One of the first and most popular programming languages, “BASIC,” turned 50 this month. The acronym stands for “Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code,” it started as a student math project at Dartmouth College and from this small town in New Hampshire it conquered the world. Even Bill Gates used it.
“A Theory of Fun for Game Design,” by Raph Koster, $35 from oreilly.com, is now out in color, with a full-page cartoon flanking every page of text. The author was the lead designer for massive online games such as “Ultima Online” and “Star Wars Galaxies.” He discusses what makes a game fun and how games can teach primitive survival techniques. Creative designers, he says, use other games for inspiration. The forward is by Will Wright, creator of SimCity.
“3D Game Programming for Kids,” by Chris Strom; $36 from oreilly.com. Here’s a great system for teaching you to program, no matter what your age.
All you need is a computer and preferably the Chrome web browser, though anything except Internet Explorer will do. The author explains things so well that in literally a few minutes, Joy had created a colorful ball and cube on her screen and was able to animate them.
Dan Bricklin is perhaps the most famous programmer alive. Because he, with partner Bob Frankston, created VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet to run on a personal computer. It was 1979 and it ran only on an Apple II. Arguably it made Apple, because this was the first business program, and that created a reason to buy Apple, instead of the half dozen other desktops at that time. Before VisiCalc, most people in the business said the personal computer was a really a game machine, and would never be anything else. Visicalc changed that forever. The fact that it was written for the Apple and not some other computer was an accident. The two men were students at Harvard and initially started […]
From the mid 19th through the 20 century, America was the world leader in technology. Perhaps the most important driver of those advances was kids who liked to take apart clocks. They took apart other things as well, of course: toasters, radios, automobile engines, etc.