First, let me set the record straight: while I cut my programming teeth on BASIC, I don’t agree with the title. Now that we’ve cleared that up…
This article by the same name, penned by Jeff Atwood, makes some extremely good points. In fact, I agree with nearly everything he says – short of the title, of course. BASIC, and the computers on which it came pre-loaded (or easily obtainable) in years past, got many people (myself included) into technology in general…and programming in particular. It helped me structure my thinking, helped me form a solid approach to general problem solving, helped me learn to work alone and with others to accomplish goals…but my “development” as a developer didn’t end there. Nor did it ruin future mastery of numerous programming languages, the client/server model, n-tier, web development, mobile, etc. etc. etc. It was a key part of my education, though, and one for which I am very thankful.
Today’s news of Jack Tramiel’s passing really brought it all home. The computer and programming pioneers of yesteryear (Kernighan & Ritchie, Stroustrup, Gosling, Gates & Allen, Woz, and yes, people like Jobs, Tramiel, Peddle, Bushnell, and others with various contributions) all touched and influenced the future in strange and wonderful ways. Regardless of what they did and how they did it, I’m thankful for them all.
But back to business: is BASIC really the evil that it’s often made out to be? Not on your life. Anything that can nurture a lifelong love of programming like BASIC did for me and countless others can be nothing but a good thing. Is it perfect? No. Does it encourage bad habits? It can. Clunky, cumbersome, and crude? Sometimes, in some packaging. But warts and all, it’s a net plus. So program something already…even if it is in BASIC. You’ll be glad you did and be better for it.