Saturday, July 02, 2005

On Modernizing BASIC

dave b. responded to my previous post with this (amongst other things):
I hope this nostalgia over the old BASIC command set and the "small is beautiful” fallacy won't hold LB back from evolving into something really useful (which is what programming languages should be).

Really useful for what, Dave? Go and ask the Liberty BASIC community if Liberty BASIC is useful and they will answer with a resounding yes. It is useful for getting a quick program together, useful for learning to program, useful for having fun with a computer, and more too. To make a comparison, Java is also a useful programming language, but it isn't necessarily useful for the same things. There is no universally useful programming language.

I agree with a lot of your ideas, and if you read all of my posts, I think you'll agree that I don't have the simplistic mindset that you seem to imply that I have. I understand abstraction in software better than you apparently think I do.

Nostalgia has nothing to do with Liberty BASIC's faithfulness to classic BASIC syntax, at least not on my part. This is a matter of marketing. You welcome the C-style of doing things with functions. A lot of other people do not. They want an old-style BASIC. I am marketing to these other people. Your advocacy of mutating BASIC syntax into something that is more "modern" does create a new language that is not BASIC, IMHO. Eliminating old BASIC commands and replacing them with functions turns a lot of people off.

I am working on a new BASIC in part to break the backwards compatibility chain with Liberty BASIC. That doesn't mean of course that my new language will necessarily take the direction that you advocate. OPEN "filename.ext" for INPUT as #1 will still be there. I agree with your point that the syntax for controlling widgets in Liberty BASIC is bad, and it will be replaced in the new BASIC. I will do things differently and in an unexpected way, and not to be deliberately contrary but for a reason. I intend to lead with this new language, not follow.

BTW, a lot of people like Liberty BASIC the way it is and don't seem to need anything else. You have decided to move on to another tool that meets your needs better and that's great.

Don't expect Liberty BASIC to become anything but what it is. This is beginning to feel like you're beating a dead horse. :-/