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Why I recommend GW Basic as a first language for new programmers!

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What’s important to understand about programming in any form is that it’s necessary to understand it’s mathematical underpinnings and origins as a way to control the flow of processing and execution.

“Modern” programming languages present different ways to manage control flow and intentionally obscure the mathematical nature – but when you’re just getting started – there’s no easier way to understand how the evolution of programming occurred than to actually see line numbers as an important part of knowing just ‘where the heck your program currently is’.

It’s rigid. It’s inflexible. It’s highly structured. And gets cluttered fast. Which reinforces you – the fledgling developer – into getting into the very good practice of thinking through your development prior to it’s actual implementation.

Modern languages like C# and Java obscure memory management from you, which makes most modern programs downright sloppy and bloated in my opinion, and has a nasty habit of pointing the finger at hardware manufacturers being to blame for the slowness in their applications when it’s simply poor coding practices.

A different ‘phenomena’ can be seen with script kiddies and those who learned leveraging scripting languages such as javascript – with these languages – not only do they allow a programmer to jump off a cliff and then knife themselves on the freefall, but the code by unstructured programmers often winds up looking like a melted fudge bar on a hot desert sidewalk – that is – it may work well – but it still looks like a big pile of turd and you really don’t want to touch it for fear of the shitstorm that would ensue.

Now while Basic is impractical as an industrial language in a corporate or team based environment, it’s a PHENOMENAL language to play with. I highly recommend this book:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BASIC_Computer_Games

And the cool thing with it is: once you learn this, you can ‘tweak’ and modify your program accordingly to see what causes it to fail, it ALWAYS gives easy to understand line numbers that don’t require you to have to know the user interface.

And once you’ve learned basic. Learning other languages – Whether it’s C#, Java, javascript – even assembler – is much easier because each one presents different ways to organize data and state information, which you will learn in Basic Programming.

No. You won’t get a job in GWBasic programming. But you will have something most modern day programmers do not have:

A foundation to pour your other language skills on.

On a final note, I have talked to David Ahl, the creator of 01 Basic programs, the first programming book, and he really is a fantastic man. Thank you, David, should you come across this BLOG entry, you single handedly have made a profound and meaningful impact on this man’s life.

His web site can be found here: http://www.computerscienceforkids.com/Pages/SmallBasicComputerGames.aspx

The web site with the original 101 programs in David Ahl’s book can be found here:
http://www.atariarchives.org/basicgames/index.php

David Ahl’s web site (the man who founded created the book)
http://www.swapmeetdave.com/Ahl/DHAbio.htm

GWBasic is now free, and can be found here:
http://www.gw-basic.com/downloads.html

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