Remembering Fifty Years of BASIC

Fifty years ago today, Dartmouth University professor John Kemeney and a student ran the first BASIC program.

While I am not quite so old to have been among the first users of BASIC, it was something I used as a child in the 1980s. It was the built-in programming language for my first computer, a Radio Shack TRS–80, and for my first Apple computer, an Apple IIc+.

In the second half of the 1970s, BASIC became the standard language for home users and hobbyist programmers. There wasn’t much packaged software, so people expected to write some of their own. Computer magazines published program listings for people to type in, then save to cassette tape.

To this day, BASIC remains the only programming language I ever learned, and it still frames my understanding of all computers and digital technology.

Garbage in. Garbage out.

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