Fifty years ago this month, in 1964, a computer programming language winked to life that changed the course of a generation. While many would point to the rise of Unix and other ubiquitous programming languages in the intervening years as formative points in the history of computing, on May 1, 1964, a computer at Darmouth College ran the first BASIC program, changing the world forever.
Created by Professors John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz and a team of student programmers, the Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code was supposed to be a simple system for teaching computer literacy and escaping the strange runes associated with early mainframe programming. Gone were commands like “EBCDIC ARRAY E [0:11],” replaced by a simple “HELLO” to begin programming and a delightful “READY” prompt that showed the computer was listening.
BASIC was perfect for beginners. The structure was inherent in the language – each line was numbered…
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