3.1203 BASIC defense; programming for humanists (79)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Fri, 23 Mar 90 22:52:44 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 1203. Friday, 23 Mar 1990.

(1) Date: Fri, 23 Mar 90 09:03 EDT (49 lines)
From: RKENNER@Vax2.Concordia.CA
Subject: In Defence of BASIC

(2) Date: Fri, 23 Mar 90 13:57:19 EST (11 lines)
From: Randal Baier <REBX@CORNELLC>
Subject: Programming for the Humanities

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 23 Mar 90 09:03 EDT
From: RKENNER@Vax2.Concordia.CA
Subject: In Defence of BASIC

I find myself having to come, again, to the defense of the
BASIC programming language - to dispel the ongoing myth, most
recently put forward by a fellow humanist, that BASIC is some-
how a crude, old fashioned language and that novices should
start right out with "grown up" languages like Pascal and C.
Of course, it is impossible to have a completely rational
discussion on this subject. It is like trying to discuss
religion among the faithful. I admit my bias. I believe in
Industry-standard magazines like PC-MAGAZINE and BYTE happen
to agree with me. Both have maintained, for some time, that
in the world of microcomputers, BASIC and C are the two most
powerful languages available. They both provide high-level
functions while allowing for low-level, direct control of the
machine when needed.
MICROSOFT CORPORATION, a well-known company in the micro-
computer field, has recently thrown its full weight behind
BASIC as a professional software development tool.
This is not, of course, the old-fashioned BASIC you get when
you buy your computer. It is a compiled language with named,
recursive subprograms, passed parameters, and a plethora of
advanced control structures and variable types. It is a
structured programming tool. And you can buy it for as little
as $99 in the form of QUICKBASIC or TURBO-BASIC. Third party
vendors produce as many "libraries" for BASIC as they do for
languages such as C - libraries of routines for windows, dBASE-like
file handling, etc.
Actually, the code for most of these advanced languages, C, PASCAL,
BASIC, etc. begins to look so much alike that it is sometimes difficult
at first glance to see what language a program is actually written in.
But BASIC has an advantage for the learner. You do not have to write
big, monstrous programs. You can quickly dash off a quite functional
3 or 4 line program, without having to worry about declaring variable
types and other bookkeeping that some of these other languages require.
Hence, it is an excellent language to learn with.
There IS a caveat however. BASIC, because it is so forgiving, allows
beginners to develop sloppy habits. Instructors must be vigilant to
require structured programming from the very beginning - with even the
smallest projects.
Roger Kenner
Concordia University

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------19----
Date: Fri, 23 Mar 90 13:57:19 EST
From: Randal Baier <REBX@CORNELLC>
Subject: Programming for the Humanities

I like Eric Johnson's idea about a course on Programming for the
Humanities. I think that this might get cumbersome if at the outset
it is treated as a credit course. Granted, the time and effort
given toward teaching such a course -- and being the student -- might
justify official recognition, but at the outset I'd like to see
a pilot program that we could participate in as something complementary
to our professions.