Happy 50th Birthday Basic - Try QuickVB To Celebrate
Thursday, 01 May 2014

On May 1,1964 the first BASIC program ran. The rest, as they say, is history/ To celebrate that history lots of events are remembering the language.

Given Dartmouth is the birth place of BASIC it is reasonable that they should have a party and a video showing you some of the early days and early ways. 



And if you are too young to remember batch processing - it really made life hard. When you first encountered BASIC on a time share, or on a minicomputer, it was an amazing and revealing experience. After BASIC there was no going back to punch cards and batch runs. 

Of course most people know BASIC because of its use as the standard language of the home computer in the 1980s. Perhaps one of the best known versions of BASIC was QBASIC. It was included with every copy of MS-DOS 5.0 and lots of people, including Bill Gates, used it to create games programs that might be unimpressive today, but at the time...

The Visual Basic team at Microsoft has produced something that looks like QBASIC - QuickVB. It makes use of the new .NET compiler Roslyn and if you have a copy of Visual Studio you can download and build the project. All you have to do is download, unzip in the projects directory and load into Visual Studio - it works in Express. Next Run the project which automatically downloads the Roslyn code. After a few minutes you will see a familiar, if you are old enough to have used DOS, blue console box. 

At this point it is slightly disappointing, or slightly inspiring, depending on your point of view.

You can't write QBASIC but you can write VB .NET code in the console. So Hello World isn't:

10 PRINT "Hello World" 

Instead it is:

Imports System
Module Untitled 
 Sub Main()
  Console.WriteLine("Hello World")
 End Sub
End Module

So it isn't quite QBASIC, but it is Rosyln - complete with syntax highlighting and autocomplete.




The most amazing part is that Roslyn - the VB compiler - is written in VB. Yes it is that sort of things that gives normal programmers a headache, but in this case you can check that it is true as the command File,Open Self loads the QuickVB compiler and host into its own editor. You can modify it and run it to see if you can implement some of the menu options that currently dont' work. 

This is a long way from the original BASIC and a long way from QBASIC, but it's certainly a nice way to celebrate BASIC's half century.

Update: QuickVB has been open sourced.

More Information

BASIC at 50 A Dartmouth Celebration

Related Articles

Kemeny & Kurtz - The Invention Of BASIC 

Small Basic - The Programmer's Guide       

Bill Gates


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