Anyone who grew up with computers in the 1970s and 80s will know all about BASIC or the Beginners All-purpose Simple Instruction Code. In the hierarchy of computer operating and programming systems BASIC is just a couple of steps up from raw instruction code, and several layers below fancy graphical user interfaces like Windows and Mac OS.

As the name suggests it is a simple set of logical instructions, written in plain text, more or less, but the beauty of BASIC is that just about anyone can understand it, and make their Atari, Commodore, Sinclair et al computers do useful things. However, the real point of BASIC was that it taught a generation of kids to program computers, rather than just mindlessly play with them.

Many of them went on to write and create the operating systems, applications and games that we all use today. Sadly BASIC is fast becoming a footnote in computer history, but if you are old enough to remember, or want to know what it was like back in the olden days then do yourself a favour and download and install Microsoft Small Basic.

It’s designed to run inside Windows (XP, Vista W7 etc) and it works really well, providing novices with lots of help to compile and troubleshoot their routines and programs. Old Sinclair hands won’t have any trouble with it, though you’ll have to learn to forget some old (and mostly bad) habits…

Apart from anything else it’s fun to use and who knows, it may even inspire a new generation of programmers to get their hands dirty and discover what makes computers tick.

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