Wednesday, May 7, 2014

BASIC turns 50

The other day the BASIC programming language turned 50. BASIC (an acronym for Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) was designed in 1964 by John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz at Darmouth. On May 1, 1964 at 4 a.m. ET, John Kemeny and John McGeachie ran the first BASIC programs to be executed successfully from terminals by the DTSS system (see Dartmouth BASIC). I think it's fascinating to know the actual birth date for a programming language as important as BASIC.

This is the language that was on all of the early home computers (Apple II, PET 2001, TRS-80 and TI-99/4A) and essentially launched Microsoft as a company (see Altair BASIC). The TI-99/4A was my first home computer and I remember typing in line after line of BASIC programs from the computer magazines at the time (and saving to cassette tapes but that is another story). It's heritage lives on in Visual Basic and VB for office apps, although thankfully now with objects.

As a birthday present I wrote a little Happy Birthday program. I tried to capture some of the 'spaghetti' problems of the language with the un-needed GOSUB but I don't think I got it. Probably needed more GOTOs. It was fun to take a trip down memory lane but glad to return to more 'modern' languages.

10 CLS
20 LET X = 50
30 LET Y = 4
40 LET N = "BASIC"
60 FOR F = 1 TO Y
62 IF F = 3 THEN LET S = B + N ELSE LET S = B + "YOU"
63 GOSUB 100
70 PRINT "HAPPY " + X + "TH " + N
99 END
100 REM Subroutine
999 END

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