John G. Kemeny – Inventor of the BASIC Computer Language

April 13, 2014 by wilsonneelynyc

When it comes to the history of computers, most people remember big names such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. However, the field of computer programming owes a debt of gratitude to John G. Kemeny, one of the inventors of the BASIC computer language.

Kemeny began his career as a mathematics student at Princeton University and research assistant to Albert Einstein, after which he became a professor at Dartmouth University. In the mid-1960s, Dartmouth debuted the Dartmouth Time-Sharing System (DTSS), a novel computing system that allowed for multiple users at the same time.

Before the introduction of BASIC, only people with extensive technical and mathematical backgrounds could write mainframe computer programs on the DTSS. When John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz introduced the first generation of their BASIC language, elementary computer programming suddenly became available for users without extensive technical training. Over the next two decades, BASIC played an integral role in the first computers released by companies such as Microsoft and Apple and cemented co-creator John Kemeny’s status as a “founding father” of computer science.

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