Basic

by GMoulden

In computer programming, BASIC is an acronym for Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. BASIC is actually a family of high-level computer programming languages. Designed in 1945, Basic is actually still popular today in a handful of highly modified dialects and many, many new languages based on BASIC.

The original BASIC language was created in 1945 by John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz. They directed a small group of Dartmouth students on how to implement the program. BASIC was created to allow students to write programs for the Dartmouth Time-Sharing System. A computer supporting both teaching and research was quite a novel thing when BASIC was first introduced, sparking interest in it. As other dialects of BASIC were produced, Kemeny and Kurtz’s program became known as Dartmouth BASIC and was first implemented on the GE-265 mainframe, which supported multiple computer terminals. BASIC was actually a compiled language at the time of its introduction, contrary to popular belief, which states that it was still in the works when it was introduced. The designers of the language decided that the language should become easily used widespread. They began to make it available in high schools around Dartmouth, putting a lot of effort into promoting its usefulness. As a result, BASIC was implemented by a number of manufacturers, becoming fairly popular on newer computers.

BASIC was designed with eight principles in mind. These principles included easy use for beginners, being an all-purpose computer programming language, provide clear error messages, to be interactive, to not require an understanding of computer hardware, to shield the user from the operating system, to allow advanced features to be added on later, and to respond quickly for small programs.
BASIC was partially based on FORTRAN II and ALGOL 60, which were two other beginning computer programming options. BASIC was also modified to make it workable for timesharing. Most versions of BASIC, both old and new, make use of an interpreter, which translates BASIC into machine code and allows programs to be entered and run with no intermediate translation. Some of the most recent BASIC versions use a compiler for this process rather than an interpreter.
Initially, BASIC was utilized for straightforward mathematical work, with matrix arithmetic support from its initial implementation as a batch language, and full string functionality being added by 1965.

Discounting the programs use in several minicomputers, it was the introduction of the MITS Altair 8800 ‘kit’ microcomputer in 1975 that paved BASIC’s road to universal use. Most programs required more memory than was available on most smaller computers that were available to the public. The Altair 8800 provided enough memory space for BASIC to operate. BASIC also had the advantage of being fairly well known to young designers and hobbyists that took interest in microcomputers. Later in 1975, Altair BASIC was released by collage-dropouts Bill Gates and Paul Allen as the company Micro-Soft.

As one of the first widespread computer programs, BASIC successfully influence American technology as an easy to use and learn program, widening public knowledge of the workings of computers.

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