Thursday, April 26, 2007

Artificial Intelligence and BASIC

When I was 13 or so years old I bought a book at You-Do-It Electronics titled Experiments in Artificial Intelligence for Small Computers, authored by John Krutch. This book influenced me in important ways. It teaches the essentials of AI so anyone could understand it. Examples are presented in the BASIC programming language. One of the examples presented is of the classic Eliza sort of conversational system. Not cutting edge research, but as a starter it gets the job done.

I was able to use the techniques in the book to create demos for the computers at NEECO. A person visiting the store would ask the computer about itself, and the computer would try and respond appropriately with a demonstration of features.

The book can still be purchased used on Amazon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Missing the Point

I read a paper the other day that described a system for teaching kids programming. It was one of those robot simulations where the student learns programming by using a special mini-language to teach an on-screen robot to accomplish certain goals.

So in this case the language in question is a simple one, specialized for the robot ideas as a gentle way to introduce programming.

Later in the same paper they described how a newer version of the system switched to Java as the language for the robot. I am amazed how easily people are brainwashed into using the popular thing in place of the right thing. Instead of something simple use the "industry standard" language, no matter how much it might damage their minds. :-/

What would be better? I guess the robot language they were using before would be just fine. Or pick some other simple language if you're looking for mindshare. BASIC, LOGO, Forth, Smalltalk.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

BASIC Contributed to Success of Industry

It seems to me that BASIC was one of the reasons for the success of the early microcomputer business. I get so many emails from people who:
  • bought a computer twenty or thirty years ago
  • learned BASIC and did fun and productive things
  • migrated to Microsoft Windows when it became the defacto standard OS
  • found Windows programming languages to be too hard
  • stopped programming for a LONG time
  • stumbled across Liberty BASIC
  • started programming again in earnest!

The remarkable thing to me is that Liberty BASIC isn't as simple as the original BASIC interpreters were, but it is still so much easier than VB or Java that it serves as an acceptable gateway back into computing for so many people.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

BASIC versus RoR?

Someone posed the question recently about how Run BASIC will stack up against Ruby on Rails. I think the question was meant primarily about performance. This is really an apples to oranges comparison because Run BASIC isn't meant to be a scripting language.

While I don't doubt that some people will use Run BASIC to create commercial sites, this is not the focus we are pursuing. Instead we are creating a tool for the traditional users of BASIC. If you want to learn or teach programming, if you want to create web apps for your use at home (or on your iPhone!), or if you need a custom application at the office and the IT folks and programmers are too busy to build it for you then Run BASIC is designed for you. :-)

Coming back to performance, the processing of large web applications is bottlenecked at the database. A Run BASIC front end to a database will perform similarly to other languages like Perl, Ruby, etc.