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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

BASIC turns 50 - and my headline needs to be debugged

My Telegraph column today is about Dartmouth's celebration of the 50th birthday of the BASIC computer language (read it here, you lucky Telegraph subscribers) includes a "clever" headline that a reader pointed out creates an infinite loop:

10: PRINT “BASIC Turns 50”

20: IF (old) THEN (nostalgic)

30: GOTO 20

Man, readers are so picky.

The column includes this tidbit of geek nostalgia:

Chuck Sherman, Dartmouth class of 1966 who lives in Vermont, heard about BASIC for the first time in a college course on psychology statistics.

“The professor said, here’s a language called BASIC. If you have any difficulty, I’ll be in my office at 3 o’clock. There was no manual, you just started,” he said.

“The idea that you’d ever buy software in shrink-wrapped packages, I would have laughed at it,” said the 69-year-old Sherman, adding (in a phrase you’d expect from a Vermonter who graduated in the 1960s): “We rolled our own software.”

Dartmouth pointed me to Sherman when I asked them for sources, describing him as something of a BASIC geek. He says his knowledge got him a great job with Pillsbury, the baking company, around the time it bought its very first computers.

“I was treated like a king,” he recalled. “I was given two offices, taught the vice-president how to use time-sharing and BASIC.”