Celebrating 50 years of BASIC! Celebrating 50 years of BASIC! BASIC 50 years old? Wow! Lets say that again, BASIC 50 years old! I cant quite actually believe it.
For anyone of my generation, who works in IT, they pretty much will have used BASIC at some point, either at school, or at work. I loved it, even at the age of 8 years old, I wrote my first BASIC program called Hello Daddy on my Dad’s Tandy 1000. I bet he doesn’t remember.
For people of my sister-in-laws age BASIC was a simple powerful programming language. BASIC stands for Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code and you can read more over at wikipedia.
It was a simple program:
10 PRINT "HELLO DADDY"
20 GOTO 10
I still remember doing it today. Shortly after that he banned me from his computer as I discovered the FORMAT C: command and promptly wiped out all his Symphony spreadsheets saved on his 10MB Hard Drive but thats a story for another day.
I started using BASIC regularly when I got a Spectrum +3 for my birthday when I was about 10 years old, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I began writing programs all the time. Every time a new copy of ZX Spectrum magazine came out I would beg my mum to go buy me it. I would sit for hours typing in ever line of code from those magazines, and then finally get to the end, get so excited type RUN and always receive Syntax Error at Line xx It would drive me nuts!
My final trip down BASIC memory lane was when my Dad got me an Acorn A5000 for my 13th Birthday! Its what we used at school, I love them, they were awesome! I still remember him asking me if I wanted a PC (they were half the price at that time) and I said a PC! No way Dad, no one wants one of those! So my journey into BASIC programming continued, I wrote a number of programs for my GCSE’s at school, and got an A* for a program that brought up an image of a Ghetto Blaster and played Axel F. I loved it, the teacher loved it, and all my class mates loved it! I felt like a genius!! I still have that computer stored in a cupboard at my parents house, and only recently unplugged it from my home. (It was not worth the money to ship it to the US).
This was fun times for me as a kid, I loved computers, and loved programming. Shortly after leaving school and attending college I got into Turbo Pascal which is a completely different story, but really shows the path I was on starting my career in IT.
That brings me to the modern day, no one does this anymore! How many kids do you find sat in their bedrooms typing programs until Mum’s shout at them to go to bed? This article really sums it up with its title: 50 years after Basic, most users still can’t or won’t program anything! What a shame! This is tragic to be honest. Most people are so used to turning on the iPad from sleep, and just downloading an App that they don’t really care how its coded, or they don’t even want to know. There are some exceptions of course, this kid who was 15 when he wrote a mobile news app is pretty great to hear about!
This is why I am such a fan of projects like Raspberry PI, they are trying to bring cheap fun computing back to the masses of kids who for £25 can play with something, destroy it and not worry. Imagine a kid saying to his dad, sorry I just took the iPad apart and now it doesn’t work!
I think the future’s bright, just a very different future to that I had as a kid growing up with the exciting adoption of the Personal Computer, and the computer company wars that went with it.
Thanks BASIC and Thanks Dad
Interestingly when I look back now, without my Dad buying those computers, and without such a simple to use powerful programming language, I probably wouldn’t be sat here today writing this article. So thanks Dad and Thanks BASIC for bringing me to this point.