BACK TO BASICS

People who started using computers many years ago probably remember BASIC, a relatively simple and easy to learn programming language that allowed them to write their own programs. Some famous people have published small programs written in BASIC. Novelist Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park, Andromeda Strain, etc.), for example, wrote an Apple program many years ago for casting the I Ching. Bill Gates must have written hundreds of programs in BASIC and is often credited with having invented the language.

Well, BASIC still lives. The name is an acronym for “Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code” and there are several versions. Microsoft sells its own “Visual BASIC,” which includes commands for creating graphics and animation, in several editions. There’s a free version called Visual BASIC, Express Edition, available from Microsoft.com. Visual BASIC provides the power to easily create Windows programs.

Joy recently began working with another version, called RealBASIC, which is $100 for the “personal edition” from RealSoftware.com, $500 for the professional version. Joy says it is both fun and real easy to follow. There are books on RealBASIC and a great video tutorial is available free on the web site.

 

What sets RealBasic and other current versions of BASIC a long way apart from the early days is pre-set modules. In the old days, if you wanted your program to, say, connect to the Internet, you had to write a program that would instruct the computer to connect to a modem and dial a certain number and enter certain codes, etc., etc. Well why re-invent the wheel? Since this was a common programming routine, RealSoftware.commodules soon became available to perform common actions like connecting to a modem, and you could just copy those and plug them into your own program. Now the modules are labeled in a column that appears on the left of the screen; just drag and drop them into your program as the need comes up. You can create databases and even games in the BASIC language. RealBASIC works with Windows, Mac and Linux.

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