. The FAT file system also started with a Microsoft BASIC [wikipedia.org] ; Tim Paterson incorporated it into the 86-DOS that he would later sell to Microsoft. And in this early era, before DEFSTR and DIM ... AS, all string variable names ended with a $, just as names of scalar variables in Perl would later start with $. The following is a BASIC program:

10 LET M$ = "Microsoft"
20 PRINT M$;" introduces BASIC"
30 END

(That and the $ helps to distinguish Microsoft from multiple sclerosis [jokebuddha.com] .)

Re:BASIC is where M$ got its start (1)

colfer (619105) | about 4 months ago | (#46703643)

Line numbers were great. You could add line 15 at any time!

But M$ gave us BAT files, which are terrible.

Command.com (2)

tepples (727027) | about 4 months ago | (#46703741)

But M$ gave us BAT files, which are terrible.

In principle, BAT files are shell scripts. But in practice, I agree that Command.com remained underpowered as a shell. In fact, it was so underpowered that the maker of Scotch tape bought the name to use it for adhesive hanging hooks [command.com] . Cmd.exe in Windows NT family fixed this somewhat, but as I understand it, Microsoft's command prompt didn't fully meet the power of UNIX shells until PowerShell.

Re:Command.com (1)

DriveDog (822962) | about 4 months ago | (#46704097)

Having written BATch files since 1985, the first time I tried JScript I decided not to use BATs again except for very simple things. Windows Scripting Host was a good idea that apparently 1) appeared too late, and 2) wasn't supported on all Windows versions for a long time. Too bad.

Re:Command.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46706347)

Since Lantastic days, the better alternative supporting the full range
of windows versions, was the freeware and still updated wix (and
wixForms) shell script interpreter

Re:Command.com (1)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about 4 months ago | (#46704463)

I use the windows command prompt every day and have for a very long time but I do have a nice collection of vbscripts and third party tools that are intended to run from the prompt. I never use powershell and I work in a mostly windows environment I would say that those vbscripts and third party tools make it fairly close to powershell.

Re:Command.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46706837)

Other alternatives to the WHS could be: byte compiled scripts,
programmed in autoIT, wix, RapidQ; or if you are very lucky, to
have it, Sax Basic (current "polar engineering" price is too
expensive for shell scripting)

Re:Command.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46706241)

Well... the best shell option for microsoft os widely used
was TakeCommand by JPSoft until PowerShell arrived

Re:BASIC is where M$ got its start (1)

colfer (619105) | about 4 months ago | (#46703771)

And if you haven't seen ASCII-art porn images come clacking out of a teletype with a phone-cradle modem to a time-sharing computer, then you weren't there (thankfully perhaps). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... [wikipedia.org]

Briefly I had to deal with compiled programs on decks of IBM cards. BASIC was much nicer for a student doing small programs because it was interpreted and you could fix it as you went along (in memory). Those card decks looked cool on Hawaii Five-0, but one syntax mistake in a cobol or fortran program and you had to wait another two hours to get your homework done.

Re:BASIC is where M$ got its start (1)

swb (14022) | about 4 months ago | (#46703933)

I used to have the astronaut on the moon ASCII poster in my bedroom in high school.

We used to print them on the DECwriter instead of the TTY33 because they were faster and looked better. The lab nazis would get pissed if they caught you running posters, but it was easier to get away with if it took less time. The TTYs were only viable if you snuck into one of the non-CompSci labs, like in the psychology building, after hours.

Brings back memories of TASC (2)

swb (14022) | about 4 months ago | (#46704065)

The AppleSoft Compiler. It seemed like magic, programs ran so much faster than interpreted. I seem to remember a demo BASIC brickout game being basically unplayable compiled because it ran so fast.

Re:Brings back memories of TASC (2)

jockm (233372) | about 4 months ago | (#46705023)

Microsoft's TASC was also impressive because it was written in AppleSoft Basic and compiled with itself. No small feat, considering the Basic of the time. It was the first compiler I ever bought.

Re:BASIC is where M$ got its start (1)

Old Aylesburian (2780221) | about 4 months ago | (#46704083)

WAIT 6502,1

Re:BASIC is where M$ got its start (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 4 months ago | (#46704589)

I'm sure it's coincidental that "M$" likewise suggests Microsoft's financial rapacity, of course.

Re:BASIC is where M$ got its start (2, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#46704793)

What you say is interesting, but I disagree.

People use M$ in the same way they use Di$ney ... to connote money grubbing corporations.

I have never understood that to have anything to do with variables in BASIC.

Though, for all I know, you could be correct. But I've never used it that way.

Re:BASIC is where M$ got its start (2)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 4 months ago | (#46705519)

I assumed that it was a reference to their relentless pursuit of cash at all costs (including quality).

Celebrate (1)

just_another_sean (919159) | about 4 months ago | (#46703627)

I'm going to celebrate by making each of my kids write a simple program in BASIC. They can start on 4/20 and have to be complete by 4/30.

It's how I got started by gum and if it was good enough for me, and it was, than it's good enough for them!

http://www.freebasic.net/ [freebasic.net]

Re:Celebrate (1)

theodp (442580) | about 4 months ago | (#46703885)

I'm sure the late John Kemeny [nytimes.com] , sbown hire watching daughter Jennifer write a BASIC program [flickr.com] , would approve!

Re:Celebrate (1)

just_another_sean (919159) | about 4 months ago | (#46707189)

Nice, love the second link/picture. It's nice to know that despite some differences (cloths, equipment) some things never change! :-)

10 REM HAPPY BIRTHDAY (1)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about 4 months ago | (#46703777)

20 LET X = 0
30 IF X = 50 THEN 60
40 LET X = X + 1
50 GOTO 30
60 PRINT "HAPPY "
70 PRINT X
80 PRINT " BASIC!"

Re:10 REM HAPPY BIRTHDAY (2)

NewWorldDan (899800) | about 4 months ago | (#46704355)

As memory serves, you would want semicolons after lines 60 and 70 so as not to cause a new line. The dangers of posting untested code to the web.

Anyway, I thought I'd share the greatest program I ever wrote: a chat-bot. I was 8 and taking a summer school BASIC class in 1984. Near the end of the summer, we had a group of seniors visiting, so I wrote a really simple chat program - just asked some questions and provided canned responses. When those seniors saw the computer talking about the weather they got up and backed away in fear and I had to explain that it said the same thing no matter what you typed, but they still wouldn't go near the computer again. Looking back, that was totally awesome.

Re:10 REM HAPPY BIRTHDAY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46706637)

Reminds me the prank we did to non informatics students
in late 80s programmed in turbo pascal; a very simple
dos terminal "Ouija", that used Wile E Coyote "latin" for
internal fixed lists of "spells", and gives chance (to in the
knowledge operator) to type some answer while showing
as keyed one of the canned "spells", latter showing the just
typed in disguise answer back... or some "spiritual" excuse,
when in use by operators not aware of the key combination
for answer capturing

We where so amused by the fear and irrationality of the magic
thinking from should know better senior university students
believing in the possibility of existence to working DOS "Ouija"

Childish i know, but at 16 really wasnt that much ;-p

My only programming class, ever. (1)

mrhippo3 (2747859) | about 4 months ago | (#46703785)

As a senior at Taylor Allderdice HS (Squirrel Hill) in Pittsburgh, I had my ONLY formal programming class, in BASIC. When I went to engineering school at Carnegie-Mellon, I was not required to take any programming classes, so I chose not to.

So of course my entire career has been spent using computers. I did use BASIC on my first job (HP 9830, dual cassette drives and a whopping 16KB of RAM), doing real-time data acquisition on large centrifugal compressors. I also wrote a resume as a series of PRINT statements in 1976. This resume was handed back to me in 1983 when I went to work at Penton publishing -- separate story. I have done a lot of CAD, structural analysis, software docs (issued 12,000 page of embedded systems compiler docs one year) and webwork. For another doc project, I hand-coded the help as .jsp. I was the doc person for a dozen or so developers. And to the chagrin of my daughter (a redditor) I sometimes hand code the corporate website.

Yes, BASIC started me on the road to ruination. 40 plus years later and I am still at it.

They can borrow... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46703817)

my mint-in-shipping-box copy of "Computer Rage", the boardgame published by Creative Computing mag.

One of my earliest multiuser gaming experiences. (3, Insightful)

Gondola (189182) | about 4 months ago | (#46703867)

Back in the day, I knew people that could provide me with magic phone numbers that would allow me to dial anywhere in the world, for free. Imagine that, right? I was only like 13. Statute of limitations and all that. This was in the 80s I guess.

Anyway, I remember we used to somehow dial into a Darthmouth mainframe and from there we could do a couple things. They had some kind of multiuser Zork (or Zork-ish) text adventure that you could play. I tried it a couple times but I couldn't get into it at the time, even though I loved Infocom games.

The biggest appeal was getting into the chat system. There, we could chat with what I assume were Darthmouth college students. "JOIN XYZ" I think was the command from the main menu.

There was this cool VT display of who was in the chat, so you could tell how many people were there. I used to chat with these people all the time. It was great for a precocious 13 year old who couldn't talk with his peers because his vocabulary and worldview was greatly expanded from theirs. How unfortunate that my social skills were so backward at the same time.

The details are a bit foggy, but I'm sure with some conversation with some of the same folks who used to chat there, I could dredge up those memories. Anyone remember chatting on that system?

Re:One of my earliest multiuser gaming experiences (1)

MrHops (712514) | about 4 months ago | (#46705035)

The biggest appeal was getting into the chat system. There, we could chat with what I assume were Darthmouth college students. "JOIN XYZ" I think was the command from the main menu.

There was this cool VT display of who was in the chat, so you could tell how many people were there. I used to chat with these people all the time. It was great for a precocious 13 year old who couldn't talk with his peers because his vocabulary and worldview was greatly expanded from theirs. How unfortunate that my social skills were so backward at the same time.

The details are a bit foggy, but I'm sure with some conversation with some of the same folks who used to chat there, I could dredge up those memories. Anyone remember chatting on that system?

Oh yes. I was a freshman in '80, and I spent a lot (too much?) time in Kiewit, playing the adventure game, writing programs in BASIC (and later BASIC7, which had a multi-threaded version if you can believe that) chatting on XYZ. Probably talked to you at one point.

BTW, it's 'Dartmouth'. I'm not fussy, but I'm sure there are alums who are.

Mixed blessing (1)

GrahamCox (741991) | about 4 months ago | (#46703983)

BASIC is a horrible, horrible language. I'm conflicted though, since it's where I started, in 1978. I stuck with it for a few years not knowing any better, and even programmed the first Mac using MS BASIC for a short time in '85 before giving it up for good. But learning Pascal (Turbo flavour) was a breath of fresh air - almost as easy to use, and far, far more elegant and properly structured. From there it was a trivial leap to C and OOP, C++, Obj-C and the rest. I suspect many programmers of my generation have a similar story, but while BASIC is quick to learn and get started with, it does nothing to teach you how to be a *good* programmer, and encourages many bad habits. Maybe it got better in its later incarnations, I wouldn't know - once you've got to grips with C there's no reason to look at BASIC again. I guess we don't have to wait too long for C's 50th.

Re:Mixed blessing (2)

Alioth (221270) | about 4 months ago | (#46704541)

There are some good versions of BASIC, even from years ago.

Consider BBC BASIC for the BBC Microcomputer (a very common computer in the 1980s in British education and schools). BBC BASIC supports named procedures and local variables so you can write BBC BASIC programs just as structured as pretty much any other language. It's one of the few BASICs where you can easily write recursive routines (since it has local variables).

Then there are BASICs that are just awful, like the excuse for a language interpreter that Commodore put on the C64.

Re:Mixed blessing (2)

slapout (93640) | about 4 months ago | (#46706533)

That's what the B in BASIC is for -- Beginners. You use it to learn about variables and loops and if statements and other such concepts. Then you move on to other languages (C, Python, etc.) where the concepts are the same but the languages are better structured.

ewww (3, Insightful)

DriveDog (822962) | about 4 months ago | (#46704071)

Familiarity, in this case, bred contempt. I've written far more code in all sorts of dialects of BASIC than anything else, and I avoid it now if at all possible. For 1964 or the limited hardware in the 70s (6502s, Z80s, etc.) I suppose it was OK. But this isn't 1964 or 1978. VB isn't Dartmouth BASIC, but it looks and feels like V'GER—all sorts of stuff agglomerated onto a simple-minded core to add capabilities. So I'll celebrate not having to use it. MS made gigabucks in spite of BASIC, not because of it. Too bad K&R didn't get to work a few years sooner so we would never have heard of it. Some older cities still have lead pipes. Doesn't mean it was ever a good idea, and they'd be better off had they never used lead in the first place.

Re:ewww (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46704785)

Too bad K&R didn't get to work a few years sooner..

Too bad K&R got to work at all. C is just a bastardized form of BCPL [wikipedia.org] . The IT world would be a better place if the BCPL language tree had died at the root.

osaware (1)

Jah Shaka (562375) | about 4 months ago | (#46704137)

dont forget to check out www.osaware.com !

Meh (1)

T.E.D. (34228) | about 4 months ago | (#46704163)

Yeah, I've got a box full of old Creative Computing mags in the attic, and yeah, BASIC was my first programming language. But celebrate its birthday? Meh...

The language certainly has its place in history, but frankly I moved on a long time ago, and for damn good reason. To me, this would be like celebrating the birthday of the Hustle or Electric Slide. I might occasionally pine for the days of wall-to-wall shag carpeting, but that doesn't mean I'm about to install it in my living room again "for old time's sake". It died for a very good reason. Let it go.

Re:Meh (1)

slapout (93640) | about 4 months ago | (#46706575)

Think of it more like the anniversary of the slide rule. Sure, you wouldn't use it today for doing calculations, put it has a place in history and was a step toward more powerful things. And some amazing stuff was done with it, like going to the moon.

Pretty amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46704225)

We all know we only have computers because of NASA and astronauts. Who knew John Kemeny was actually an astronaut and used BASIC in space?

Obligatory link of love (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 4 months ago | (#46704637)

http://www.vintage-basic.net/g... [vintage-basic.net]

"BASIC Computer Games
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
BASIC Computer Games
Author David H. Ahl
Subject Computer programming
Publication date
1973
BASIC Computer Games (1973, 1978, 2010) is a compilation of type-in computer games in the BASIC programming language collected by David H. Ahl. Some of the games were written or modified by Ahl as well. It was the first million-selling computer book.[1]

The first edition of the book, released in 1973, contained 101 games that had been collected from a newsletter Ahl wrote for DEC's education department. Many of these games had originally been written on different platforms and then ported to DEC machines. These were easy enough to port to other popular platforms of the era, and many of the games re-appeared on other popular systems like the Data General Nova and HP 2100 series.

Copies of the original collection were still widely available when the first hobbyist microcomputers started appearing in 1975, and it became quite popular with these owners. The release of the "1977 Trinity" machines (Apple II, Commodore PET and TRS-80) was soon followed by a great many new competing microcomputer platforms featuring BASIC, along with the userbase to go with them, and demand for the book led to a second edition in 1978. Sales remained strong for years, and spawned similar collections in More Basic Computer Games (1979), and Big Computer Games (1984) and Basic Computer Adventures (1984).

The BASIC Computer Games are playable under the relatively obscure Microsoft Small Basic development environment for kids.[2] Computer Science for Kids has released a 2010 Small Basic Edition of the classic Basic Computer Games book called Basic Computers Games: Small Basic Edition.[3]

The programs can also be run on a modern Microsoft Windows machine (32-bit only) by downloading the GW-BASIC interpreter.[4]"
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BASIC_Computer_Games)

http://www.atariarchives.org/b... [atariarchives.org]

I remember hammering in just about every game listed in the 1978 book. It really was fun as a 5th grader to puzzle through why these lines of text resulted in a computer doing stuff.

Re:Obligatory link of love (1)

j-beda (85386) | about 4 months ago | (#46706103)

I had to pay for a copy of that book from the library, which got misplaced. I swear it was returned, but they never got it. It was more expensive then I thought it should have been.

Ahh, BASIC (2)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 4 months ago | (#46704759)

The last, and only, computer language in which I was ever fluent.

*sigh*

basic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46704799)

you mean like visual basic.net 2012? Didn't know basic is 50 years old. wow. I'll look for screenshots for the regular basic cuz I wonder what the GUI/IDE looked like back then.

I wrote my whole BBS package in BASIC (1)

King_TJ (85913) | about 4 months ago | (#46704875)

When I first got interested in running a computer bulletin board system, around 1986-87, I had a Tandy Color Computer 2 (with a whopping 64K of RAM) and a 300 baud auto-dial/auto-answer modem. What I didn't have was any good software to use for the purpose. Back then, the only BBS package I really knew of for the platform was a commercial one called Colorama (typically sold in "Rainbow" magazine, a Tandy Color Computer publication). As a kid who had a LOT more time than money, I was pretty uninterested in trying to buy that one.

A buddy of mine who was learning to do assembly language coding for the Motorola 6809e processor in the Color Computer started working on a device driver which could translate screen output to modem output, and intercept the results of BASIC INPUT statements, taking them as input received from the modem. That was the missing piece of the puzzle for me, allowing me to code the rest of my own BBS package using BASIC.

(As a side note... one of the limitations of the Color Computer 2 was the fact it couldn't display any lowercase letters. It knew about the ASCII codes for them, but would only show them on screen as inverse video; essentially looked like the usual uppercase text, except with black blocks behind each letter. Eventually, my friend enhanced his device driver to put the machine into a graphics mode and draw all of the text in a graphical font giving true lowercase and more characters per line than the 32 you got with the original Color Computer text font. It was a little sluggish, but worked and looked great!)

Due to lack of suitable mass storage devices back then, I wrote the message forum portion of the BBS to store each line of text in DIM variables. Rather limiting, but looking back, it was kind of amazing it worked as well as it did. (I gave people a 15 or 20 line limit per message, I believe.)

I see...NERDS (2)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | about 4 months ago | (#46704883)

...and the world is all the better for it!

...laura

Not the best, but it was my first (1)

nevermore94 (789194) | about 4 months ago | (#46704919)

BASIC may not be the best programming language, far from it, but it was my first and it gave me the love of programming that lead to where I am today. I got my first TRS Color Computer 2 when I was 10 for Christmas and I will never forget typing in my first example program (and saving it on a tape) and then starting to experiment and figure out what else I could do with this wonder. From there I upgraded to a CoCo 3 and eventually QuickBASIC on a PC. With that I wrote an AI program that got me to an International Science & Engineering Fair. From there I went on to college to major in CS and learn some real languages. I have been programming in Java for some time now and am now moving into Android development. But, it all started with BASIC on my CoCo and I will always remember it fondly.

GOTO 1980 (1)

Legal.Troll (2002574) | about 4 months ago | (#46705149)

::blissful sigh::

Is it just me or... (1)

Trashcan Romeo (2675341) | about 4 months ago | (#46705153)

... is that one evil smirk on the TRS-80 monitor?

Err, not the "birth of time-sharing" (1)

time961 (618278) | about 4 months ago | (#46705325)

In typically breathless university press-release prose, TFA says "on May 1, 1964, ... time-sharing and BASIC were born"

BASIC, sure, but time-sharing might better be dated to 1961, when CTSS was first demonstrated, and soon after widely used at MIT.

Re:Err, not the "birth of time-sharing" (1)

time961 (618278) | about 4 months ago | (#46705445)

JOHNNIAC Open Shop System (JOSS) was another early time-sharing system, demonstrated in 1963. By 1964, the time-sharing idea was becoming widespread.

But, yes, undisputably, Dartmouth gave us BASIC, and like George Washington's proverbial axe (which had both its head and handle replaced multiple times), BASIC remains with us today. At least it's not as harmful as C; BASIC arrays and strings always had bounds-checking.

"My Computer Likes Me" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46705393)

"My Computer Loves Me When I Speak BASIC" - PCC's intro to basic.

I remember reading it when sitting in a parking lot waiting for my Mom to finish shopping.

Junior year of high school. HS got a teletype - yes, mechanical - that connected at 110 baud to an HP 2000F time shared basic. Most of my junior year got lost in programming and I can't believe the complexity of programs i wrote with line numbers :

Two-handed spades card game, a little database that identified minerals, and the inevitable modifications to Star Trek, as well as hours of playing it.

Creative Computing, 101 Computer games.

Good times.

BASIC (2)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#46705439)

cause FOTRAN is hard --Barbie

Apparently, so is spelling (1)

Radical Moderate (563286) | about 4 months ago | (#46706151)

xxx

Dartmouth CS (1, Interesting)

CauseBy (3029989) | about 4 months ago | (#46705591)

I graduated from Dartmouth in 2002 with a CS degree. Let me tell you, the reason they are throwing this big party for BASIC is because that department hasn't done shit since 1964. If I had to do it again, I would do it at a different school. The only good thing I can say about Dartmouth is that I found refuge in a gentle, fostering fraternity [sigmanudartmouth.com] -- and that is the one thing that the Dartmouth administration has been bent on destroying [dartmouth.edu] . That campus is a wasteland of feuding heartless conservatives [dartreview.com] and asinine liberals [dartmouth.edu] . Good riddance.

BASIC was kind of cool, though. I used it in middle school to print endless streams of naughty words. I don't know if it can do anything besides that.

The original Basic Book (1)

aled (228417) | about 4 months ago | (#46706201)

I still think that Basic Programming [http://www.amazon.com/BASIC-Programming-John-G-Kemeny/dp/0471468304] by Kemeny & Kurtz (Basic creators) is a very fine way to teach a language. Practically every sample was useful in itself. Very didactic and well written.

Re:The original Basic Book (1)

jmichaelg (148257) | about 4 months ago | (#46706433)

The deal with Basic was it was everywhere. Any computer you had access to had Basic readily available from the command prompt.

Now , it's Javascript. Available on most computers and runs on most computers.

Atari Explorer (1)

slapout (93640) | about 4 months ago | (#46706639)

Yes, I have a few Creative Computings around. But I got my start after reading an article in Atari Explorer magazine about BASIC. I cut my teeth on the horrible Basic that was Atari ST Basic. But then I moved to the awesome GFA Basic. From there to C and various other languages. Remember the "B" in Basic stands for Beginner. It's a good language to teach the fundamentals -- variables, looping, etc.

I'll host my own birthday event, and you can, too (1)

Dave Leigh (3043803) | about 4 months ago | (#46706675)

I think a really good idea for BASIC's birthday is to give away some free programs, written in a dialect of BASIC. So I'll be doing that. On April 30 I'll release a new program written in Gambas. Nothing super... it'll just be a nice little program that'll keep you clicking for a little while. You'll be able to tear it apart, look at the source code, see how an event-driven Gambas program works, etc. Of course, it will be released under a Creative Commons license. Anybody else want to dust off a BASIC compiler or interpreter?
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