The Early History of BASIC

December 30, 2014 by wilsonneelynyc

When it comes to computer programming, few individuals have had a bigger impact on the field than John G. Kemeny, one of the inventors of the BASIC language. Short for Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, BASIC traces its roots to 1964. Under the leadership of Kemeny and fellow computer scientist Thomas Kurtz, BASIC was initially developed by a team of students at Dartmouth College.

Before the introduction of BASIC, only individuals with a high degree of technical proficiency could write mainframe computer programs. Established with considerable influences from ALGOL 60 and FORTRAN II, BASIC enabled students without mathematical backgrounds to begin programming on the Dartmouth Time-Sharing System.

BASIC started out by supporting fundamental mathematics and eventually expanded its scope to include character string functionality. The BASIC language quickly became a standard in computer programming, especially on minicomputers such as the Data General Nova and DEC PDP. In the mid-1970s, BASIC began growing exponentially as the preferred language of the home computer.

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