Thursday, May 25, 2006

Programming should be easy

The BASIC programming language was the original easy to use language. This was no accident. The inventors of BASIC designed it to be easy. People from all walks of like created their own software in BASIC on small computers that plugged into their television sets. I was one of those people, and many of you visiting this site remember what that was like. These computers were called home computers. They were simple and could be completely understood by someone without formal training. Anyone could learn to make the computer do what they wanted, and it was a lot of fun!

BASIC was at the center of all this.

However, once the IBM Personal Computer (the IBM PC) made its debut, the home computer began to fade. Every company wanted to make PCs, and home computers began to disappear from stores. With every year, creating software for PCs (which are really business computers) became more and more complicated.

Most home computers came with BASIC built right in. Just turn one on and it says something like:

**UltraBASIC v2.23 - 28374 bytes free**


Then you just jumped right in and started to program your computer in BASIC because BASIC was the startup mode of the computer. It was easy, everyone did it, and an entire industry grew up from it. This was real computer literacy, not just knowing how to use a word processor or play games and music. People wrote their own games and word processors. Much of the time this was out of necessity, but many people discovered they loved doing it!

Today we have a completely different picture. Programming languages are complicated. The software culture worships complexity and the popular programming languages of the day require thick manuals. Lots of money is made selling training. Programming it seems, is not for the rest of us.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Short term plans for the web BASIC

Scott and I had a sitdown design time last Friday and also managed to get started on some code for the web BASIC he is working on. The idea here is that you will be able to visit a site with a tabbed interface. The first few tabs will each have a code pane with an example program, and a Run button. Click on the button, and the program will run underneath on the same page. This should be a good way to get a feel for what kind of programming is possible. An additional tab will have an empty code pane so that you can try writing your own.

We will support the INPUT statement, so you can create interactive programs. The standard style of BASIC will be supported in this way. We will also include the ability to draw graphics and embed them into the output so you can draw graphs or game boards, etc. Fast animation won't really be possible using an http style of interaction, but if you want to create games that draw images (Star Trek, or Mastermind, or Sudoku) it should be fine.

Programs will be cached on the server for a few hours (or a day perhaps) so if you create a program on the site that you really like, you can share it with a friend by pushing a button to send an email with a URL that will take him straight to the program in his web browser. I think that's pretty cool because there's no need to install any software. It should work in any popular web browser including most phone browsers.

Scott already has some of this working. This should be fun. :-)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Web 2.0 - Extremely easy web programming

While I am busy working on Liberty BASIC v5.0, my development partner Scott is working on something fun on the side. We are working on a dynamic web front end to Liberty BASIC so that you can write web programs in LB. We have some ideas for a unique tool for web programming that doesn't require all the crazy bits and pieces that are needed for the mainstream web solutions.

This will be an all-in-one solution with its own web server and it can be hosted behind Apache if so desired. We hope that in a month or so we will have a neat demo site up with some example pages that show how it works.

So, there's lots going on! :-)