Small BASIC is a new BASIC interpreter/IDE from Microsoft ( ).

It’s quite nice, for what it is, also considering that it’s version 0.3 right now.

Apparently, MSoft has been…blowing wads of money lately on small teams pursuing R&D projects like this. Some of the results have been risible (like Songsmith), and I’m sure most haven’t seen the light of day (and won’t). Some MSoft investors have been threatening suit, saying that MSoft has no right to spend its cash on frivolous R&D when it should be spending its cash crushing opponents, like the old days.

For myself, I LIKE the thought behind Small BASIC (which is why I’m blogging about it). Back when I was a lad, we had Apple II, C-64, Ti-994a, and Tandy CoCos. Each of these machines had the same magical attribute. When you turned them on, you could IMMEDIATELY start programming them. Turn the power switch, and BOOM you were creating. The BBC computer (in the UK) was the same, but also came with a powerful monitor/assembler, and I’ve heard it said that the machine launched thousands of assembly language coders over there.

Computers haven’t been like that for years, perhaps decades, and when I’ve jumped through hoops to get dev environments installed on my nephews’ machines, I’ve keenly felt the loss of that simplicity.

The dev blog for Small BASIC sez that they feel the same way, so Small BASIC is simple to install, and has a monolithic UI environment, that evokes the "turn it on and code" pattern of old. BUT, it’s still got fancy intellisense, for command-completion and context-sensitive help, which we would dearly have loved on those old machines.

It’s not pure and beautiful (like say, Ruby). Its included libraries read like passing arguments into function members of classes, BUT all variables YOU create are of global scope, and you can’t pass arguments into or out of your own functions. Also, they just made the jump from 0.2 to 0.3, invalidating a lot of programs you can find on the forums. That’s expected, but still confusing to beginners.

Still, if you know a kid (of any age) who needs a gentle start to programming (and owns a Windows PC), try Small BASIC.…

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