n

n

Unlike many BASICs to come, Dartmouth BASIC was a compiler, which meant that it converted your entire program in one fell swoop into machine code that the computer could understand, rather than line by line every time you ran the program. It performed that task rapidly, especially by the leisurely standards of 1960s computing “If you were writing a very simple program, you’d get your answer in a second or so,” McGeachie says. “It might take longer to print it out, because the Teletypes could only do 10 characters a second.” n

The historic moment at Dartmouth on May 1, 1964 at 4 a.m. was actually two historic moments. Not one brief BASIC program but two or three of them accounts vary ran simultaneously, proving both that BASIC worked and that the Dartmouth Time Sharing System was capable of dealing with more than one user at a time. n

In June 1964, they became generally available to Dartmouth students, initially on 11 Teletype machines. The first version of BASIC had 14 commands, all with straightforward names and syntax that made sense n

    n
  • PRINT output text and numbers to the Teletype (and, later on, displayed it on the screens of time sharing terminals and PCs) n
  • LET told the computer to perform calculations and assign the result to a variable, in statements such as LET C (A 2.5) B n
  • IF and THEN let the program determine if a statement was true, vital for anything involving decision making n
  • FOR and NEXT let a program run in loops n
  • GOTO let a program branch to another numbered line within itself n
  • END, which was required in Dartmouth BASIC, told the computer that it had reached the program u2019s conclusion. n n

    Then there was INPUT, a command that let a BASIC program accept alphanumeric characters typed in by a user. It wasn u2019t among the initial 14, arriving only in the third revision of the language in 1966. But when it did, it made it possible to write far more interactive programs. Without INPUT, BASIC was mostly for solving math problems and doing simple simulations with it, the language could do almost anything. Including play games, which many people came to consider as the language u2019s defining purpose. nJohn Kemeny checks out program written by his daughter Jennifer on the family’s “home computer,” a terminal on the Dartmouth Time Sharing System Adrian N. Bouchard / Dartmouth College n

    You could write a fairly sophisticated program in Dartmouth BASIC. (An early manual stated the maximum program length as u201cabout two feet of teletype paper. u201d) But you could also make the computer do something interesting and useful with just a few lines of simple code, shortly after you u2019d encountered the language for the first time. That was the whole point. n

    It mattered to Kemeny and Kurtz that access to BASIC and the DTSS be as open as possible. u201cAny student can enter the Library, browse among the books or take some back to his room. No one asks him why he wants the book, and he does not need anyone u2019s permission, u201d Kemeny wrote in a brochure for the college’s new computer center, which opened in 1966. u201cSimilarly, any student may walk into the Kiewit Computation Center, sit down at a console, and use the time sharing system. No one will ask if he is solving a serious research problem, doing his homework the easy way, playing a game of football, or writing a letter to his girlfriend. u201d nMembers of Dartmouth’s Glee Club perform a very early form of computer dating with women in California via the Dartmouth Time Sharing System Adrian N. Bouchard / Dartmouth College n

    What Kemeny was describing in the Kiewit brochure was personal computing. It u2019s just that the term hadn u2019t been invented yet. Even the concept was still audacious. n

    Dartmouth BASIC did everything that Kemeny and Kurtz hoped it would, and more. In a triumphant 1967 report, they said that by the end of that academic year, 2000 Dartmouth students representing 80 percent of the three incoming freshman classes who had arrived since BASIC u2019s invention would have learned about computers by writing and debugging their own programs. Many continued to do so after completing the BASIC classwork that was a mandatory part of the school u2019s math program. Forty percent of faculty members not just math and science teachers also used the system. n

    “Anyone who tries to convince a Dartmouth undergraduate either that computers are to be feared or that they are of little use, will be met with well founded scorn,” the report said. “The Dartmouth student knows better and knows it from personal experience.” nThe cover of a General Electric brochure touting its version of Dartmouth BASIC Computer History Museum n

    Dartmouth provided access to the DTSS over telephone lines to other East Coast schools, including Harvard and Princeton, as well as to some high schools. It also helped other institutions implement time sharing systems and BASIC, while General Electric commercialized the DTSS and Dartmouth BASIC and sold them to business customers. Other computer companies such as Digital Equipment Corporation and HP introduced their own BASICs. n

    Dartmouth u2019s effort to democratize computing was, in short, a huge success. u201cQualitatively, I was right on the impact, u201d Kemeny said in the 1991 interview. u201cQuantitatively, I vastly underestimated it. That is, it had impact on many, many more courses than I thought, and the amount of impact was much greater courses being totally changed because of the availability of computers. I also underestimated, of course, how far educational computing would spread all over the world. u201d nBashing BASIC n

    Not everybody was happy with the way the language put computing within reach of mere mortals. Its most articulate and vociferous opponent was Edsger Dijkstra (1930 2002), an influential computer scientist. u201cIt is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC, u201d he groused in a 1975 essay titled “How Do We Tell Truths That Might Hurt?” u201cAs potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration. u201d nEdsger Dijkstra, the influential computer scientist and BASIC critic, in 2002 Wikipedia n

    Now, it u2019s possible that Dijkstra was exaggerating for dramatic effect. BASIC wasn u2019t his only b u00eate noire among programming languages He also spewed bile in the direction of FORTRAN (an u201cinfantile disorder u201d), PL /1 ( u201cfatal disease u201d) and COBOL ( u201ccriminal offense u201d). n

    Still, despite Dijkstra’s foreboding attitude towards BASIC, countless programmers who started out with the language went on to have thriving careers. And the thing is, some of the characteristics that have given BASIC a bad reputation are precisely the same ones that made it so easy to learn. n

    For instance, BASIC offered GOTO, a command that let you jump from anywhere in your program to anywhere else in it u2014a practice that could result in messy u201cspaghetti code. u201d (In 1968, Dijkstra devoted an entire essay to his contempt for the command, u201cGo To Statement Considered Harmful. u201d ) A thoughtful BASIC programmer could indeed compose fastidious code that didn u2019t use GOTO. But insisting that liberal arts students obsess about tidy programming techniques from the get go was hardly a way to make computers less threatening. For them, GOTO was a godsend. n

    “It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC.”In its classic form, BASIC also made you organize your programs with line numbers u2014such as the 10 in 10 PRINT u201cHELLO u201d u2014a convention that was arguably superfluous and eventually fell by the wayside. But line numbers helped emphasize the sequential nature of computer programs, which, regardless of the language in question, consist of a task broken down into steps. n

    In “How Do We Tell Truths That Might Hurt?,” Dijkstra tips hi
    s hand by calling programming u201cone of the most difficult branches of applied mathematics u201d and suggesting that less talented mathematicians should not even bother with it. If that was his take in 1975, he couldn u2019t simultaneously approve of BASIC. Either programming a computer was exceptionally hard and should be left to the experts, or it was something that should be democratized, as BASIC had already done. Not both. nDartmouth students at work in a remote computer center in 1965 Adrian N. Bouchard / Dartmouth College n

    Today, Kurtz is blunt about criticism of the language he co created as being insufficiently serious or a dangerous way to begin learning about computer programming. u201cIt’s B.S., u201d he says. n

    u201cI’ll go out on a limb and suggest the degrading of BASIC by the professionals was just a little bit of jealousy after all, it took years for us to develop our skill how is it that complete idiots can write programs with just a few hours of skill? u201d n

    BASIC may not have made sense to people like Edsger Dijkstra. That was O.K. u2014it wasn u2019t meant for them. It made plenty of sense to newbies who simply wanted to teach computers to do useful things from almost the moment they started to learn about programming. And in 1975, as Dijkstra was accusing it of mutilating minds, there were about to be far more of those people than ever before. nEnter the PC n

    By letting non computer scientists use BASIC running on the DTSS, Kemeny, Kurtz and their collaborators had invented something that was arguably the first real form of personal computing. But it didn u2019t yet involve personal computers. That revolution got jump started a decade later, when a New Mexico model rocket company called MITS launched the Altair 8800, the $497 build it yourself microcomputer ($621 assembled) that launched the PC revolution. n

    It was huge news among the small number of people who could be called computer nerds at the time u2014people like Paul Allen, who was working as a programmer for Honeywell in Boston. nMITS’ Altair 8800B (1976), one of the first microcomputers to run Microsoft BASIC Science & Society Picture Library / Getty Images n

    When he bought a copy of the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics at the Out of Town newsstand in Harvard Square, with the Altair on the cover, he and an old friend u2014a Harvard sophomore named Bill Gates u2014got excited. Immediately, they knew they wanted to try to make the Altair run BASIC, a language they u2019d both learned in its original timeshared via Teletype form at the Lakeside School in Seattle. n

    Actually, Allen had been ruminating about the possibility of building his own BASIC even before he knew about the Altair. u201cThere hadn u2019t been attempts to write a full blown programming language for a microprocessor, u201d he explains. u201cBut when the chips leading up to the 8080 processor became available, I realized we could write a program for it that would be powerful enough to run BASIC. u201d n

    “I realized we could write a program for it that would be powerful enough to run BASIC.”Famously, they wrote the first draft of Altair BASIC without having access to an Altair, using a simulator they ran on a Digital Equipment PDP 10 minicomputer. u201cMonte Davidoff, who helped me and Bill write BASIC for the Altair, once said programming was like writing a novel, u201d Allen says. u201cThat u2019s how we approached BASIC. We started with a plot of sorts to know the general approach we were taking. We broke the big ideas into sections, or chapters, and then we u2019d edit and re edit and keep editing until we had preserved the big picture and fixed all the bugs. It was the hardest but most enjoyable work I u2019ve ever done. u201d nAn original paper tape copy of Paul Allen, Bill Gates and Monte Davidoff’s Altair BASIC, as exhibited at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Michael Holley / Wikipedia n

    Allen and Gates u2019 BASIC partnership became a company, known at first as Micro Soft. They licensed the language to MITS, which sold it for a hefty $500, marked down to $75 if you bought it bundled with Altair hardware. Or you could get it for free by pirating it u2014something that so many early microcomputer owners did that Gates wrote a legendary open letter bemoaning the rampant theft of Micro Soft u2019s intellectual property. n

    Setting a high price for BASIC and using it as an incentive to buy hardware “was a strategy that backfired in a big way,” says David Bunnell, who was in charge of publications at MITS. Ed Roberts, MITS’ president, “was just sort of small minded in that way. He couldn’t see the big picture.” n

    Even so, BASIC being available on a microcomputer was a big deal. “There are two keys to the new computer revolution,” declared an unsigned article Bunnell says he almost certainly wrote it announcing Altair BASIC in the April 1975 issue of MITS u2019 Computer Notes newsletter. u201cOne is computers must be inexpensive and the other is computers must be understandable. With the Altair 8800 and Altair BASIC, both of these criteria have been met. u201d nRadio Shack’s TRS 80 (1977), one of the first PCs to come with BASIC as standard equipment Science & Society Picture Library / Getty Images n

    That was true, but it was only the beginning of the story. The Altair and its earliest rivals catered to hobbyists who were comfortable flipping switches and wielding soldering guns. In 1977, a new wave of PCs arrived that were aimed at a far broader swath of consumers, including Apple u2019s Apple II, Commodore u2019s PET 2001 and Radio Shack u2019s TRS 80. And one of the things that made them consumer PCs was that they came with BASIC. n

    The PET offered a variant of Microsoft BASIC from the start. Apple and Radio Shack started out with rudimentary variants of the language u2014Apple u2019s was written by cofounder Steve Wozniak himself u2014before acquiring the rights to distribute Microsoft u2019s version. For the next few years, nearly every microcomputer of any significance came with Microsoft BASIC, including models from companies such as Atari and Texas Instruments. nPaul Allen (left) and Bill Gates in 1981, surrounded by some of the computers that ran their version of BASIC Microsoft n

    Tech pundits like to talk about killer apps software so useful that you’d buy a computer just to run it. 1979&#8242 s VisiCalc is often identified as the first such program. But before that, Microsoft BASIC itself was the PC’s killer app. Lots of people bought a computer so they could learn how to program it. n

    There were other microcomputer BASICs besides Microsoft’s. In the early days, the best known of them was CBASIC, created by a naval officer named Gordon Eubanks. His version was particularly popular among people developing commercial programs which, at the time, were as likely to be written in BASIC as in any other language. n

    “Microsoft u2019s BASIC was much more fundamental than CBASIC,” says Eubanks. “It appeared on every single computer. If you got your TRS 80, you could fire it up and write a little program to print ‘HELLO.’ And it worked. I was focused on a narrower thing, how to develop commercial applications&#8230 The end result is, Bill did a little better.” n

    (Though he may not have reached Gates ian levels of success, Eubanks did end up doing rather well for himself, eventually becoming the longtime CEO of Symantec, an enduringly important software company in its own right.) n

    Eubanks mentions a key reason for Microsoft BASIC’s importance It was unavoidable. When you turned on an early microcomputer such as the TRS 80, it dumped you directly into the language. You could load a program off tape cassette or floppy disk if you chose, but you could also simply begin typing a new one. These computers begged to be programmed in a way that their descendants do not. nThis very early Apple II clone of Atari’s Breakout later known as Brick Out and Little Brick Out was written by Apple co founder Steve Wozniak himself, in Integer BASIC, which he also wroteHarry McCracken / TIME n

    The daily northwestern : fda p
    roposes regulation of electronic cigarettes

    Discount cigarettes – springfield, va

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed a new rule Thursday that would allow the agency to regulate electronic cigarettes and other tobacco related products.

    The proposed rules come roughly six months after the Evanston City Council voted to prohibit e cigarette use in most public spaces.

    Tobacco related disease and death is one of the most critical public health challenges before the FDA, Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said in a news release. The proposed rule would give the FDA additional tools to protect the public health in today s rapidly evolving tobacco marketplace, including the review of new tobacco products and their health related claims.

    The FDA is responsible for public health and safety and regulates tobacco products.

    If the proposed rule is implemented, companies that produce tobacco related products like e cigarettes would have to register their products, disclose the product ingredients and wait to market products until FDA review. In addition, companies would have to wait for the FDA to review any evidence before claiming their products reduce any risks.

    Battery operated e cigarettes convert liquid containing nicotine into vapor for users to inhale. Little is known about the devices, according to the FDA s website. Many aspects of e cigarette usage, such as the amount of nicotine users inhale, have not been completely reviewed.

    The Illinois General Assembly is currently considering legislation on e cigarettes. State Rep. Robyn Gabel (D Evanston) sponsored a bill concerning e cigarettes that passed the state House with an overwhelming majority and is now in the Senate, Gabel said. The bill aims to require childproof caps on the e liquid portion of e cigarettes.

    Gabel said a physician told her nicotine can have lethal effects and can impact an individual through his or her skin. The amount needed to impact a toddler is even smaller, Gabel said.

    As e cigarettes become more popular, there will be more opportunities for accidents,” Gabel said, noting that the e cigarette industry has in the past been an unregulated one. As a legislator, she felt she had to help regulate the industries that can impact children, she said.

    People should know that nicotine is a very potent drug, Gabel said. People need to use it wisely and carefully.

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