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But line numbers helped emphasize the sequential nature of computer programs, which, regardless of the language in question, consist of a task broken down into steps. Either programming a computer was exceptionally hard and should be left to the experts, or it was something that should be democratized, as BASIC had already done. Not both. Today, Kurtz is blunt about criticism of the language he co-created as being insufficiently serious or a dangerous way to begin learning about computer programming.

Introduction to the History of Computing A Computing History Primer

That was O. It made plenty of sense to newbies who simply wanted to teach computers to do useful things from almost the moment they started to learn about programming. And in , as Dijkstra was accusing it of mutilating minds, there were about to be far more of those people than ever before.


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It was huge news among the small number of people who could be called computer nerds at the time—people like Paul Allen , who was working as a programmer for Honeywell in Boston. When he bought a copy of the January issue of Popular Electronics at the Out of Town newsstand in Harvard Square, with the Altair on the cover, he and an old friend—a Harvard sophomore named Bill Gates—got excited. We started with a plot of sorts to know the general approach we were taking. That was true, but it was only the beginning of the story. The Altair and its earliest rivals catered to hobbyists who were comfortable flipping switches and wielding soldering guns.

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Lots of people bought a computer so they could learn how to program it. His version was particularly popular among people developing commercial programs—which, at the time, were as likely to be written in BASIC as in any other language. I was focused on a narrower thing, how to develop commercial applications…The end result is, Bill did a little better. Though he may not have reached Gates-ian levels of success, Eubanks did end up doing rather well for himself, eventually becoming the longtime CEO of Symantec, an enduringly important software company in its own right.

When you turned on an early microcomputer such as the TRS, it dumped you directly into the language. You could load a program off tape cassette or floppy disk if you chose, but you could also simply begin typing a new one. These computers begged to be programmed in a way that their descendants do not.

But it also meant that anybody could examine the original program for anything written in Microsoft BASIC, including commercial software distributed on cassette or floppy disk. You could learn from it, tweak it or steal snippets of it for your own projects.


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It had many of the virtues of open-source software long before the concept had that name. Like the language itself, the works documenting BASIC tended to be rather informal by computer-science standards.


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The book quickly went into a second printing, for a total of 10, copies sold. It got updated, was translated into six languages, inspired multiple sequels and became the first computer book to have sold a million copies. Like folk songs, its programs felt like part of a shared cultural heritage.

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They were passed around, mutating into multiple variants as they did so. By the time I got my hands on the book—circa when my father brought home a TRS—I was aware that the games it contained were, well, basic. Because they had their roots in the Teletype era, most of them involved no graphics whatsoever.

Instead, they were resolutely text-oriented, like a golf game that had you type in your swing as a number from 1 to But I cherished it. I also typed in plenty of other programs from magazines such as Creative Computing , 80 Microcomputing , SoftSide , and the most extravagantly programming-centric of the major monthlies, Compute.

The best BASIC programs published in computer magazines were surprisingly professional, in part because the bar of professionalism was easy to clear. Sure, there were people who used PCs without making any attempt to program them. But in the computer lab at my high school, in the late s and early s, we looked on them with pity. The language had splintered into dialects as the companies that licensed it adapted it for their computers, stuffing it into whatever memory was available and improvising functions for machine-specific capabilities such as graphics and sound.

That generates a random, maze-like pattern that goes on forever, or at until you press Ctrl-C. Kemeny and Kurtz were exceptionally disappointed with what others had done to their creation. We were wrong. Ad nauseum. But they were mine, and they let me tell the computer to do exactly what I wanted it to do. BASIC was so approachable that you could toss off little improvisational programs with barely any effort at all.

But I was happy enough with one—a slot machine simulation I wrote despite never having used a slot machine—to upload it a local online bulletin-board system. Approximately 34 years later, I discovered that it was among the programs in the vast collection of Ira Goldklang, whose website is a veritable Smithsonian of all things TRS It was all the more impressive given that he plied his trade primarily on the TRS, a computer with crude graphics and no official support for audio at all.

I used to spend hours racking my brain to figure out smaller routines to do various tasks since that 16K RAM was used up pretty fast. It was no longer the default tool chosen by schools to teach programming to beginners: When I was in college in the mids, the language du jour was Pascal, especially among those who prized good programming practices.

In part, that was because of the rich and powerful applications that had come along for PCs. The best-known logic programming languages is Prolog, which was developedin the early s by Alain Colmerauer and Robert Kowalski. It stands for program-ming in logic. It is a goal-oriented language that is based on predicate logic. Prologbecame an ISO standard in The language attempts to solve a goal by tacklingthe subgoals that the goal consists of: goal :- subgoal1, …, subgoaln.

He also developed the programming language LISP. The next two state-ments are facts stating that isaac is a parent of jacob, and that sarah is the mother ofisaac.

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A particular goal clause is true if all of its subclauses are true: goalclause Vg :- clause1 V1 ,.. When all clauses are examined and all variables in Vg are bound, the goal succeeds. But if a variable cannot be bound for a given clause, then that clause fails. Followingthe failure, Prolog backtracks, and this involves going back to the left to previousclauses to continue trying to unify with alternative bindings. Most logic programming languages use a simple searching strategy to consideralternatives:If a goal succeeds and there are more goals to achieve, then remember any untried alternatives and go on to the next goal.

If a goal is achieved and there are no more goals to achieve, then stop with success. If a goal fails and there are alternative ways to solve it, then try the next one. If a goal fails and there are no alternate ways to solve it, and there is a previous goal, then go back to the previous goal.

If a goal fails and there are no alternate ways to solve it, and no previous goal, then stop with failure. Constraint programming is a programming paradigm where relations betweenvariables can be stated in the form of constraints.

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Constraints specify the propertiesof the solution and differ from the imperative programming languages in that theydo not specify the sequence of steps to execute. The syntax is the grammar of the language, and a program needs to besyntactically correct with respect to its grammar. The semantics of the language isdeeper and determines the meaning of what has been written by the programmer. The semantics of a language determines what a syntactically valid program willcompute. Thegrammar of a language may be input into a parser, which determines whether theprogram is syntactically correct.

Symbols that never appear on a left side are called terminals. There are various types of grammars such as regular grammars, context-freegrammars and context-sensitive grammars. A parser translates the grammar of alanguage into a parse table. Each type of grammar has its own parsing algorithm todetermine whether a particular program is valid with respect to its grammar. A program is written according to the rules of the language, and the com-piler then checks that it is syntactically correct, and if so, it generates the equivalentmachine code.

It is possible to writesyntactically correct programs that behave in quite a different way from the inten-tions of the programmer.

Programming by Case Studies : An Algol Primer

He is morewidely known today as a critic of US foreign policy. This approach is based on mathematical logic, and itOperational employs pre and post condition assertions to specify what happens whensemantics the statement executes. Christopher Strachey and Dana Scott developed it in the mids The formal semantics of a language is given by a mathematical model, whichdescribes the possible computations described by the language. The three mainapproaches to programming language semantic are axiomatic semantics, opera-tional semantics and denotational semantics.

A short summary of each approach isdescribed in Table Describe the early use of machine code. Describe the early use of assembly languages. Describe the key features of Pascal and C. Discuss the key features of object-oriented languages. Explain the differences between imperative programming languages and functional programming languages. What are the key features of logic programming languages? What is the difference between syntax and semantics? Explain the main approaches to programming language semantics. These are easier to write andunderstand, but they must be converted into the actual machine code to run on thecomputer.

However, their advantages are executionspeed, as the assembly language is the native language of the processor.