Happy Birthday! BASIC just turned 50. It should have been 1981 or ’82 when I first saw a BASIC listing. The magazine was named Nuova Elettronica (New Electronics) and featured a series of columns about building a computer. I remember the writer was very proud they managed to license an Italian version of BASIC. For sure it was weird (even more in hindsight), something was even understandable (LET a=3, in Italian “SIA a=3”), something else was pretty obscure (FOR i=1 TO 10, “PER i=1 A 10”). I had no computer and the Internet wasn’t even in my wildest sci-fi dreams, so I wondered how those lines could produce 10 high-resolution (!) concentric rectangles. One rather puzzling statement was LET a=a+1. I understood equations (I was in my first year of high school), but that couldn’t possibly be an equation as I knew. So I tried to ask an even more puzzled math teacher, who stared at the line for a while, then muttered something about simulations and universe-changing semantics.
Luckily shortly later another magazine “Elettronica 2000” (“Electronics 2000”) started a BASIC tutorial. I read those pages until I consumed them and learned Basic. For some years programming and BASIC were quite synonyms. The first thing you saw when you switched a Zx or a Commodore on, was the BASIC prompt. The machine was ready to be programmed.
The BASIC era, for me, ended with the Amiga, years later (at that age, years are eons indeed). Microsoft BASIC for Amiga was pretty unstable, also real performances can be achieved with C. Maybe the tombstone was in the second year of University, in the first lesson of Computer Science, when the professor wrote “BASIC” on the blackboard and then stroked it out saying: “This is the last time I want to hear about BASIC”.
Talking about anniversaries, I think it is noteworthy that the first message I wrote on my blog was posted 10 years ago. I would have liked to celebrate this with a new look for my website. I have been working on this for a while, but it is still not ready. I hope to have it online before my website becomes of age.