10 PRINT “BASIC ROCKS!”

Mark Hughes:

We had a lingua franca, including the first 15 years of personal computing, that could be taught in a few hours and immediately used practically, and then it vanished almost utterly in the late ’90s. Two generations are completely illiterate in the language of their ancestors.

I have fond memories of writing BASIC programs on various 8-bit computers during the 80s, but particularly the BBC Master 128 that I owned in the late 80s. Happy days.

Turbo Pascal and Turbo Assembler kept that spirit alive for me for a time in the 90s, and Borland Delphi for Windows tried its best, but the tide was turning. Programming was, by and large, for developers now, not for users. The only affordances were within specific applications such as spreadsheets and databases. HyperCard carried the torch for a while, as did Flash. The former was killed off by its maker, the latter lived but became a dirty word thanks to those who abused it (and I’d include Adobe on that list.) Visual Basic? A brilliant idea, marred by the fact that it had Microsoft as its progenitor.

The original home computers having “turn on, maybe hit one key, you’re in BASIC” interaction was amazing, unparalleled in any other system since, and we need to get back to as close to that as possible.

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