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posted by n1 on Thursday May 01 2014, @05:43AM   Printer-friendly
from the 50-print-happy-birthday-55-goto-50 dept.

from dartmouth.edu

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. Those innovations made computing accessible to all Dartmouth students and faculty, and soon after, to people across the nation and the world.

Dartmouth's BASIC at 50 anniversary celebration was held yesterday, which included the public premier of a documentary on the history and impact of BASIC.

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  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:00AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:00AM (#38374)

    Basic was my first programming language and made learning assembly language very easy.

    • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:09AM

      by c0lo (156) on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:09AM (#38378) Journal
      Me too, but the only remark I got for it now: let it R.i.P.
      --
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Tork on Thursday May 01 2014, @07:24AM

        by Tork (3914) on Thursday May 01 2014, @07:24AM (#38392)
        Why? it's accessible and not so foreign it doesn't make a good stepping stone. Heck, my 9 year old self could understand the scripting I do today. Variables, if/thens, and arrays are universal.
        --
        Slashdolt Logic: "24 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
        • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Thursday May 01 2014, @07:39AM

          by c0lo (156) on Thursday May 01 2014, @07:39AM (#38396) Journal

          Why? it's accessible and not so foreign it doesn't make a good stepping stone.

          As a stepping stone, yes, maybe... but there nowadays there are better alternatives (you can step on the javascript "stone" just as easily. Except javascript allows one to progress beyond beginner concepts).
          Otherwise, I find myself agreeing quiteDijkstra [wikiquote.org]:
          "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."

          Heck, my 9 year old self could understand the scripting I do today. Variables, if/thens, and arrays are universal.

          It's not BASIC the first nor the last PL to use them.
          (I learnt FORTRAN first, in high-school. However, as it happened, Spectrum Sinclair was the first device I could execute code on. Fortunately, I obtained a PASCAL compiler for it before the brain-rot took hold).

          --
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
          • (Score: 3, Insightful) by jheath314 on Thursday May 01 2014, @08:03AM

            by jheath314 (1174) on Thursday May 01 2014, @08:03AM (#38403)

            QBASIC was my first language. While I admit it instilled some bad habits, such as a tendency to think in procedural rather than object-oriented terms (good old GOTO), it was approachable in a way that Pascal and C++ were not. For a little kid, being able to play with code without worrying constantly about arcane syntax rules was essential to getting hooked on programming.

          • (Score: 1) by BasilBrush on Thursday May 01 2014, @11:50AM

            by BasilBrush (3994) on Thursday May 01 2014, @11:50AM (#38445)

            you can step on the javascript "stone" just as easily.

            Not really. BASIC back then (I learned around 1981) was very simple. No libraries. You could master the language without the need to understand blocks, structure, objects or libraries. It was a simple progression from writing a series of steps to describe to a colleague how to do a job, or a students description of how to perform an experiment. The idea of maps directly to

            1) ...
            2) ...
            3) ...
            4) Proceed from step 2.

            Back then the next progression from BASIC was Pascal. Javascript would be closer to a Pascal level. But even then I think Javascript is more complex. Maybe Object Pascal would be more an equivalent to Javascript. So that's a few steps on from BASIC.

            Also, BASIC was a good stepping stone to ASM. And Javascript and other more modern structured and object-oriented languages aren't.

            --
            Hurrah! Quoting works now!
            • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Thursday May 01 2014, @12:06PM

              by c0lo (156) on Thursday May 01 2014, @12:06PM (#38451) Journal
              Except goto, you can do all the above in javascript without going into structures, objects libraries.
              --
              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
              • (Score: 2, Interesting) by BasilBrush on Thursday May 01 2014, @12:49PM

                by BasilBrush (3994) on Thursday May 01 2014, @12:49PM (#38464)

                But they are still there. Which means that you have't learned the language unless you learn them. There is a sense of having "Mastered" the language that they wouldn't get with Javascript. Go through the relatively thin classic "Illustrating BASIC" by Donald Alcock and that was it. From no computer knowledge you had mastered a programming language. My BBC Micro came with a manual called "30 Hour BASIC", and that was realistic timing.

                Also only learning a subset of Javascript means that you probably can't understand other peoples source, because you don't know all the features they use. Learn BASIC and you can follow any BASIC program.

                This really was one of the great things about the 8-Bit home computer with BASIC era. That you had a feeling of something you could master.

                --
                Hurrah! Quoting works now!
                • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Thursday May 01 2014, @01:22PM

                  by c0lo (156) on Thursday May 01 2014, @01:22PM (#38470) Journal

                  Which means that you have't learned the language unless you learn them. There is a sense of having "Mastered" the language ...
                  Learn BASIC and you can follow any BASIC program.

                  I think you make a confusion between learning to program and mastering a programming language (the later is, at best, a mean for the former). "Mastering BASIC" will only get you to brain-rot in regards with "learning programming". Even more dangerous if "mastering BASIC" comes with a feeling of self-satisfaction and sufficiency.

                  Remember the '97-'00 (the .com bubble)? Every "programmer" and his dog were paid fortunes only because they could say "they knew how to program in Visual Basic 6.0"; how good was that?

                  --
                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
                  • (Score: 1) by BasilBrush on Thursday May 01 2014, @02:20PM

                    by BasilBrush (3994) on Thursday May 01 2014, @02:20PM (#38492)

                    I think you make a confusion between learning to program and mastering a programming language (the later is, at best, a mean for the former).

                    I'm not the slightest bit confused. I said it's just a stepping stone (in the never ending journey of learning to program), but mastering the BASIC language is a good self contained step. One which brings a feeling of having completeness, whether you then go on to study programming further, or take a different path in life.

                    Remember the '97-'00 (the .com bubble)? Every "programmer" and his dog were paid fortunes only because they could say "they knew how to program in Visual Basic 6.0"; how good was that?

                    I'm not talking about Visual BASIC. And those "programmers" wouldn't have been any more use if they'd learned a non-object & non-library subset of Javascript instead.

                    --
                    Hurrah! Quoting works now!
            • (Score: 2) by umafuckitt on Thursday May 01 2014, @01:00PM

              by umafuckitt (20) on Thursday May 01 2014, @01:00PM (#38466)

              One thing I feel makes a good first stepping stone is learning to write C or C++ for an Arduino. The reference page [arduino.cc] is well designed and the example programs show you how to use the syntax. It's exciting for beginners to see their code effecting something in the real world, rather than just print stuff to the terminal. The Arduino guys have gone to some lengths to hide stuff like pointers and function declarations, so it's easy to get started. For those who are interested, it's not hard to graduate to "real" C or C++ without the Arduino training wheels.

              • (Score: 1) by BasilBrush on Thursday May 01 2014, @02:24PM

                by BasilBrush (3994) on Thursday May 01 2014, @02:24PM (#38494)

                Even better are boards based on the Parallax Propeller. There's a dedicated language called SPIN that's very BASIC like whilst also providing very nice low level bit twiddling opportunities. And at a more advanced level, the best introduction to parallel programming anywhere, with a simple to use 32 bit ASM.

                --
                Hurrah! Quoting works now!
                • (Score: 2) by umafuckitt on Thursday May 01 2014, @02:39PM

                  by umafuckitt (20) on Thursday May 01 2014, @02:39PM (#38501)

                  Ah, I see, the multiple cores look interesting. Personally I have no desire to learn another language right now, it's good to see they have a C and C++ compiler. Maybe I'll buy one and have a play with it.

            • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Thursday May 01 2014, @02:19PM

              by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Thursday May 01 2014, @02:19PM (#38491) Homepage Journal

              Also, BASIC was a good stepping stone to ASM. And Javascript and other more modern structured and object-oriented languages aren't.

              Also, afaik there weren't any object oriented languages that would run on a PC back then (PCs were pretty primitive).

              --
              Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
          • (Score: 3, Interesting) by mcgrew on Thursday May 01 2014, @02:14PM

            by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Thursday May 01 2014, @02:14PM (#38488) Homepage Journal

            you can step on the javascript "stone" just as easily. Except javascript allows one to progress beyond beginner concepts

            What can javascript do that BASIC can't? I've written word processors, graphis programs, and games in BASIC back in the eighties. When the interpreter was too slow I'd simply translate it to assembly; simple because they're so similar. I used javascript in the late '90s and early '0s and found it clumsy and far easier to write buggy code with. I just can't see javascript being a first language.

            I disagree with Dijkstra, not just about BASIC but COBOL and FORTRAN as well, though I admit I never used either of the latter much. I have no experience with APL so hold no opinion on that.

            Fortunately, I obtained a PASCAL compiler for it before the brain-rot took hold

            Yet you still agree that it's brain rotting? Even though it never rotted yours? I've programmed in several languages, beginning with BASIC, and did database programming at work for over a decade in NOMAD (a mainframe program), dBase, FoxPro and Clipper.

            Javascript was the last language I did any serious programming in (hated the last 5 years of my career, they switched to MS Access). Now that I'm retired I'm writing novels and short stories instead of code.

            --
            Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
            • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Thursday May 01 2014, @02:52PM

              by c0lo (156) on Thursday May 01 2014, @02:52PM (#38515) Journal

              Yet you still agree that it's brain rotting? Even though it never rotted yours?

              Got lucky. My first 3 weeks of Pascal resulted in huge main program blocks, with a small number of procedures (if any). Took me half a year to understand the concept of "record" (the Pascal's "struct") - equal-length "parallel" arrays of individual "fields" were coming "natural" to my mind (after FORTRAN's common blocks and BASIC's dims experience).

              --
              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
              • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:26PM

                by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:26PM (#38598) Homepage Journal

                I don't know Pascal so don't know if its records and fields are the same as database languages, but they came easy to me, just a different kind of array than BASIC uses.

                --
                Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
                • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Thursday May 01 2014, @10:59PM

                  by c0lo (156) on Thursday May 01 2014, @10:59PM (#38676) Journal

                  I don't know Pascal so don't know if its records and fields are the same as database languages

                  Pascal record is the equivalent of C struct. Don't have an equiv in Basic, so can't use an array of structs but multiple arrays of individual fields that one uses to "assemble" the structs at runtime.

                  --
                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
  • (Score: 2) by zim on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:53AM

    by zim (1251) on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:53AM (#38388)
    Is basic still taught?

    It should be. Down at a real young age. 6? 8?
    Yeah you're not going to acomplish much with it anymore.
    But it does teach the styles and formats needed for more powerful languages later on.

    I remember learning logo down in the 3rd grade when computers were this new awesome thing that cost a ton. And while on it's own it's pretty useless. It does teach some necessary fundamental concepts. The next years it was into basic. And that got me started in a huge way.

    Even today it would still be a good foundation to teach the right styles needed so that by jr/sr highschool they're learning stuff that will get them a job. Or at least know how a computer works beyond 'magic'.
    • (Score: 1) by ticho on Thursday May 01 2014, @07:56AM

      by ticho (89) on Thursday May 01 2014, @07:56AM (#38400) Homepage Journal

      And yet, apparently working with MS Word and MS Excel is more than enough for today's school kids.

      • (Score: 2) by Covalent on Thursday May 01 2014, @12:21PM

        by Covalent (43) on Thursday May 01 2014, @12:21PM (#38456) Journal

        To my mind, computer programming should be taught EARLY (Kindergarten), not to produce a world of programmers, but to produce a world of people who can think procedurally.

        But even basic computer skills programs are being dropped from education today. My students as a rule can barely type. They can text like you wouldn't believe, but ask them to type a 2-page paper, and they'd be better off writing it by hand. Hunt and peck in this generation is appalling but widespread.

        --
        You can't rationally argue somebody out of a position they didn't rationally get into.
        • (Score: 2) by fliptop on Thursday May 01 2014, @12:54PM

          by fliptop (1666) on Thursday May 01 2014, @12:54PM (#38465) Journal

          a world of people who can think procedurally

          Not gonna happen, there's too many people who are incapable of doing this. I once worked w/ a guy who had a degree in mathematics. He was a terrible programmer, couldn't make his way past an array.

          Logic is not something everyone "gets." To most it's boring, like History and English classes were to me.

          --
          To be oneself, and unafraid whether right or wrong, is more admirable than the easy cowardice of surrender to conformity
          • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Thursday May 01 2014, @02:24PM

            by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Thursday May 01 2014, @02:24PM (#38495) Homepage Journal

            Logic is not something everyone "gets." To most it's boring, like History and English classes were to me.

            There's no such thing as a boring class, only a boring teacher. I was bored with history in public school, but both of my college history classes were fascinating.

            --
            Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
            • (Score: 1) by NigelO on Thursday May 01 2014, @05:26PM

              by NigelO (2523) on Thursday May 01 2014, @05:26PM (#38560)

              Maybe it was you that changed between public school and college, and that's why it became interesting to you?

              • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:22PM

                by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:22PM (#38596) Homepage Journal

                Exactly. A private school might have had interesting teachers.

                --
                Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
                • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:58PM

                  by aristarchus (2645) on Thursday May 01 2014, @06:58PM (#38608) Journal

                  Exactly. A private school might have had interesting teachers.

                  There is no such thing as a boring teacher, only bored students, who usually are boring people, and who since they are boring and so bored, think the teacher is boring, and if the student if boring enough, they can even make the subject matter boring. Whether a school is public or private makes no difference in this, except that higher tuition tends to weed out some of the more boring students.

                  • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Thursday May 01 2014, @11:03PM

                    by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Thursday May 01 2014, @11:03PM (#38679) Homepage Journal

                    Spoken as if by a boring teacher. Public school teachers often aren't teaching from their own fields. Your math teacher could have been a journalism major, the science teacher an art major. They're not excited by what they're teaching, so of course their students won't be.

                    It is the teachers JOB to not bore the students, but to interest them, stir their curiosity. The students have no such mandate. Your comment sounds like a boring teacher's attempt at an excuse for being a bore.

                    Bored people aren't boring, boring people cause people to be bored.

                    --
                    Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
        • (Score: 1) by quacking duck on Thursday May 01 2014, @01:56PM

          by quacking duck (1395) on Thursday May 01 2014, @01:56PM (#38481)

          But even basic computer skills programs are being dropped from education today. My students as a rule can barely type. They can text like you wouldn't believe, but ask them to type a 2-page paper, and they'd be better off writing it by hand. Hunt and peck in this generation is appalling but widespread.

          Which is a bit sad. The most life-changing high school class for me wasn't computer science, or math, or any of the stepping stones to the engineering degree I ended up getting. They were important, sure, but the most crucial life skill was the grade 9 keyboarding class that took me from hunt-and-peck to over 100 wpm for a time.

          That aside, I've been saying that the next successful computer keyboard won't be a full-size qwerty, but a phone-sized one, specifically for texting-savvy thumb-typers.

          • (Score: 2) by Covalent on Thursday May 01 2014, @04:00PM

            by Covalent (43) on Thursday May 01 2014, @04:00PM (#38538) Journal

            I agree. The ability to type quickly has been invaluable to me. Honestly, though, I don't see a phone-sized input device ever being fast enough to replace a full-sized keyboard. Hands aren't getting any smaller - keyboards need to be "hand sized" to make full use of our fingers. A switch to Dvorak would probably help, too.

            I'm not even sure voice recognition can fully replace typing. I've found that when I do speech to text, I say lots of ums and uhs and ers and then I want to go back and change things. Then I reach for the keyboard.

            Perhaps future generations will finally have good enough voice recognition to make using it more efficient than typing, but somehow I doubt that will happen for quite some time.

            --
            You can't rationally argue somebody out of a position they didn't rationally get into.
            • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Grishnakh on Thursday May 01 2014, @04:23PM

              by Grishnakh (2831) on Thursday May 01 2014, @04:23PM (#38544)

              Dvorak isn't going to make you significantly faster. It will make you happier, however, as you'll experience less RSI and strain since you don't have to contort your fingers as much with it.

              Another alternative to explore is COLEMAK; it has most of the benefits of Dvorak but is easier to learn for QWERTY typists since it only moves a handful of keys, unlike Dvorak which moves almost all of them.

    • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Thursday May 01 2014, @07:13PM

      by tangomargarine (667) on Thursday May 01 2014, @07:13PM (#38613)

      I think giving a quick crash-course in TI-BASIC would help a lot in encouraging future programmers. True, the language itself is somewhat horrific, but if we're talking high school the students are required to already have a graphing calculator anyway, and they'll jump at the chance to "cheat" in math class (just clear their memory before tests...if they can write the program during the time limit, why stop them? And that means they probably know more or less how to do the work by hand anyway).

      But maybe that's just bias, since that's how I got started :-)

      --
      "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
  • (Score: 2) by WizardFusion on Thursday May 01 2014, @08:16AM

    by WizardFusion (498) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 01 2014, @08:16AM (#38407) Journal

    I learned Pascal in College (UK), then moved onto Borland Delphi. I then moved onto Microsoft Visual Basic., and have used it ever since, now using dotNET. I would not say I am a programmer or developer, but a quite good hobbyist.

    I can create what I need to do in VB, JS, HTML, and all the other "basic" languages because they are similar enough to know how to do the basics. What I don't know, search engines do.

    • (Score: 2) by ls671 on Thursday May 01 2014, @01:44PM

      by ls671 (891) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 01 2014, @01:44PM (#38477) Homepage

      "I learned Pascal in College (UK), then moved onto Borland Delphi."

      same here, but I then moved to Java.

      --
      Everything I write is lies, read between the lines.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 02 2014, @01:26AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 02 2014, @01:26AM (#38713)

    Learned these among others progamming languages.

    My first Pascal program was clumsily done as an ersatz BASIC program thanks to Pascal's 'goto' statement.

    After a bit, I learned structured program and never looked back since.

    Learning assembler made it possible to write efficient code at will in assorted HLLs like C and its variants

    Now glad to use C# where Microsoft swept most of the tasks requiring lines and lines of C/C++ into a C# library call like the File.Copy method.