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.