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BASIC is the "Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code" programming language, created by John G. Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz at Dartmouth College for pedagogical use, and first introduced in 1964.

That original version was an interpreter which ran under a time-sharing operating system on a small mainframe. It was initally developed on a GE-235 (a GE-235 combined with a Datanet-30 front end, the configuration used by the original system, was designated a 'GE-265'). The Dartmouth Time Sharing System, where BASIC was greatly improved, ran on the later GE-635.

It later became popular on minicomputers, in exactly the same usage mode. Since it was very simple for users to understand, many microcomputers from the 1970's and 1980's would include BASIC as a feature.

One of the more popular versions was the Microsoft ROM version, which was used in many machines.

Microsoft went on to improve BASIC with Quick Basic which removed line numbers, and made BASIC more procedural, then the next evolution was Visual Basic a pseudo Object Oriented version for programming the Microsoft Windows environments. And finally the Visual Basic .net language which is for the .net framework.

Early versions

Early versions of Basic were known for needing line numbers, and it allowed direct hardware access via PEEK,POKE keywords. Many of these programs were NOT portable, as the hardware was not standardized, and many vendors added their own extensions to the language.


A sample basic program.

Procedural Versions

With Quick Basic, programs no longer needed line numbers, and the language was able to use the medium & large memory models with later versions. Quick Basic was also included in MS-DOS 5.0 replacing the older GWBasic.

A sample QuickBasic program:


Popular versions

Just a quick grouping of popular BASIC programming languages

Further reading

  • John G. Kemeny, Thomas E. Kurtz, Back to BASIC: The History, Corruption, and Future of the Language, Addison-Wesley, Reading, 1985