Tuesday, February 26, 2008

iPhone SDK delayed?

It's beginning to look as though the iPhone SDK may not ship this month since Apple has been silent about it. It was supposed to ship by the end of February. Of course this doesn't really have any impact on Run BASIC since it will not use the SDK, but it will produce apps that run in the iPhone's Safari web browser.

We haven't talked much about our plans for iPhone support in Run BASIC. We should have more to say in the next month or so.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

BASIC is bad because it's too easy?

A response to a recent post read, "BASIC is good, but I think it should be avoided as a first language because it pampers the programmer too much."

I won't be the first person to say that BASIC is perfect. There is no perfect language. However, to recommend that a first language should not "pamper" the beginning programmer seems to me misses the mark completely.

I'm guessing that this means that languages should force the beginner to be aware of low level details such as the type of numeric value (int, float, byte, etc.) or that the beginner should made to manage the allocation and deallocation of memory. What do these sorts of things have to do with the essense of programming? Since there are many languages which do not have these kinds of features, I can only submit that they aren't essential to programming. Therefore they are not necessary ideas to teach the beginner.

The nitty gritty details of how a computer works ARE important. These things should be taught to any serious student of computers, but they do not need to be the first thing taught. People who do not fancy themselves experts do not need to be bothered to learn them.

Easy is the quality that BASIC has, especially in the quickness of its learnability. This is almost to a fault I agree in the sense that a slightly more general and abstract language might be a little harder to warm up to but better in the long haul. However for the person who programs for fun, or who needs a light language for writing utilities or small personal applications, I think BASIC hits the mark pretty well.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Taking the Arc Challenge

Paul Graham, a very famous Lisp programmer who is well known for his continuations based web framework has invented a language called Arc (a version of Lisp). He came up with a challenge to see how others would implement a trivial web program in their favorite language.

Here's the Arc program:

(defop said req
(aform [w/link (pr "you said: " (arg _ "foo"))
(pr "click here")]
(input "foo")

Follow this link to see other submissions in different languages. Scroll down to to bottom to see the Run BASIC example. http://arclanguage.org/item?id=722

Now tell me which language you'd rather develop web apps in. BASIC is the one. ;-)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Web programming in... Java?

I mean, why? Of course that's how I feel about any kind of programming in Java. I recently found a blog where someone reviewed Wallace Wang's Beginning Programming book which teaches Liberty BASIC. The blogger seemed to enjoy Liberty BASIC and then went on to say that we was planning to learn Java. I wish that those presidential candidates would promise to reform our educational system by banning Java from k12 schools. People who are just learning programming need something that gives them a tighter feedback loop like BASIC does. If the learning experience isn't at least a little bit of fun it won't benefit the kids. Period.

People who trash BASIC haven't tried modern versions. Even the old DOS QBasic has everything the beginner needs.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Knocked on the head with BASIC

A close friend of mine schooled in C++, Smalltalk, Java and Groovy told me the other day that he has written his first BASIC program by using Run BASIC. He had never written code in BASIC before, but he took my word for it that BASIC is a great language for throwing together solutions quickly. He said he was struck by the lightness of the BASIC language and that he enjoyed working in it. This is my paraphrase of what he said, because I don't remember his exact words.

I know there are a lot of modern BASIC implementations that force you to declare all your variables and give them types and sizes. Some of them keep the core keywords but add Pascal syntax, and some make BASIC look more like Java. I know there are some benefits to the way these other languages work, but BASIC is really meant to be very light and simple. In my humble opinion any language claiming to be BASIC which forces the programmer to dot too many i's and cross too many t's is not BASIC, but an imposter.

BASIC is a small language without too many rules.

iPhone development - activation experience

Since we have decided to create some iPhone development features for Run BASIC I bought an iPhone for this purpose. I thought it would be interesting to post my personal iPhone experience.

So, I went to the Apple store. I said that I wanted to buy an iPhone, so the youthful Apple employee grabbed me a small black box from behind the counter and handed it to me. "Big day," he said with a certain air of importance. I thought that was a little over the top. I mean, it's a phone. I wasn't having a baby. My daughter put it well, "Maybe if he was going to give you the $400 phone for free it would have been a big day." Ah well. I suppose Apple store employees can be forgiven for drinking the corporate koolaid. ;-)

I told him that I was buying the iPhone because I am working on easy development tools for it. He didn't quite get it right away that I wasn't working on iPhone apps for people to consume, but a really easy way for anyone to create their own iPhone apps that run in the Safari browser. I explained more carefully and got a gratifying 'Ahhhh' response from him. Gotta work on that marketing message.

So I took the phone home and unpacked it. There's no manual at all. There really should be for that price.

Alright, I understand that you activate the iPhone using iTunes. I am a Mac user (and a PC user) so I thought I would activate the phone from my Mac. That didn't work. I needed a newer version of iTunes. No big deal. I downloaded and installed the latest. Still no good. Why? Because then I discovered that I needed OS X v10.4.x or better. What then dawned on me made me a bit angry. I was going to need to activate the phone using iTunes on Windows. I think that qualifies as mistreatment by Apple of its customers.

Okay, so now I upgraded to the latest version of iTunes on my Vista box. I plugged the phone in and activated it. It went smoothly from there.

I'll post more about the iPhone and our work to support it using Run BASIC in the days to come.