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- Language type:
The Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction
Code (BASIC) was designed by two professors
at Dartmouth University to be an easy first
language for programming neophytes.
Though the first version was compiled,
most Basic systems were interpreters.
Original Basic had a simple syntax that
included a line number for every source
line. Control structure mostly consisted
of GOTO ### and GOSUB ###; simple conditional
and bounded loop constructs were also
available. Original Basic provided numeric and array datatypes, but no strings, structures, or objects. Strings were added
to most early versions of Basic, but more
sophisticated data structures weren't added
until many years later.
Basic has enjoyed steady popularity and
usage since about 1965, and has evolved
greatly since then. Modern Basic dialects,
such as Visual Basic, eschew line numbers,
support objects, libraries, GUIs, databases,
optimizing compilers, garbage collected
dynamic memory management, and much more.
Basic was and still still is loosely typed,
and has poor support for enforcing program
Dialects and subsets of Basic are often
designed as extension or macro languages
for programming systems on PCs.
John Kemeny & Thomas Kurtz, Dartmouth, 1963-64
- See Also:
It is very easy to learn and use Basic,
but the language is not well adapted for
large-scale programming. Also, the
deficiencies in the early versions of the
language lead to a splintering of the
Basic community in the 1980s.
Basic originally ran on the IBM 704.
Later, it was very popular on DEC PDP-11
computers, especially under their RSTS
time-sharing OS. On Microsoft operating
systems, Visual Basic is extremely popular
because its development environment offers
easy GUI development without the discipline
needed for languages like C++ or Java.
Various Basic dialects are also used for
business programming, such as BBx and
There are many commercial implementations
of Basic available, mostly for PCs and
Macs. On UNIX systems,
tasks that might once have been done in
Basic have largely been taken over by
Contrary to popular belief, Microsoft did
not invent Basic, nor was Basic invented
There is an ANSI standard for minimal
- Sample code:
REM Very very simple QBasic program
PRINT "My Menu"
PRINT "Press 1 to clear the screen, or 2 to say 'Hello'!"
INPUT "What do you want to do"; choice
IF choice = 1 THEN GOTO clrscr
IF choice = 2 THEN GOTO hello
hello: PRINT "Hello, hello, hello!"
Descriptions in this dictionary are ©1997-99 Neal Ziring. Some
examples copyright of their respective authors. Some
technologies and languages are trademarked. Permission to
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Dictionary and script maintained by Neal Ziring, last major modifications 3/18/98. Most recent
additions to dictionary and master list, 1/00.