Microsoft Simple Basic

simple basic

Something I believe should be missed most about the 8-Bit Computer era (think Commodore 64’s, Sinclair Spectrums and Amstrad CPC 464’s) is the BASIC programming language which was built in to pretty much every one of these machines.BASIC not only allowed users to make their own programs, but also acted as the primary computer Operating System and since a rudimentary grasp of it was required to use even the simplest of functions, most users would have at some point also got around to writing their own simplistic computer programs.At the age of about six, I think my first program went something along the following lines:

10Print “Chris is Ace”

20Goto 10

The language was so simple that even those that had never used a computer before shouldn’t have had any real difficulty picking it up.Indeed, even those who have never seen a piece of BASIC code should be ashamed at themselves if they can’t establish that the above two lines would simply print the rather inaccurate phrase “Chris is Ace” on the screen over and over again in a never ending loop.

An overwhelming number of people were encouraged by this language to spend evenings reading up in books and magazines to improve their knowledge; popular magazines of the time actually printed entire programs over several pages which you then sat at home and entered yourself.Little boys like me genuinely dreamed that one day we would be computer programmers and would make games that thousands would get to play; back then the popular games weren’t made in elaborate studios by hundreds of highly paid university graduates but by individuals or very small groups.Of course, BASIC was far too (excuse the pun) basic for commercial games to be written in but for many it was a springboard for greater things.

Of course, little girls and boys still often want to become games designers but it is a shame that most won’t have any real inspiration to learn from day one.The average child, and indeed adult, will have a games console which will jump straight in to a game and a PC which boots in to a graphical Operating System which requires no programming knowledge whatsoever.This is progress and I certainly don’t believe that there should be any backtracking, but it’s hard not to get nostalgic at times.

I was recently intrigued to learn that Microsoft have created a free application called Small BASIC (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/devlabs/cc950524.aspx), which has been designed as an easy way for kids and adults to learn a new language.The emphasis is on simplicity and Microsoft have certainly succeeded in creating something that is extremely lightweight and easy to learn with the added advantage that users can easily publish and share their work to pick up tricks and tips from others.There are certainly limits to what you will be able to produce in this application but as it employs a much more modern and structured fashion to programming than the BASIC it has been loosely based on, you could certainly use it as stepping stone to a more complex language.

 

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

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