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video on the birth of BASIC
02-25-2019, 03:50 PM
Post: #1
video on the birth of BASIC
This video was made for the 50th anniversary of BASIC at Dartmouth College in 2014. It contains lots of scenes of old GE computers and model 33 teletypes.

John Kemeny was a brilliant man.

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02-26-2019, 12:32 AM (This post was last modified: 02-26-2019 12:34 AM by Thomas Okken.)
Post: #2
RE: video on the birth of BASIC
That's a very interesting video, thank you for sharing it!

I was born in 1964 so of course I grew up with BASIC on 8-bit machines. BASIC was just a part of the landscape by then. I knew ALGOL-60, which I also learned at the time, was older, and better in certain ways, but I had no idea that BASIC and time-sharing were conceived together, linked somewhat like C and Unix were later on.

I also find it interesting that Kemeny didn't like ALGOL. That may have sounded like heresy at the time, but he was not wrong. ALGOL provided good ideas for what eventually became C, but it also had significant complexity for a compiler writer, because of two features in particular, call-by-name and nested functions. Thinking back, I find myself thinking, who could ever have thought those features were a good idea? Pascal dropped the former and C also the latter, and nobody misses them, I'm sure, but they were the result of the language being designed by mathematicians. It took contact with reality to tell the good ideas from the bad ones, and good on Kemeny for making the right calls on some big ones.

I wish I had heard of DTSS earlier. It'll be interesting to see what information I can dig up on it now!
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02-26-2019, 02:01 AM
Post: #3
RE: video on the birth of BASIC
(02-26-2019 12:32 AM)Thomas Okken Wrote:  ALGOL provided good ideas for what eventually became C, but it also had significant complexity for a compiler writer, because of two features in particular, call-by-name and nested functions.

Scala has both: by-name parameters and nested methods.

Quote:Thinking back, I find myself thinking, who could ever have thought those features were a good idea? Pascal dropped the former and C also the latter, and nobody misses them, I'm sure, but they were the result of the language being designed by mathematicians.

Coming from Pascal (and Modula-2) I missed nested functions when I started to learn C++.
Why would you have to clutter the namespace with a local function?

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02-26-2019, 08:18 AM
Post: #4
RE: video on the birth of BASIC
(02-25-2019 03:50 PM)Don Shepherd Wrote:  This video was made for the 50th anniversary of BASIC at Dartmouth College in 2014. It contains lots of scenes of old GE computers and model 33 teletypes.

John Kemeny was a brilliant man.

video

Thanks for that! I started using BASIC in 1965 and made my entire living writing BASIC routines. Now that I'm retired, I still use BASIC for recreational computing. There's very little that can be done in other languages that can't be done in BASIC

Tom L
I'm pining for the Fjords
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02-26-2019, 08:44 AM
Post: #5
RE: video on the birth of BASIC
(02-26-2019 08:18 AM)toml_12953 Wrote:  I started using BASIC in 1965 and made my entire living writing BASIC routines. Now that I'm retired, I still use BASIC for recreational computing. There's very little that can be done in other languages that can't be done in BASIC

The first thing they used to do in university computing courses in the early 80s was to un-teach BASIC! Smile

— Ian Abbott
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02-26-2019, 12:38 PM (This post was last modified: 02-26-2019 12:39 PM by Namir.)
Post: #6
RE: video on the birth of BASIC
I had the chance to met Kemeny and Kurtz in 1986 in their True BASIC office in West Lebanon, NH. When I met Dr Kemeny I asked him "I read that you had worked for Einstein. How was he?" Kemeny eplied, "Even in his 70s, Esitein was incredibly smart. I had spent a year trying to solve complicated partial differential equations for him. At the end of the year I went back to him and said that the task was too complex!". I had the chance to meet Tom Kurtz several times and work with him on some statistical software I was developing. Kurtz was very nice and down to earth person. Easy to talk to.

I still use BASIC on a dailiy basis in the form of VBA in Excel. That is the legacy of Kemeny and Kurtz in my daily life.

Namir
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02-26-2019, 04:30 PM
Post: #7
RE: video on the birth of BASIC
Thanks for that! I started using BASIC in 1965 and made my entire living writing BASIC routines. Now that I'm retired, I still use BASIC for recreational computing. There's very little that can be done in other languages that can't be done in BASIC
[/quote]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_completeness

Which is the point of what is called being "Turing Complete"

The same could be said of BrainF**K. Not that I want to program in it.
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02-27-2019, 11:35 PM
Post: #8
RE: video on the birth of BASIC
(02-26-2019 08:44 AM)ijabbott Wrote:  The first thing they used to do in university computing courses in the early 80s was to un-teach BASIC! Smile

Yes, many computer science people always disparaged Dartmouth BASIC, mostly because of its lack of structures, but remember BASIC was designed for the liberal arts students, most of whom would never become programmers. Kemeny and Kurtz realized that the liberal arts students would become the business managers of tomorrow, and they would really benefit by an exposure to simple computer programming that anyone could understand. And their future businesses would benefit from their knowledge of that. And I think that goal was achieved.

BASIC proliferated on almost all of the early small computers because it was so small itself. It even made it to IBM mainframes, although I doubt if the IBM programmers used it very much.

Interestingly, the very first version of Dartmouth BASIC lacked the one command that would be absolutely necessary for a truly interactive application: the INPUT statement. That statement was added by 1965.

I still love BASIC although my programming career included only FORTRAN and COBOL.

I could never warm up to a programming language named after a snake.
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02-28-2019, 12:01 AM
Post: #9
RE: video on the birth of BASIC
(02-27-2019 11:35 PM)Don Shepherd Wrote:  I could never warm up to a programming language named after a snake.

It's actually named after a classic British comedy group.

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02-28-2019, 09:00 PM
Post: #10
RE: video on the birth of BASIC
Thanks Don, for the pointer. A nicely made documentary, one where people just talk rather than stand on mountain tops being filmed by helicopter just to deliver half a line.

The YouTube comments contain this classic: "It's not Ron Doyman, it's Von Neumann, probably the most famous guy, how can the subtitler not know this guy..."
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02-28-2019, 09:29 PM
Post: #11
RE: video on the birth of BASIC
(02-28-2019 09:00 PM)BruceH Wrote:  Thanks Don, for the pointer. A nicely made documentary, one where people just talk rather than stand on mountain tops being filmed by helicopter just to deliver half a line.

The YouTube comments contain this classic: "It's not Ron Doyman, it's Von Neumann, probably the most famous guy, how can the subtitler not know this guy..."

Yeah, I noticed that too, along with some other subtitling goofs. I have a hunch that the subtitler was not a human being.

I think that this video was shown at the BASIC 50th anniversary celebration at Dartmouth in 2014. I had planned to attend that but the money I was saving for the trip was "re-programmed", probably for some Ebay purchase I don't even remember now.
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02-28-2019, 10:18 PM (This post was last modified: 02-28-2019 10:18 PM by Thomas Okken.)
Post: #12
RE: video on the birth of BASIC
There are two subtitle tracks, one done by a company called AST CaptionSync, and one automatically generated, presumably by YouTube using Google's ASR. It's easy to tell which is which.

AST CaptionSync probably uses ASR (automatic speech recognition) as well, but only to create the first draft, and then a human to fix the many errors and add punctuation, and then a second ASR pass to synchronize the transcript with the video, that last step undoubtedly being what the CaptionSync in their name refers to. Their web site hints at some aspects of their process but I didn't dive deeply into it to look for details.

But yeah, the human transcriber obviously hadn't heard of John von Neumann. He or she is a transcription specialist, not a mathematics or computer expert. Of course domain-specific transcription services do also exist, but they're a lot more expensive.
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03-01-2019, 02:35 AM (This post was last modified: 03-01-2019 02:35 AM by toml_12953.)
Post: #13
RE: video on the birth of BASIC
(02-27-2019 11:35 PM)Don Shepherd Wrote:  Interestingly, the very first version of Dartmouth BASIC lacked the one command that would be absolutely necessary for a truly interactive application: the INPUT statement. That statement was added by 1965.

READ and DATA were all that were needed for the language as envisioned originally. BASIC wasn't designed to be conversational. The focus was on quick turnaround time. FORTRAN and ALGOL didn't have INPUT at the time so no one thought that BASIC would need it. The book, Back to BASIC by Kemeny and Kurtz is a great insider history of the development of BASIC and a description of a modern BASIC. Parts of it seem like a very long ad for TrueBASIC which Kurtz helped develop. I used to be able to find a PDF of it online but I don't see it now.

Tom L
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