BASIC computer language turns 50 years old today

Back in the early 1960s, programming for computers was a job that was just for computer scientists. That changed 50 years ago today with the introduction of BASIC, a computer language that was created to be simple for anyone to use for making computer programs.

TIME Magazine's web site has an excellent article on BASIC's 50th birthday. The language was first created by two math professors from Dartmouth College, John G. Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz as a way to teach any student or teacher a way to program a computer without having to take actual courses. Even the BASIC name itself stands for "Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code." It was first used today to run the computer systems at the college.


The language became even more popular in the 1970s and 80s as personal computers began to be sold and many people started to create programs that would run on those early PCs. Two of those people were Paul Allen and Bill Gates, who created their own variant of BASIC that ran on the Altair computer. The two men formed Micro-Soft (later renamed Microsoft), with Altair BASIC as the company's first product, in 1975. Later Microsoft BASIC would be loaded onto most PCs in the 1970s and 1980s.

While the use of BASIC for serious programming efforts has died down since the introduction of Windows, many hobbyists keep it alive. Even Microsoft continues to offer a version of the language, Small BASIC, that's made mostly for kids to use and learn about programming.

Source: TIME | Images via TIME and Mac GUI

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Amstrad BASIC started it for me on my CPC 464+ in 1993/4, then went on to Visual Basic 6, after that learned C# :) Anyone with a 464+ remember the SIZE of those BASIC type-ins? They were HUGE, and worse than HIEROGLYPHICS! I'll never forget my Dad spending about 5 hours typing out the code for a Spirograph type proggy on it!

And my dad has absolutely no interest in computers, he "knows how to switch one on", but says "I'm hammer and chisel, me!" I don't think he remembers it, and he isn't senile at all!

My first programming experience was copying BASIC code from an Apple II manual into GW-BASIC on a 486 running Windows 3.1. Good memories. I wish I hadn't stuck with BASIC though - huge mistake. I was scared of C++ for a while (should of learned it while I was in primary/high school).

Studying C# at present.

10 PRINT JOHN
20 GOTO 10

Learned that in the fourth grade, went around to every IBM machine my school had and did that then walked away. Went to the principles office, lol! A friend of mine put in profanity in the same endless loop. He got spanked at school and suspended. Ahh, teh memories. Wrote the happy birthday song in basic. It played through the case speaker. I was the only one to do it correctly and get an a+ on it.

Edited by Obi-Wan Kenobi, May 1 2014, 11:21pm :

Obi-Wan Kenobi said,
10 PRINT JOHN
20 GOTO 10

Learned that in the fourth grade, went around to every IBM machine my school had and did that then walked away. Went to the principles office, lol! A friend of mine put in profanity in the same endless loop. He got spanked at school and suspended. Ahh, teh memories. Wrote the happy birthday song in basic. It played through the case speaker. I was the only one to do it correctly and get an a+ on it.

Loop is great! Kind of enjoying seeing words shown on the screen endlessly like waterfall and others be upset because they didn't know Ctrl+C...

I started off with Tandy Basic back in 1981 and still use Visual Basic 6 today to write quick utilities. With something like 300,000 downloads of my stuff over the years, it still works fine.

1982 was the year that Tandy Level II BASIC on the TRS 80 Model III was taught to me in 6th grade.

Also had a TRS-80 Color Computer 3 with Extended Color BASIC in late 1986.

My first programming languages were TI-BASIC, QuickBasic and Visual Basic. Hadn't really touched any of these since I moved on to C#, but they were great learning tools.

That is exactly them same way I got into computers. The first program I made on the Apple IIe was a simple Hang-Man game. Later after graduating I bought myself a Victor PC with an i8086 CPU and 640KB memory with a 30MB Harddisk and EGA graphics. This was better than most PC's at the time which offered 512KB memory, 24MB HDD and green monochrome monitor.
On that Victor I created a complete payroll program in Basic for my Dads office. He continued to use it for over 10 years.

I remember learning to program in BASIC on the Apple IIe computers we had in my high school back in the 80s. Good times. That ability to tell a computer something and it respond was an awesome feeling, and really got me into programming. We would save our programs on these big 5.25 floppy disks (the computers actually had no hard drive at all). I remember during that time hearing about 'hard' drives that were permanently mounted into computers, and I thought, 'Well, that's no good - you gotta be able to take your disks with you!' Man, do things really change.

Heh yep -- for me it was Microsoft's Level II BASIC for the TRS80 Model 1 in the late 70's, didn't get those new fangled floppy drives till later for Disc BASIC. Later switched it up to C under Microsoft Xenix on a Model 16.. really haven't touched BASIC since, but still have a nostalgic spot for it.