BASIC programming language turns 60

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General-purpose programming language
BASIC stands for Beginners' All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, a family of general-purpose, high-level programming languages designed for ease of use.
Created by John G. Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz at Dartmouth College in 1963 for students in non-scientific fields to use computers.
Designed to enable easy programming on computers, making programming accessible to scientists, mathematicians, and students.
The BASIC programming language, an acronym for Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, celebrated its 60th anniversary on May 1, 2024. This milestone marks six decades since the language was first successfully executed on a General Electric GE-225 mainframe at Dartmouth College by mathematicians John G. Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz.

Origins and Development

BASIC was developed in 1964 as part of a broader initiative to make computing more accessible to students who were not science majors. The language was designed with simplicity in mind, featuring straightforward syntax and commands that resemble English words, making it easier for beginners to learn programming. The development of BASIC was also closely tied to the Dartmouth Time Sharing System (DTSS), which allowed multiple users to run programs simultaneously on the same computer.

Impact and Spread

The introduction of BASIC significantly lowered the barriers to entering the world of computing. It was one of the first programming languages that could be used easily by people without extensive technical training. This democratization of computing power contributed to the widespread adoption of personal computers in the 1970s and 1980s. BASIC became a staple in early personal computing, with versions developed for systems like the Altair 8800 and the Apple II, which further fueled the home computer revolution.

Evolution and Legacy

Over the years, BASIC evolved into various dialects and influenced the development of many other programming languages. Microsoft played a significant role in this evolution by introducing Visual Basic in 1991, which combined BASIC's easy-to-learn syntax with a graphical user interface builder, making it a popular choice for developing Windows applications. Despite the decline in its use as a primary programming language, BASIC's influence persists in modern programming environments and educational tools designed to introduce new learners to coding.

Commemoration and Reflection

The 60th anniversary of BASIC is not just a celebration of a programming language but also a reflection on its role in making computing accessible to a broader audience. This milestone was marked by various articles and discussions in the tech community, highlighting the enduring legacy of BASIC and its significance in the history of computing. In summary, BASIC's development at Dartmouth College was a pivotal moment in computer science, lowering the threshold for engaging with digital technology and empowering generations of programmers. Its legacy continues to influence educational approaches and programming practices even six decades after its inception.
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