BASIC stands for Beginner's All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, a computer programming language known for its simplicity. Many college students are first taught BASIC before moving on to more complex languages like Fortran and C++. Thomas Kurtz, professor of mathematics at Dartmouth College, and John G. Kemeny, chairman of the mathematics department there, developed BASIC, which is one of the easiest high-level programming languages to learn. They created it so that students could write programs for the General Electric, or GE-225—a mainframe, timesharing computer system.
BASIC was first developed as a compiled language, one which is translated into machine language prior to execution. However, because BASIC was never copyrighted or patented, all sorts of variations cropped up, including versions that were interpreted, or translated into statements that executed individually. In the mid-1970s, Harvard student Bill Gates and Honeywell employee Paul Allen used an interpreted version of BASIC when they created a language for Altair, the world's first personal computer (PC). When Gates and Allen moved back to Seattle, the former grade school classmates began customizing BASIC for use with other platforms. Their efforts eventually led to the founding of Microsoft Corp.
Other early PC developers also preferred interpreted versions of BASIC, mainly because such versions allowed more computer memory to remain free. Computer manufacturers like IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Digital Equipment Corp. used interpreted versions of BASIC in the read-only memory (ROM) of their machines. By the mid-1980s, technology companies including RadioShack Corp., Apple Computer Inc., and Intel Corp. had written their own versions of BASIC. In fact, hundreds of versions of the language were in existence. Although the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) started working on a standardized version of BASIC in 1974, it wasn't until Thomas Kurtz became chairman of ANSI in 1984 that work toward this end began in earnest. ANSI began circulating Standard BASIC in 1988.
Variations of BASIC are still widely used by companies such as Microsoft. For example, Visual BASIC, created in 1992, is an object-oriented language designed specifically for Microsoft Windows applications. Another Microsoft invention, QBASIC, acts as an interpreter between BASIC and both the DOS and Windows platforms. It replaced GW-BASIC, the interpreter used solely with the DOS operating system. However, computer companies are not the only ones that can tweak BASIC to meet their needs. Because the language is so easy to learn, several word processing and spreadsheet programs allow users to write simple programs or macros in BASIC to automate certain tasks.
"BASIC." In Ecommerce Webopedia. Darien, CT: Inter-net.com, 2001. Available from www.e-comm.webopedia.com
"BASIC—Beginner's All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code." In Jones Telecommunications & Multimedia Encyclopedia. Engelwood, CO: Jones International, 1999. Available from www.digitalcentury.com
"BASIC." In Techencyclopedia. Point Pleasant, PA: Computer Language Co., 2001. Available from www.techweb.com
Hudson, Daniel P. "A Brief History of the Development of BASIC." Available from www.phys.uu.nl/bergmann/history.html.
"Interpreter." In Ecommerce Webopedia. Darien, CT: Inter-net.com, 2001. Available from e-comm.webopedia.com
SEE ALSO: Programming Language
The simplicity of Basic made it a natural choice of programming language for the early microcomputers, and incompatible dialects proliferated, despite the production of an ISO standard. As microcomputers evolved into more powerful desktop computers, new versions of Basic appeared that incorporated modern control structures; the latest of these, Microsoft QuickBasic, has much the same functionality as Pascal.
Important recent developments have been the introduction of Visual Basic as a means of prototyping and developing applications for Microsoft Windows, and the adoption of Basic as the underlying language for control of Microsoft applications software, first in the form of Word Basic and later in the form of Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). See also Turbo languages.
ba·sic / ˈbāsik/ • adj. 1. forming an essential foundation or starting point; fundamental: certain basic rules must be obeyed. ∎ offering or consisting in the minimum required without elaboration or luxury; simplest or lowest in level: basic and unsophisticated resorts. ∎ common to or required by everyone; primary and ineradicable or inalienable: basic human rights.2. Chem. having the properties of a base, or containing a base; having a pH greater than 7. Often contrasted with acid or acidic; compare with alkaline.• n. (basics) the essential facts or principles of a subject or skill: learning the basics of the business. ∎ essential food and other supplies: people are facing a shortage of basics like flour. ∎ Mil. basic training.
Basic ★★ 2003 (R)
Travolta, swallowing scenery and his fellow actors in one gulp, is DEA agent and exArmy Ranger Tom Hardy, brought in to investigate how a training mission ended in all but two soldiers being killed. Over the objections of the base's top cop, Capt. Julia Osborne (Nielsen, sporting an inconsistent Southern accent), he interrogates both survivors and gets two completely differing accounts, “Rashomon” style. In flashback, it's learned that the platoon's commander, Sgt. West, was universally hated, and the men were killed by each other, and some kind of drug smuggling ring may have been involved. Convoluted and confusing are two words you could use for this script, but both are woefully inadequate to describe how it messes with your head, and not in that good, “Wow, that was clever” way. It seems that the actors are as confused as the audience, and decide to cover that with epidemic overacting. 95m/C VHS, DVD . US John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Connie Nielsen, Giovanni Ribisi, Brian Van Holt, Taye Diggs, Christian de la Fuente, Dash Mihok, Timothy Daly, Roselyn Sanchez, Harry Connick Jr.; D: John McTiernan; W: James Vanderbilt; C: Steve Mason; M: Klaus Badelt.
BASIC / ˈbāsik/ • n. a simple high-level computer programming language that uses familiar English words, designed for beginners and formerly widely used on microcomputers.