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When BASIC Was Young: Great Memories
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Tom P
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Tom P,
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4/30/2014 | 12:12:47 PM
BASIC lead to my career
I was 16 and got a summer job where they asked me to figure out this brand-new Cromemco System III microcomputer.  It came with an early DOS and I had to figure everything out, including self-taught BASIC.  I named her Sally.  After I'd made a few programs such as a valve-sizeing tool, my boss told me to move on and learn FORTRAN on it - which I did to build more complex programs.  I wrote in both languages for two years in that part-time job after school and summers.

I got to college two years later and the first engineering flunk-out class was: FORTRAN.  Using punch cards.  Once the professor realized that I already knew it, I passed the final with my A less than 3 weeks into the semester.  The class started with about 250 people and had about 68 by the end of the semester.  Now, I've spent my career in the online/internet world and it all started when I learned BASIC.
CynSieWil01
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CynSieWil01,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/30/2014 | 12:02:21 PM
I remember INFOBasic, too
In days of yore, I learned not only BASIC, but InfoBasic, as well, to write subroutines for a 4GL application generator for Prime minicomputers. Now everyone knows exactly how long I've been in this industry. Ha...
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2014 | 12:00:18 PM
Commodore BASIC
Another memory: My crowning achievement in BASIC at the age of 11 or thereabouts, was creating a networked chat program of sorts allowing two Commodore64 users to communicate in (not quite) real time. Since the C64s weren't networked as such, I used the only connection they had - shared access to a dual floppy drive (with 8 C64s plugged into a VIC-Switch or something very similar so they could all access it). The program was loaded from a floppy, and that floppy was then used to exchange data between the two computers.

It wasn't highly complex, but at the time it was amazing for the people who got to try it out and realize that comptuers could talk to one another across the computer lab! And all this in the nasty, nasty, Commodore BASIC (did they still call it PET BASIC?). 

Still, proof again of how simple BASIC was to program.

 
TT Millard
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TT Millard,
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4/30/2014 | 11:54:44 AM
I miss my Tandy and Amiga
Oh, do I remember BASIC.  Our math teacher in HS was tasked with the daunting challenge of attempting to teach programming, since we all know if you know math, you must be a natural programmer.  A class of networked Tandy computers, and a few awe inspired teenagers who knew poke and peek commands was a deadly combination!

I remember starting every program with gosub.. just because!  I loved spagetti code.  I called my creations "Coding Chaos".  The teacher graded my mess on the merits of it's output, since she had no clue what I had actually written.

On the side, we'd huddle in the library 'computer closet'. Literally, it was a 6 x 6 room with a small desk, chair and one Radio Shack Tandy computer.  They stuck a windowed door on the mini office so people could peer in at us (and so it wouldn't feel exactly like a closet) while we worked our magic. 

We wrote a 'pick your own adventure' game. Remember those? "Go West. Go East. Your in a large room.  There's a MASSIVE DRAGON!  There is a shiny key. What would you like to do next?"

I remember in college (dating myself of course) where i would go through computer mags and extract basic code that I would have to translate sligtly for my state of the art Commodore Amiga.  I created a strategy game where my friends could have raging ship battles that spanned the unniverse as they attempted to dominate and control distant planets (ok, it was a ten by ten grid and the planets were numbers, and the battles were a random number generator to see who lost the most ships... but we could dream).  Of course, I programmed in a few cheat codes of my own.  They never did understand how I won so much.

Thanks for jarring some very fond memories!
kbay5998
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kbay5998,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/30/2014 | 11:54:37 AM
BASIC Memories
I learned BASIC in college in 1973 in the only course I took in the Engineering School (I was a Political Science major). We had the luxury of working on a GE Mini via teletype keyboards with punch tape. At least we didn't have to cart around cards but had to watch out for badly punched holes. Our class project was computing the minimum and maximum speeds an Evel Knievel wannabe had to drive his motorcycle in order to jump from the top of the Physics building to the top of the Engineering Building without failing short or running off the far edge. I enjoyed the he-- out of that course and it ultimately changed my life.

I ended up going back to school in the early 80's when if you had a programming certificate and could spell BASIC you could get a job. I actually 'graduated' and turned around to teach PC-BASIC in the same school for a year. Then I went to work at a software house that wrote a networked Maintenance Management and Spare Parts Inventory package using a home-grown database and pre-GUI windowing interface.
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2014 | 11:48:53 AM
Visual BASIC
I program - just - in Visual BASIC, from time to time. I find it hard to reconcile what I thought I knew as BASIC with what VB.Net (for example) has become. I guess that's progress, because BASIC has morphed drastically over the years as VisualBASIC developed to accomodate the graphical elements and, perhaps most critically, stopped being a linear interpreted language and became an event-driven compiled language.

That said, I love that I can create a simple windows executable in VisualBASIC without needing to worry about malloc()s and similar; it has all of the "couldn't care less" automatic memory management that I love so much about BASIC and languages like Perl, while allowing you to generate distributable .EXE files all the same. Can't argue with that. I do wonder whether the original inventors of BASIC - if they had been living in the jungle in the interim - would look at VisualBASIC and recognize it as having its roots in their creation or not.
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2014 | 11:37:36 AM
BASIC and Assembler
When I was young, I had an Acorn BBC Micro, Model B.

 

This booted natively into a BBC BASIC environment (BASIC was stored on a ROM). BBC BASIC was relatively easy to use, as most BASICs tended to be, but its coolest feature for programmers was that you could easily embed assembler inline in your BASIC program. What that meant was that in the situation Thomas describes where BASIC just ain't fast enough to do some operations, you could focus your time on writing just the time-critical parts in 6502 Assembler, but write the rest in BASIC. This was used a lot in those games you typed in for hours from magazines, as you could achieve an awful lot with that 6502 assembler keeping the speed up.

I had many hours of fun writing useless programs on in BASIC. And when I moved to PC, there was a version of BBC BASIC available there too, which made things much simpler for me! 
WHART000
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WHART000,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/30/2014 | 11:18:49 AM
Re: Nice trip down memory lane
I learned Fortran in college but on the last day of my senior year, one of the professors showed me Basic.  We had been punching cards and sending our programs off to be run.  A few days later we would get to see the results.  Being able to watch Basic programs run and then change them on the fly was magical.

I ended up as a hardware engineer but during the course of time, I wrote many thousands of lines of Basic or similar code.  It opened a door that I never thought existed.

 
DougN170
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DougN170,
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4/30/2014 | 10:57:16 AM
Re: I Am Grateful For Having Learned BASIC From Dr. Kemeny
I remember sitting in the Kiewit Computer Center at a massive typewriter like thing. I would type in code onto a screen then run a compiler to see if it worked. Mostly, it didn't. I was an English Lit major, not a computer science geek. As an undergraduate I was allocated 2K of storage. By today's standards that is size of a period in a Word document. LOL. I don't remember any specific projects, but I did learn logical flow, Boolean logic, loops, if-then conditionals, and so forth. We stored our programs on paper tape with punch holes. Some people used Holerwith cards (do not fold, spindle, or mutlilate LOL). The mainframe was set up for distributed processing so many people could work at the same time. I think my wrist watch has more cpu power than that building-sized machine. Every undergradute was required to take one course in programming. Kemeny was prescient about the need to understand and be comfortable with technology. I remember a conference at the College when a bunch of guys showed up with boxes. One guy told me they were computers. I said, "No way!" He said, "Yep. In ten years, these will be as ubiquitous as televisions." "You're nuts," I said. Turns out he was about 20 years off, but still absolutely correct.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
4/30/2014 | 10:30:52 AM
BASIC in magazines
Matthew Graci shared this comment via Twitter: "I remember getting the mags with programs in BASIC. I would always get a char wrong and review code for hrs."
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