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Stargzer
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Beginner's ASIC: Bad Rap
Stargzer   5/13/2014 6:14:28 PM
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Freshman year of college, the fall of 1969, I managed to get into a FORTRAN course, followed by a PL/I course the next semester, both on the college's small IBM 360/25 mainframe.  Somewhere in between I learned BASIC - Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code - on an ASR-33 dial-up link to the Dartmouth Time Sharing System (DTSS), the home planet for BASIC.  I can't seem to chase it down, but I think the book put together by Kemeny and Kurtz was call "BASIC Programming."  It contained small programs showing how the language could be used both in science classes and in the humanities.  It was, after all, designed for beginners and for both science/math majors and for non-science majors. 

One of the several jobs I held after graduation was teaching computer programming to 4th, 5th, and 6th graders at a private school.  We had a TTY link to a local time-sharing system.  They had a BASIC program that was a text version of a Star Trek game, so I listed it off and kept a copy of it (I swear, it's somewhere in the basement to this day, along with several boxes of IBM punch cards, including a digitized version of "Nude On A Stool" that used different print characters to shade the picture to a grey-scale representation.  It's an object module ready to go as soon as I find a System 360 with DOS ... .). 

Several years later I visited a plant in Florida (I think it was Racal or Racal-Milgo) that made an automated tech control system that could be based on a DEC PDP system (10 or 11?) or an 8080, depending on the size of the network you needed to control.  The 8080 version had one alarm signal programmed to play the tune of the watch that would wake up the agent in the movie "Our Man Flint." It wasn't written in BASIC, but the plant's mainframe did have a BASIC compiler ...

Now, BASIC can be somewhat portable as long as you don't use PEEKs and POKEs or other special implementation-dependent instructions.  I gave one of the engineers a listing of the Star Trek program and not too long after that the sales rep told me that a plant-wide directive went out that there would be no Star Trek during the day shift -- it was slowing down the big PDP system!

I once read that those who learned on early languages such as FORTRAN, COBOL, BASIC, and PL/I had a hard time adjusting to Object Oriented languages.  Sadly, I have found this to be true. :- (

 

betajet
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Re: I love BASIC and my favorite statement is GOTO
betajet   5/13/2014 3:33:48 PM
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sixscrews reminisced about MACC...

One of my favorite MACC fixtures was Prof. E.F. Moore (the inventor of the Moore machine) with his 50 boxes full of punched cards holding his genealogy project.

mike_m
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Re: BASIC - Bad Rap, Definitely
mike_m   5/13/2014 1:39:43 PM
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Boy that is close to one that I did.

My bigest screwup was when I was investigating recursive loops in C++.

 I started by peeking and poking at the the memory locations on one of our win 95 machines.

The peeks were fine but the pokes rewrote part of memory which ended up crashing the PC, fortunately without an I.T. department in those days I fixed things myself without anyones knowledge.

 Maybe RF and programming should remain far apart from each other?

 

 

zeeglen
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Re: BASIC - Bad Rap, Definitely
zeeglen   5/12/2014 10:35:34 PM
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@mike_m I'm and RF Guy

Now this brings back a memory of a story about a colleague who needed to design RF bandpass filters, but all he knew was Basic (self-taught).  The corporate computer was a PDP-something used mainly by the software coders.

This guy started runing RF filter design equations in Basic, and brought that PDP-? system to its knees with all the number crunching.  The software folks were upset, whenever he ran his programs their response times went sky-high.

What did not help (or what DID help from his viewpoint) was he had discovered that a simple PRINT statement to output a single character in the middle of his routine would cause the time-sharing machine to devote much more time to his program than usual, at the expense of the software coders. 

 

mike_m
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Re: BASIC - Bad Rap, Definitely
mike_m   5/12/2014 8:45:32 PM
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I'm and RF Guy but still I started with Fortran then dabbled in some C++ in college.

I guess since RF was easy for me with none of that black magic that other non RF people talk about, I was still so bored with the old analog control/interfaces on my Rf projects that I went for some real abuse and started to do some micro programming in the late 1990's to make my RF projects more modern.

  I migrated to Microchip PICs in the late 1990s and started using a compiler called PICBasic Pro simply because it was cheap and it is an excellent basic language compiler with numerous resources available.

 I have built everything with PICs from full blown RF transceivers with all of the  fancy LCD displays to a  PWM controlled AM transceiver with PWM bias control on the RF stages then when this wasn't enough I added a PIC controlled VSWR/ protection circuit.

Next was a full blown ham radio repeater controller that sets the frequency and even does antenna rotation control via DTMF tones all in Pic BasicPro.

For me not being a dedicated programmer I didn't have to stay with C and I found that the version of basic that I'm using is incredibly and extemely functionable.

I coded some of my projects in C, just to be fresh on my old programming, but still for my projects I always found myself going back to the PICBasic Pro compiler simply because it is reliable and easy to use with more than enough built in libraries for all of my RF needs.

boblespam
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Re: BASIC - Bad Rap, Definitely
boblespam   5/12/2014 8:28:38 AM
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I learned BASIC on an Oric-1 then switched to a Comodore-64 before going to PC.

On the PC came Turbo Basic which changed my life: a compiled Basic, no more line numbers, a real editor with indentation, real loops. Generated code was way faster and I could use interrupts.

At school in France, we used to learn computer programming with Logo at the age of 8 !

AZskibum
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Re: BASIC - Bad Rap, Definitely
AZskibum   5/11/2014 9:25:15 PM
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I too learned BASIC on a Sinclair -- yes it was the Timex Sinclair in the U.S. -- and later used on the original IBM PC. I agree that BASIC made it easy to learn bad habits, but it also enabled many of us to get into programming without the agony of late nights typing out punch cards at the campus computing center. BASIC served it's purpose way back when.

Kevin Neilson
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Woz on Integer BASIC
Kevin Neilson   5/10/2014 12:48:50 AM
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Woz wrote the original integer BASIC for the Apple by himself.  I don't think he even had an assembler.  Here's an article he wrote on the topic for this anniversary:

http://gizmodo.com/how-steve-wozniak-wrote-basic-for-the-original-apple-fr-1570573636/all

I'd thought that he'd written the Applesoft floating-point BASIC, too, but that actually came from Microsoft.  The Wikipedia page says that Microsoft licensed it for 7 years for $21000.  I would feel sorry for them missing out on all that big Apple money in the 80s, but things turned out all right for Microsoft.

-Kevin

Max The Magnificent
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Re: BASIC IS FUN
Max The Magnificent   5/9/2014 1:48:06 PM
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@prabhakar: I have been a fan of BASIC since I learned about computers way back in 1976...

Have you read the biography of Bill Gates (called Gates) and the Paul Allen memoir Idea Man?

I highly recemmend both of these -- not the least that after reading them I had a much better appreciation for the original Microsoft BASIC

sixscrews
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I love BASIC and my favorite statement is GOTO
sixscrews   5/9/2014 12:06:18 PM
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BASIC was great for its time - a simple language that could get you going on many different systems.  The old Apple ][ had a BASIC intrepreter - and a Pascal language card that languished on many machines it was installed in.

I used to compare BASIC and Pascal as 'do it your way' and 'do it my way' languages.  I always chose the 'do it your way' - and still try to do that, even in C++ - but that's another story.

My favorite BASIC statement was actually 'COMEFROM.'  Unfortunately this was not implementen in most dialects of BASIC.  It would have been a much richer language if it had been.

I wrote a lot of code in BASIC, using Microsoft's semi-compiled QuickBASIC in the last few years I uaed the language.  But that was after I was able to build my own machine and wasn't tied to the ball-and-chain of punch cards and job submittal statements surrounding the 'real' code.

like many posters in this forum my first language was FORTRAN, learned on a UNIVAC 1108 in the basement of the University of Wisconsin Computer Sciences Building - MACC as it was called then.  We used Hollerith cards and I got pretty good at distinguishing an 'O' from a '0' - much better than the FORTRAN compiler we were using at the time, in fact.

The MACC basement was a large open area with two alcoves - one housed the punch card machines where you entered your world-beating (or at lease course-passing) FORTRAN code on Hollerith cards; the other alcove came to house a collection of DEC-Writers that allowed you to initiate interactive sessions with the UNIVAC - and spend a lot of real money fiddling around.

The really serious area of the basement was the table(s) reserved for people doing graduate work in CS.  You could tell them by their long, scraggly beards, huge collections of card decks in boxes and the overflowing ashtrays.  Each time I went down there I swear those guys (there were no women graduate students that I recall - perhaps I was blinded by the clouds of smoke) hadn't moved since the last time I was down there.

I wonder if they were still there when they remodeled the CS building some years back?  Maybe they are inside the glass house, perserved like Chairman Mao or (formerly) Lenin?

wb/ss

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