Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the BASIC programming language. It is an understatement to say that I wouldn’t be sitting here on my laptop writing this post while I look out with this view, if I hadn’t discovered BASIC.
Sometime between 1981 and 1983 I visited my grandparents in Virginia and was first introduced to an Apple II. I don’t remember which model, but it had Breakout and I saw programming books that I read. I started typing the test programs in and made stuff happen on the screen. I was hooked.
Later in school, when fellow students were typing in LOGO instructions, I was trying to input BASIC, often times getting in the way of my computer partner getting to do anything on the computer. Between fourth and fifth grade I got to take a week long programming course in BASIC where I had my first formal instruction. It wasn’t until a few years later that we got our own computer at home, a Tandy 1000 HX. A few weeks after we got it, I discovered GW-BASIC was included.
I had my first IDE, my first full fledged programming language, and from that day on, I’ve been a computer programmer. In the days before the internet, a socially isolated person like myself worked alone, learning from magazines and books my parents would buy. I didn’t care though. Though looking back, I wish I’d done more to learn more early on, those days hacking alone in the home office, making things happen on the screen, are some of my happiest memories. I wrote editors, databases, a tool for doing radio station calculations. I even put together my own “suite” of tools to help me with school work.
I eventually graduated to Pascal, then C, then…pretty much anything I want. BASIC, though, will always have a special place in my heart. I still prefer a 80 column x 25 row window, just like the text mode display available on my Tandy. I still wonder if I could go back and rewrite some of my old programs in C that used to be in BASIC. I wonder if I still have them to be honest, but maybe today I’ll look.
Without finding BASIC, I wouldn’t have the wife, animals, career and home I have now. Period.