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.