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DavidS
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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:08 am

tufty said:


And programming really hasn't change that much.

Ah, but it has.  Programming in general, and particularly UI programming, has moved on massively from the "one processor, one thread of execution, batch processing" model that BASIC started with, into the realms of event-driven programming on processors that support multiple threads running on heterogenous cores.  The model is totally different, and it's something that not only BASIC fails to take into account.



Yea.  And what does C do for this, it calls shared libraries for threading and uses call-backs and event loops for event driven stuff, EXACTLY like BASIC.

Also earlier you made a statement about BASIC being no more capable than LOGO;  I ask you how many Operating Systems have been written entirely in LOGO?
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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:18 am

Dudeofdoom said:


I can"t wait to get my slice of pi and I sure as hell hope its got  BBC Basic

I"m  buying  a pi for my friend to give it to him and I know he will sit down plug it in and write some silly programs for himself on it and thoroughly enjoy himself..Just like he did er 30 years ago in school..

He doesn"t care about OOP,modules ,debugging and IDE"s..

......

Its not about the parts… its all about the spark..

You have to know far to much to use the "modern" tools  the learning curve is very steep and you have to be very enthusiastic to keep on top.

Mark…


Ah and this is why I personally advocate Risc OS for the Raspberry Pi.  It is kind of to bad that the SoC does not have an integrated FLASH memory to boot from so that it would be easy to include Risc OS and a few programs.  Oh well I am certain that someone will offer a product that amounts to a Raspberry Pi bundled with Risc OS on SD-card (I am certain of this because this someone will be me eventually).
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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Sat Dec 31, 2011 7:41 am

pvgb said:


tufty said:

BASIC covers some of the very first bases of programming – structure, control flow …

As part of your polemic you cite the key argument for BASIC !


The point that you missed is that that's *all* it does.  It goes no further.  It gets you started and then runs you into a wall.

DavidS said:


Yea.  And what does C do for this, it calls shared libraries for threading and uses call-backs and event loops for event driven stuff, EXACTLY like BASIC.


C, for all its flaws, allows you to create callbacks, event loops, and call shared libraries (usually also created in C).  BASIC doesn't.  At least not the "standard" basic as defined by ECMA 116.  Some BASIC or BASIC-alike dialects may extend BASIC to allow you to do this, but such behaviour is, by definition, platform specific and non-portable.


Also earlier you made a statement about BASIC being no more capable than LOGO;  I ask you how many Operating Systems have been written entirely in LOGO?


My (probably correct) guess would be "none".  How many have been entirely written in BASIC?

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Sat Dec 31, 2011 8:11 am

tufty said:


DavidS said: 


Yea.  And what does C do for this, it calls shared libraries for threading and uses call-backs and event loops for event driven stuff, EXACTLY like BASIC.


C, for all its flaws, allows you to create callbacks, event loops, and call shared libraries (usually also created in C).  BASIC doesn't.  At least not the "standard" basic as defined by ECMA 116.  Some BASIC or BASIC-alike dialects may extend BASIC to allow you to do this, but such behaviour is, by definition, platform specific and non-portable.


Also earlier you made a statement about BASIC being no more capable than LOGO;  I ask you how many Operating Systems have been written entirely in LOGO?


My (probably correct) guess would be "none".  How many have been entirely written in BASIC?


I have not seen any BASIC implementations that stick to the standard (most are a superset thereof).  As to portability, BBC-BASIC is available for many platforms, and there are others as well.  I have not seen a BASIC that does not support system calls, procedure pointers, and loops which is all that is needed to implement event loops and call backs.

Yes it is unfortunate that there is not a universal standard for BASIC, so maybe it should be asked which variant of BASIC is it that you so strongly dislike?

There are at least two modern OSes implemented entirely in FreeBASIC (which is admittedly x86 specific at this time), and there may well be others written in BASIC.  One of these as I recall is a partial reimplementation of the Linux kernel.
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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Sat Dec 31, 2011 8:44 am

DavidS said:


Yes it is unfortunate that there is not a universal standard for BASIC, so maybe it should be asked which variant of BASIC is it that you so strongly dislike?


All of them.  Really.  I do dislike BASIC that much, when considered as an "educational" language.  If you want to go developing apps in it, sure, feel free, but as an educational tool it has little to no value (IMO, obviously).  I'll probably leave it at that.


There are at least two modern OSes implemented entirely in FreeBASIC


Interesting.  "Frost" looks like a decent start and should be relatively easy to port to the Pi should a BASIC lover wish to prove his or her spuds.

Simon

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Sat Dec 31, 2011 3:36 pm

tufty said:


pvgb said:


tufty said:

BASIC covers some of the very first bases of programming – structure, control flow …

As part of your polemic you cite the key argument for BASIC !


The point that you missed is that that's *all* it does.  It goes no further.  It gets you started and then runs you into a wall.


With respect, programming boils down to (data) structure and control flow(s).  Nothing more. It may be hidden from you by all sorts of layers of abstraction but in the final analysis there is data structure and flow of control.

How we structure data and control flow is a matter of experience, sophistication, preference, mindset and possibly dogma.

I am starting to think that the issue here is more along the lines of not wanting to get beginning programmers caught in some sort of Blub paradox. I see the argument.

What I think we should be careful about is realising that the more language features a beginner has to select from to get an introductory program running the more difficult it is.

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Sat Dec 31, 2011 3:50 pm

Don't really care what programming language is used so long as it encourages users to use their computer for more than just pointing and clicking at windows.

Hopefully this site (or a linked site) can become a one-stop shop for programming tools, guides and apps for the Raspberry Pi when it launches.

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Sat Dec 31, 2011 4:19 pm

While personally I love C and Assembly language for many things, I still keep up on BASIC.  The reason; In order to teach it you must be familiar with it.  This is also the reason that I still do some serious projects in BASIC, I will preach only that in which I believe.

There have been numerous attempts to get new programmers using a Linux based environment and tools such as Python, Ch, etc.. they have failed quite well thus far.  Why repeat failure?

On the flip side systems that had a BASIC interpreter easily available are the beginning point for most of the generation of programmers to which most of us belong.  As such BASIC has proven itself as a starting point for those that have become good programmers.

I ask do we stick with that which has proven a failure or do we return to that which has proven a success?
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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Sat Dec 31, 2011 4:37 pm

Hi David, I missed this one so hope you will accept late reply:



DavidS said:


Ok, I would also note that a C interpreter is prone to the same errors.


Not sure what you mean by 'same errors'.  I don't have much experience with csh (if that's what you mean) but I think it's unlikely it can't return/branch from within control structures without leaking memory.


So we need to add some form of stack checking to the Risc OS port of Brandy BASIC and then add both stack checking and some form of system call structure using SYS to the Linux version.


This would make (all ports of) Brandy different to RISC OS BBC BASIC V in behaviour, which may or may not be desirable (personally I would welcome it, but it wouldn't make me use BASIC/Brandy for serious projects again).


As a quick question:
Does the Linux version of Brandy support assembly for its ARM port???


No. http://brandy.cvs.sourceforge......iew=markup


If not then we also need to enable the assembler on the Linux version.


This would have to be processor (ARM-variant) specific and quite an involved task.  I personally don't feel that dynamically compiled assembler is such a benefit in these days of modern editors/elf macro-based object assemblers.


As your above example shows BBC BASIC is very good at teaching structured programming concepts. Though why does your example show the line numbers? If you open a BBC BASIC file with a most text editors on Risc OS they hide the line numbers, making it an even better tool for teaching structured programming.


Line numbers are part of the BASIC variant I was trying to show here, what editors may do is less important.  There is a difference between:

PRINT "Hello, world!"

and

10 PRINT "Hello world!"

that is crystal clear to explain to beginnners: with line numbers it is stored for later when you issue the RUN command!

IMHO this is easier than the discussion of saving Python etc. scripts to a .py file and then invoking the interpreter on them. However it's fair to say that this step has to be encountered at some point.

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Sat Dec 31, 2011 5:00 pm

tomo said:


Talking about alternatives, what about a JavaScript interpreter?... I find Javascript – syntax-wise – much easier for a beginner to start and understand than Python. But, it may be just my taste. The Python is, to be honest, much more mature on the desktop side.


+1 on promotion of JavaScript as a teaching language.  I don't have a problem with its C-family syntax, others may.  However the real reasons to promote JavaScript have to be its use by all modern browsers, and node.js.

The first of these means that all needed to start programming are Notepad and IE (ideally a later version with FireBug-esque console).

The second is (for me) a killer app for the Pi.  If we can suspend reality for a moment and pretend the 'C' in ICT could stand for 'sockets programming', suddenly we can have the home PC's web browser accessing the Pi via Ethernet and communicating via JSON over AJAX etc.  Or even 20 Pi's in a classroom accessing Ryan Dahl's (creator of node.js) ubiquitous 15-line chat server.  Useful, entertaining, hands-on, instructive, and inclusive.

As for 'more mature', the node community is evolving code at lightning speed currently, so expect this to change soon.  I think that running a node.js server will soon be demonstrably the better solution (not just for the Pi) over trying to shoehorn PHP/Python/Rails into Apache, if it isn't already.

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:31 pm

Ok since it is clear that the prejudiced against BASIC is based on nothing other than peoples personal dislike for the language:

Lets just through out every language that was created before 1990 and every language that evolved from a language that was created before 1990.   And now that we do not have any usable languages where to?
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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:39 pm

I'm not the greatest lover of Microsoft (Windows - how do they get way with it)but the implementation of BASIC in VB.NET is absolutely superb as is the Visual Studio IDE and its definitely not slow.

Mix it with LINQ and wow and you say you don't like BASIC then you aren't working in the real world

Mark


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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Sat Dec 31, 2011 7:54 pm

This web site is actually pretty old, but it does confirm many of the nice things people here have been saying about Visual Basic versus Java:


http://www.newtechusa.com/ppi/.....asp#higher

Higher Primates Can Program After VB.NET Training
Smarter Software Leads to ‘Primate Programming’ Research

After simple training in Windows® menu navigation, McAuliffe presented the baboons with modern development tools. Predictably, they were baffled by anything to do with modern Java IDEs such as SunONE®, Visual Age® and Jbuilder®. None of the animals understood the Java programming language, even the ‘alpha’ animals. However, most subjects immediately understood Visual Basic 3.0, and even displayed some comprehension of the VB3 debugger and simple VB data types.


Amazing what you can learn from the Internet

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Sun Jan 01, 2012 1:35 am

I must express my amazement.  VB.NET is so slow, and one of the strangest BASICs around.
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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Sun Jan 01, 2012 1:11 pm

http://gambas.sourceforge.net/...../main.html

what do you think about gambas? (i don"t know if it already got mentioned and i just stumbled upon it by chance.)

the ide is probably to heavy for the raspberry pi?



i always wondered, isn't vb .net actually just c# with a different more verbose syntax? the features are about the same, aren't they?

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:55 am

Really, what's so bad about BASIC. Line numbers? GOTO, GOSUB? In the first week I had my Trash80 I went from a "Hello World" loop to a cataloging program for all of the articles in my stacks of electronics magazines.

Within a month I'd written a terminal emulator program in BASIC with ML inserts to take advantage of a software high-res screen driver I'd acquired that allowed me to have a "real" terminal display on my TV instead of the 32x16 hardware default.

When I started working with PC-BASIC, GW-BASIC and compiled BASIC on PC's, Most of the syntax was familiar and the learning curve was very short. I didn't have access to a PC at home, so I came up with a pre-processor that would allow me to write code with named subroutines and no line numbers that was generic for the TRS-80 and PC-BASIC.

Once I had something ready, I'd run it through the first pass for syntax check, second for line numbering and third to create two complete program files, one to test on the TRS-80 and the other for the PC.  I used that abortion for about seven months until we got our first XT compatible.

I shifted to dBase and Clipper for several years, but when I got my hands on Access VBA and Visual Basic, I was already used to writing that kind of code after a fashion. There was a small learning curve going to the event driven environment, but it didn't take long.

I can only speak from my experience, but I attended many many meetings of a local database user's group and while most of us were using higher level tools to create enterprise level data management systems, the C guys were content to get a few lines of records up on the screen in a table format.  It seemed that every time they started a project in C, they had to reinvent the wheel. They were quite happy to build an elegant, structured little tricycle while the rest of us were cruising the stratosphere in big, sloppy, unstructured jumbo jets.

Yes, I know that development tools are far more evolved now, but the point still remains: When you drive, drive the vehicle that will best take you to your destination. When you're in a gunfight, use the weapon you can draw the fastest.

Like it or not, BASIC syntax is still the lingua franca of a lot of development environments. Traditional BASIC isn't going to kill any kids or rot their tiny brains. I can't think of any better IDE for a beginner that LIST, EDIT, DELETE, RENUM and RUN.

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Mon Jan 02, 2012 5:20 am

No reference to Gambas Basic?  Gambas is an open-source Basic for GNU/Linux with OOP/classes and an easy and intuitive drag-and-drop IDE that directly integrates the Qt and GTK+ toolkits?  I am co-author of "A Beginner's Guide to Gambas, Revised for Version 3", which you can download for free under an Open Content License at:  http://beginnersguidetogambas.com/

In Gambas, line numbers and GOTO optional, and I've never found a need for them.

Since the Raspberry Pi will be loaded with Linux, it seems like Gambas is a natural for teaching modern programming in the Basic dialect.  My new project is writing another introductory guide to Gambas, aimed at 9-14 yr. old beginning programmers.  This book will also be released under the OCL, so combine low-cost Raspberry Pi with free Gambas Basic and a free introductory textbook, and I think this will make a very effective combination for young people.

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Mon Jan 02, 2012 6:19 am

I learned on BASIC, and I turned out OK

However, for a first language today, I would probably recommend Python. It has a large set of libraries; the syntax is friendly (-ish); and the tool sets are reasonable. Plus it's a single language without zillions of different dialects, and it comes shipped with most Linux distributions!

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Mon Jan 02, 2012 12:14 pm

spock said:




i always wondered, isn't vb .net actually just c# with a different more verbose syntax? the features are about the same, aren't they?


They are pretty much of a muchness tbh.....

I also never really understood why thy didn't merge the two and just let you flick a switch in the IDE to convert between the  two (i think monodevelop does this)

Theres a bit of a 'thing' with Basic at microsoft as it originally was their main product and I have a feeling this hasn't helped.

The problem is there's BASIC developers and basic Developers which is the only issue I have with BASIC.

I find programmers coming from C# or Java tends to have more class/OOP experience whereas a basic programmer can just 'get on by' with out pretty much having to bother.

Mark

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Mon Jan 02, 2012 1:09 pm

Personally I can't see Basic being particularly harmful, it's a good starting point for a budding programmer (whether there are better starting points I'm sure some of you will know better than me), I enjoyed programming with Basic on various computers when I was a kid and what I learned has also been useful in my job - although it isn't an IT job I'm generally known as the office geek and the programming basics are handy for putting together macros and formulae in Excel and Access.

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Mon Jan 02, 2012 1:36 pm

I agree it's a good starting point.  I doubt I would have got into coding at all if I hadn't been given a C64 and a book about BASIC (and this was in the early 1990s).

OK, so I don't work in the IT industry; I did an arts degree. But that small push from teaching myself BASIC at 6 years old led me to a far deeper understanding of computing concepts than I would otherwise have found. I doubt I would have stuck it out learning a more complex high-level language (and you can forget low-level languages altogether).

So I guess the real question is: do you want everyone to have better access to computing concepts, or just train up the IT workers of the future?

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:27 pm

Hi all, i have been watching these forums for months and finally  thought it was time to register and join in....

I have to agree with the above post from taras. What is the actual purpose of programming on the pi...? is it to select a few 10 year olds that you can push into making structured code and progress into it as a career?  or to benefit the majority of children, get them off the xbox and playstation for an hour or two a day and let them use their imagination.

I for one would have been outside on my bike everyday as a kid if it wasnt for sinclair basic. At the time it was easy to use (i was 7 at the time)  and easy to understand, the key for me and many others was that you could read it like a book. you want your program to goto line 10 then type in GOTO 10. want to display HELLO just type PRINT "HELLO"  Just think about that for a minuite, compare something like sinclair basic (or c64,bbc) to even something like microsofts small basic, the 30 year old basic is easier to understand, you don't even need a computer you can read through the code and understand what its going to do thanks to easy to follow line numbers and common sence commands,  does not need you to type umpteen punctuation marks (god help you with a modern language if you miss one!), no display output windows to define...etc...tells you after every line you input if you made a mistake!

The bit that confused me and many other children was code with no line numbers (for / next loops we understood) if i had to learn to program in 'c' or the like i would simply (as many would agree) not have had the patience, and just gone and done someting else instead (bike etc)! or xbox today.

The point i am trying to make is, find a language that is easy to understand, has easy pointers within the program like line numbers. stop worrying if this child is going to work for nasa in 10 years and just let them get the BASICS and see if they even like it!.

You have to capture their interest before you can progress...

Put yourself in the situation of the child, over 95% of them are not going to take software up as a carear, they just see it as a fun game, which most will loose interest in anyway.... but put something like a old bbc b infront of them and see the instant interest in programming, what does that say about whats really needed...

The slightly more worrying thing with the raspberry pi as a platform from where i am standing is it will turn into more of a research platform/cheaper alternative for devices already in use (ip cams/media servers/ etc) mainly due to there being no standards, i.e. no defined programming language/ no standard os release etc... and will end up fragmenting from a common interest into many varied and usually not compatible areas of software/hardware groups. It was that 'i have the same as you' hardware/software solution that inspired people to write code knowing it will work on anyone elses...

what does everyone else think?

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Mon Jan 02, 2012 7:56 pm

riFFraFF says:-
"...but the point still remains: When you drive, drive the vehicle that will best take you to your destination..."

Hooray!

I'm afraid there is a lot of stupid snobbery in the programming world, and this is often perpetuated by intellegent people who should know better.

I used to manage a development team, and my definition of bad code is "...code with a high lifetime cost...". When you are running a commercial enterprise, time-to-market and product lifetime costs must be kept under control.

Some of my brightest engineers unfortunately liked to write "clever code" which worked, but took the next person hired to work on it a couple of days to figure out just how it worked.

Design documentation (including in-line comments) was often inadequate, because those writing the code just wanted to write code. Then there would be the guys that didn't like the way the code was written, and would embark on an unofficial re-write.

To keep cost down, a project needs to be broken down such that low cost (but adequate) tools are used. For example, we often used Visual Basic for the user interface, and to read/write to the database. We reserved C++ for fast computational tasks like image analysis. And maybe we'd throw in a PLC to take care of switching.

To write the whole application in C++ would have been a ridiculous waste of time & money. Visual Basic is a very productive tool, and VB engineers get paid less than C++ engineers!

When it comes to starting kids programming, we need to select languages that provide quick results, so they can see their programs "doing something" and (hopefully) maintain their interest. Basic languages are a great place to start. They are not harmful because each language comes with its own set of rules. So even if your Basic dialect of choice includes "GoSub" you won't be able to use this command when you migrate to C++.

My current favourite is Gambas, which I think has a good IDE and is probably easier to play with than Python...but hey! That's just my opinion!

I often think that a child's first foreign language should be something fun and easy like Swahili, rather than one that's cold and heavy like Latin.

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Tue Jan 03, 2012 3:29 am

Interesting point about line numbers:  the RiscOS editor and VB *hide* the line numbers that are inherent in the program, while code editors for other languages *add* them in a sidebar so that the compiler's error messages are easier to trace.  Notepad++, gedit, Kate, Metrowerks, all of them.

However, the default mode of entering BASIC programs on an 8-bit micro was definitely cumbersome as soon as you got beyond about a dozen lines.  I have a BBC with many upgrades, including an actual code editor in a sideways ROM, and I ended up using that most of the time instead of the default method.

The talk of code performance is I think a red herring.  In my experience, C is no longer a fast language - it is merely universal and capable of being used to write an efficient OS kernel.  Ally an interpreted language like BASIC with decent bindings to hardware acceleration - OpenGL, OpenVG, OpenAL, OpenCL - and suddenly you no longer need a compiler or an assembler for the vast majority of tasks.

Not too long ago, I wrote a clone of Boomshine in BBC BASIC V for my original RiscPC (30MHz ARM) to prove a point.  It didn't take very long to write - and most of that was trying to figure out where I left my reference manual.  It ran just as well as the official Flash version of Boomshine on a 1GHz ARM.

It also reminded me that BASIC doesn't have structured data types, and that remains the chief limitation.  I was able to work around it by keeping multiple arrays in sync, but it involved a lot more effort and would have been very counter-intuitive and discouraging to someone less experienced.

I think there is room for a new language - one that keeps the strengths of BASIC while avoiding it's weaknesses.
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