[TUHS] Book Recommendation

Will Senn will.senn at gmail.com
Wed Nov 17 03:02:57 AEST 2021

I still heart BASIC. I enjoy it's simplicity. I started out on BASIC 
with a Commodore Pet ca. 1978. I still like to fire it up every now and 
then - Chipmunk on my Macbook, BAS/BAS2 on RSTS/11, RSX-11, BBC basic? 
on RISC OS, doesn't matter, they all do a fair job of BASIC. I 
especially like firing up  Berhard's pdp 8 simulator with teletype 
emulation and coding on the teletype - 
https://www.bernhard-baehr.de/pdp8e/pdp8e.html. Unix... well, I've not 
been real successful in getting it to work on v6, other folks maybe, but 
not me. By work, I mean, I type in reasonable BASIC and it runs 
reasonably :). The bas executable work fine, it's the human-computer 
interface that doesn't seem to wanna work, nothing I type in as a 
program more complex than 'hello, world' will run with any reliability.

On another note, I remember the days when people bad mouthed lovers of 
BASIC (in industry) and acted as though they were simpletons, later they 
became haters on VB folks. When I learned C, in my twenties, I felt 
empowered, but at the same time hamstrung, some of the simplest things 
in BASIC became an odyssey in C. Nowadays, I use Python more than 
anything else these (boring data sciency stuff). What I like about 
Python is that it reminds me of BASIC in its simplicity of expression, 
but to be fair, it goes far, far beyond it in power... I just wish it 
were as free form as Ruby in how you say, what you say... any, I digress...

My favorite BASIC book:

My Computer Likes Me*
*when I speak in BASIC

by Bob Albrecht

Written in 1972 (for a teletype interface)

On a less positive note. The professors who originally developed it at 
Dartmouth could never quite see there way clear to open source it. True 
BASIC? pshaw :). There was a time when I would have loved to run BASIC 
on linux, bsd, then Mac and have it be consistent across the platforms, 
other than as a curiosity, that time has gone.

My question for the group is what's BASIC's history in the unices? I 
know it's in v6, cuz I struggled with it there, but I'm curious what the 
backstory is? I have the impression that the marriage of bas and v6 was 
one of convenience, maybe there was a thought to draw in the hobbiest? 
Were Kemeny and Kurtz characters in the same circles as the unix folks?



On 11/16/21 8:56 AM, Clem Cole wrote:
> On Mon, Nov 15, 2021 at 11:09 PM G. Branden Robinson 
> <g.branden.robinson at gmail.com> wrote:
>     It's hard to overstate the impact of BASIC on the first generation of
>     people who grew up with computers in the home instead of encountering
>     them only later in a time-sharing environment with professional
>     operators and administrators.
> FWIW:   A number of us learned BASIC in the late 1960s/early 1970s 
> (/i.e./ before the microprocessor versions ever appeared as they did 
> not yet exist).  Gates & Allen used it in HS on a PDP-10 with an 
> ASR-33, and I'm their same age.   I did the same thing in JHS and HS 
> on a GE-635 [Mark-II DTSS] and then later HP2000 [Community Computer 
> Services] - 10 cps baby, upper case only.
> What I don't know is if the PDP-8 BASIC came before the PDP-10 
> version.   But the point is that most of the mini's (nomatter the 
> manufacturer) had an implementation of BASICin the late 60s and early 
> 1970s, long before the micro's came on the scene.  I would later get 
> to know/work with a number of the people in DEC languages groups and I 
> do know that the syntax and semantics of the BASIC for RSTS 
> implementation originally was based on the PDP-10 BASIC (although they 
> did have some differences).
> In fact, DEC's RSTS/11 and the HP/2100 running BASIC were the two 
> systems that ended up being used by a lot of small timesharing shops 
> and eventually on-site at the high schools that could afford the HW. 
> The reason being that BASIC became popular on the small system was it 
> required fewer resources and because it was primarily interpreted 
> matched.  An urban legend is that when Gates opened in Microsoft in 
> AZ, he bartered time from the local high school running their RSTS 
> system for them in return for being able to use it as their 
> development system [I definitely know that he used their system, I'm 
> just now sure how he renumerated them for the computer time].
>     This is not because BASIC was a high quality language, especially as
>     stripped down by Microsoft and other implementors.
> It made perfect sense when Gates decided to implement it for the 
> Altair.   And he modeled his version on the DEC syntax and semantics - 
> because that was what he knew was used to from the PDP-10, and what he 
> and Paul had learned first.
>     Everybody knew there were bigger, better, or faster languages out
>     there,
>     but they were priced commercially and marketed at professionals.
> And more importantly, /requires many more resources/.  
> Consider UCSD-Pascal, you needed a disk-based system to run it, be an 
> LSI-11, Apple-IIe, or CP/M box.  The BASIC's often worked out of ROM. 
>  Hey, I can think of implementations of other languages such as 
> FORTRAN's, C, Cobol, PL/M, PL/1, and eventually many Pascals for the 
> different micro's, but they all took more HW to support the 
> edit/compile/link cycle.
> The point is that for a >>hobbyist<<, running BASIC was 'good 
> enough.'  The only HS in the late 1970s that I knew that could afford 
> a PDP 11/45 and actually ran UNIX on it, was Lincoln-Sudbury - which 
> is in a high-end suburban Boston.  They also had a lot of help from 
> parents who per professionals here in Boston working for places like 
> DEC, DG, Pr1me, Honeywell, and the like.   At that time, I was long 
> gone, but I now my father at my own prep school in 
> suburban Philadelphia dreamed of an 11/40 class system to run RSTS, 
> but they could not afford it. So if they wanted off a timesharing 
> service like the HP/21000, they bought small microprocessor (CP/M or 
> Apple-II) gear and ran them as a hobbyist would.
>     At one time, it was considered good sport to ridicule people whose
>     firstprogramming language was BASIC;
> I'm not so much sure it was that their first language was BASIC, as 
> much as they did not go beyond it.   I will say that once the HW 
> started to be able to support more complete languages (such as 
> Pascal), there was some of that.  I used to say the problem was that 
> they probably learned it in HS and their teachers did know more.
> My own father (who taught me BASIC on the GE-635 when I was in JHS), 
> knew only BASIC and FORTRAN because that was what he had learned 
> working part-time as a 'computer' at Rocketdyne in the late 
> 1950s/early 1960s.   By the late 60s, he was the first 'computer 
> teacher' at the prep school when I went (in Philadelphia, but not that 
> dissimilar to Bill Gates's experiences in Seattle at a local prep 
> school there). He taught us what he knew and /what he had access to/. 
> Eventually, I outpaced him a bit, and I started to learn a little 
> assembler for the HP because I was curious. But I came to a point 
> where I knew way more than he did before I left HS [BTW: Gates and 
> Allen tell a similar story - of learning PDP-10 assembler at some 
> point -- advancing ahead of their teachers].  The truth is I think my 
> Dad was a bit ahead of his time, /but he did not know what he did not 
> know /and did know to try to teach others anything other than BASIC 
> and FORTRAN/./
> FWIW: I went to CMU and had to be re-taught - being introduced to 
> Algol, real FORTRAN, IBM Assembler, APL (and eventually many of other 
> wonders). BTW: By the mid/late '70s, I had taught my Dad Pascal so he 
> could use it with USCD-Pascal with his 'advanced students' now that he 
> had a few Apple-IIe's that could run it.
>     after a while I figured out that thiswas a form of hazing, similar
>     to the snotty attitudes adopted by a
>     subset of student employees
> Point taken... and I there probably was a lot of those, particularly 
> later once the HW ability and cost available made it possible to have 
> a choice. But the problem was that most of the young people had come 
> from places where the educators that taught them BASIC did not know 
> better even if they had had enough HW to do it.
> Unfortunately, because the hobbyist and much of the press for 
> entry-level of the same, touted BASIC, many did not know better.   The 
> fact is I'm still now sure the HS and JHS are a lot better than they were.
> I'll let Steinhart reply, but he wrote an excellent book recently 
> targeted to just those same students that what to know more, but 
> frankly their HS teachers really are not in a position to teach them 
> properly.
> Clem
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