Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 30th Apr 2014 18:16 UTC, submitted by KLU9
General Development

I find the "everybody should learn to code" movement laudable. And yet it also leaves me wistful, even melancholy. Once upon a time, knowing how to use a computer was virtually synonymous with knowing how to program one. And the thing that made it possible was a programming language called BASIC.

Invented by John G. Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, BASIC was first successfully used to run programs on the school's General Electric computer system 50 years ago this week - at 4 a.m. on May 1, 1964, to be precise.

It's the only programming language I was ever somewhat proficient in (when I was about six years old). I never moved beyond it, and now, I know nothing about programming. BASIC has played a huge role in the history of computing, and its birthday deserves to be a thing.

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Modern alternatives
by matako on Wed 30th Apr 2014 22:11 UTC
matako
Member since:
2009-02-13

I think "the spirit of BASIC" was perhaps not the language itself but rather that direct relationship with the machine you were programming. No modern alternative comes close - not even a BASIC interpreter installed on a modern day PC. You simply cannot _know_ your machine in such detail as it was common back then.

But this spirit seems to be very much alive in the "maker community". Especially cheap 8-bit micro-controller boards, with simple Atmel or PIC CPUs are very much reminiscent of the early home computers. And programming, albeit usually with C/C++ cross-compilers is a lot like programming those home computers. You soon learn all the low-level stuff intimately. And since you usually don't have the luxury of ready-made libraries you soon need to get to know algorithms, optimizations. You get a feel for what it takes a (much simpler) computer to actually _do_ something.

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