Birth of BASIC

>>Why is what we did at
Dartmouth 50 years ago so great? Well, let me think about it a second. Computing was coming into its own. But in all of the other projects that were
undertaken by industry and by universities, the target was research and development
of computing ideas and so forth. Whereas, here at Dartmouth, we had
the crazy idea that our students, our undergraduate students who are not going to
be technically employed later on, Social science and humanity students, should
learn how to use the computer. Completely nutty idea. [ Music ] So it’s around 1952 or ’53, Don Morrison
who was dean of the faculty at Dartmouth under [inaudible] was worried about
the math department at the time. It contained more than the usual number of
professors that were just about ready to retire and they were all in the
old school of mathematics. Don Morrison happened to know Al Tucker
at the math department in Princeton. And so he called Al Tucker and Al Tucker
says, “I think I know the guy you need.” John Kemeny was born in Hungary before
the Second World War He was a Jew, lived in Budapest. His father happened to be in
the export/import business and had connections outside of the country. So, when the dark clouds over Europe began
to form, John’s father saw the hand writing on the wall and got the family out of
Hungary, their possessions didn’t make it. It was that close.>>So, he spoke essentially no English because
of his grades gets put into a sophomore of a huge, huge, not very good school and
three years later, at 16, he’s valedictorian. You know, over the next ten years he goes from
being an undergraduate to being a professor at Princeton including his time in Los Alamos,
including working with Einstein and manages to do his army service in
the middle of all this. Gets his thesis completed at age 23. I mean, an outrageously accelerated time,
extraordinarily rich period of his life.>>And Don Morrison said, “What I want
to do is to bring you to Dartmouth and give you a completely free hand
to rebuild the math department.”>>My father’s pretty sure that Einstein
and [inaudible] recommended him to Don.>>So he arrives on the Dartmouth
campus in 1954.>>And so we have the mean
value here among the –>>V.H. Brown [phonetic] was on older roley
poley guy, been around Dartmouth a long time. He’s alleged to have rolled
his eyes like this and said, “Things are going to be different around here.” And lord knows they were. [ Music ]>>John Ron Doyman [phonetic] was one
of the many Hungarians who immigrated to the United States just in
time and contributed immensely to the scientific discoveries in this country.>>My father attended a lecture
of [inaudible] Los Alamos. And it’s described in his
book, Man and the Computer. And he thinks it’s the only place
that lecture was written up. And in it, [inaudible] lays out principles
of what a modern computer should be, that it be electronic, that
it have an internal program. And it could remember instructions
that it could do X, Y and Z. And my father distinctly
remembers, “God, I hope I live long enough to see such a thing.”>>Kemeny was back at Princeton recruiting. And I was in statistics at Princeton
and not straight mathematics. And he was interested in
getting somebody in statistics. I thought, well, I don’t know, I had no idea
what I was going to do for a life’s work. But I remember saying to my wife, “Well,
maybe I’ll try teaching at Dartmouth.”>>There was essentially
no computing at Dartmouth. There was nothing close by. And, Kemeny, in his expensive mode, he wanted
to get into the new things that were going on in the world and about that time,
MIT got a machine called the 704 and he made contact with MIT fairly early. They were, I think somewhat anxious
to reach out to other schools.>>So my job was to act as a liaison between
Dartmouth and the MIT computer center. And it involved taking punch cards, and
everything was punch cards in those days. And put them into a steel box and
going down once every two weeks to MIT. This involved getting the 6:20
train out at White River Junction. And I did that every two weeks. Went down to MIT and put the punch cards into
the input hopper into the computer center and hung around for 2 or 3 hours until
the printout came out and then took that all that junk back up to Dartmouth. Well, I figured out that the data transfer
rate, you know, we talk about gigahertz and all these kind of stuff,
was 1.67 bits per second. That was the data transfer rate.>>It was a very slow process.>>After a couple of years, John Kemeny decided
maybe it’s time to get our own computer. So this was about 1958. So at that time, the Bradley
Mathematics building was in the works. How can we get a computer
into the new Bradley building? There’s no budget for it. But there’s budget for furniture
and furnishings. A computer is a furniture, right? Yeah, okay. So that’s how they figured
out how to pay for the LGP 30.>>The main reason to get the LGP 30 was the
time matter and the fact that it took all day to get a program done on MIT on a big
machine, you could do things on the LGP 30, which is a quite small machine but
you can get results immediately. So the LGP 30 arrived, I don’t know when, it was some time in 1959 before
the building was completed. And so we had to put it somewhere. And we put it in the basement of College Hall. And John Kemeny got the Science
Foundation to provide money to support undergraduate student’s
research assistance at Dartmouth because we didn’t have any graduate students. Well, the background of this
is, well 1957, Sputnik went up. Okay? Remember Sputnik?>>You are hearing the actual signals
transferring by the earth’s circling satellite, one of the great scientific feats of the age.>>And the United States
scientific community went bonkers. So the National Science Foundation developed all
kinds of programs to support science instruction in the universities, graduate
level and undergraduate level. Kemeny was Johnny on the spot, and he would go
to places like the Bronx High School of Science and recruit students to come to
Dartmouth if they were good in math. I mean, cultures recruit football
players, Kemeny recruited students.>>One of the people who was new in
the fall of 1960, was George Cook, who was a person Kemeny had
specifically recruited. George’s job was to prepare a program in
connection with the 1960 presidential election. The idea was the LGP 30 would
be used to predict New Hampshire on the basis of the initial returns. On election night, he was in the
computer center in the basement of College Hall and I tagged along to watch. So I watched over his shoulder
as he did all these great things and produced all of these numbers.>>And so I think we were up all night in the
room with the LGP 30 running the state aid as it was coming in from the WDIC
reporters and making these predictions.>>The headquarters of the major
television networks are equipped with entire batteries of tabulating machines. And with electronic computers
to forecast the trend of the election on the basis of early return.>>My memory is that at 9:30 that evening, the
LGP 30 made a prediction of who was going to win in New Hampshire and NBC
made the opposite prediction. I don’t know which way that went but
I do know that the LGP 30 was correct.>>I remember Bob [inaudible]
was a physics student. But he wrote a very interesting program, basically it was a higher
level language interpreter.>>Dart was in an attempt, and
it was a successful attempt, to put together a language not quite as good
as Fortran, but a simple enough language that one could do arithmetic, like
A equals B plus C divided by seven or have a square root or something like that. And I put together an idea
for that kind of language and actually wrote a whole
compiler for the LGP 30. And I remember going to a couple of meetings for the royal music BLGP users
conference and that sort of thing. And they were all sort of surprised that you
could do things like that on the little machine that they had used as one step
up from the tabulators in order to calculate insurance premiums
and things like that. After I got that one done,
Steve Garland came and he said, if [inaudible] can do [inaudible],
I can do ALGOR. Which was a much more difficult language and
he did indeed make ALGOL run on the LGP 30.>>Tom primarily had the
idea that it was important to have a higher level language
running on the LGP 30. So the question was, not whether they
should be one but which one should it be. So this surely was a lot of respect in the
virgin computing for this language ALGOL 60. But I think the biggest impact of it was
that it showed Tom and also John Kemeny that you could make competition available
to undergraduates in an undergraduate course and they could use it to enhance their learning. And so that prompted Tom and John to think about
how could we make it more widely available. How could we accompany more students? [ Music ]>>At one point, I could
remember being down at MIT. I was still going down to MIT once in a while. John McCarthy, famous in artificial
intelligence, had been at Dartmouth and went to MIT because they had better computing
facilities at the time that he went. And he said, “You guys should do time sharing.” Okay. Now, what was time sharing? So time sharing was the idea, instead
of running one job to completion and then putting the next job in, was
a way of running one job for one second and then doing something so that the next
job would get it running for one second. And then the next job, the
third job, one second. In this way, if you had a small job
you could get the results quickly. And if you had a big job, you had
to wait, just as in the old days. Well, all we had was the LGP 30 at the time. We can’t do time sharing on the LGP
30, it’s just too small a machine and the input/output is just too difficult. So I came back to Dartmouth and I
talked to John Kemeny and I said, John McCarthy thinks we ought
to do time sharing. So Kemeny said, okay.>>Well, at some point the notion was raised
that Tom and I would go to Phoenix, to well, as I understood it, to try to talk
to GE into giving us a free computer. I didn’t know how the trip to Phoenix was
supposed to result in a computer being handed over to Dartmouth, but the airplane
ride was long and I had a lot of chance to talk to Tom [inaudible]. I think as I reconstruct matters, it must be
that on the airplane I jotted down something in the way of a blocked diagram,
how this might work.>>GE couldn’t of cared less
of how we were going to do it. We were treated as customers. So that was kind of an experiment
that led nowhere. We decided to do the right thing and
invite other companies to submit proposals. And the companies were IBM,
General Electric, of course, National Cash, Bendix and Burroughs, I believe. So it turned out that the GE proposal was much
more in line with what we were planning to do. Not only was it the best
equipment for our purposes in terms of what our product could do
architecturally, but it was also the cheapest. So it was a non-issue. And we put in a letter of intent to GE in the
summer of 1963 sometime other in the fall. At that time the NSF was funding
purchase of computers by universities. So we put the proposal in and for
the computer purchase proposal, we were going to develop a time sharing system
using the undergraduate students as programmers. And the peer review was, you can’t have
undergraduate students writing software for a major in computing system. Fortunately, Kemeny had such good relations
with the people at the Science Foundation that in spite of these slightly
negative reviews, they funded us. The whole project was governed by the
idea of introducing computing to everybody on the Dartmouth campus or nearly everybody. To that end, what we had to do
was to make a computer system that goes easy to use for everybody. Easy to use. And of course that meant time sharing. We also had to invent a computer programming
language that was also easy to learn and easy to use, and that of course, was BASIC.>>I expected, and I think others expected that the ALGOR 30 would become
the language used at Dartmouth. But this turned out not to be the case. Kennedy didn’t like ALGOR.>>And I know I looked at two of the
languages that were around at the time. And with the idea of making
simplified subsets of those languages, it could be used for our
project and I couldn’t do it, because if you made them simpler,
it was a different language.>>So at early stage there, Kemeny
was thinking in a different direction.>>I quickly came to the
decision that Kemeny was right. We needed a new language.>>So I was coming out of it from an standpoint of somebody intensely interested
in a new graduate education. And his skill was simplifying things so that
he could be understood by ordinary people. And this is from a different context, but I
remember talking [inaudible] later on when I was on the faculty at Dartmouth, the topic of alumni
college was, where have all the heroes gone? John gave a one hour lecture
on his hero, Albert Einstein.>>I put an outline of my lecture on the
blackboard for you in case you’re taking notes. Those are the five parts of my lecture.>>And the lecture started out with him
reminiscing about what it was like when he was in the graduate school in Princeton,
and what Einstein was like as a person and what it was like to work for Einstein. Leaving in things about his days
at Los Alamos and stuff like that. And then he started to say, well, Einstein, of
course, was noted for the theory of relativity. Of course everybody knows the
equation equals MC squared. And this was getting through about
halfway through the hour of the lecture. And then he started doing a little bit more,
we’ll just look at this little book carefully. Where does he come up with
an idea like this from? You know, about 40 minutes into the hour
lecture, I get this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that John is about to try
to prove E equals MC squared to a group of Dartmouth alumni who know no mathematics. And lo and behold he pulls it off [chuckles]. He somehow isolated out the
essential parts of it and put it in a language that people could understand. You came out of there thinking that
you could have proved it yourself.>>That of course, is Einstein’s
best known result [applause].>>John was convinced that things could be made
simple and that’s the real origin of BASIC.>>So we’re getting involved in
this project and he probably thought to himself, I bet I can write a compiler. You know, a compiler is a big
program, 3,000 lines of code. I bet I can write a compiler. And he could. And so he did. And he started that in, I think the
summer of 1963 and he hired a young man from the Tuck school, a young Tuck student
named Bill Zani, to do some test run on it.>>He’d wake up at 3 or 4 am and
work two hours doing the programming. And he would come in with the code and I’d
meet him at 8:30, 9 o’clock in the morning. He would go over it with me. And it would be handwritten. I would then have to put into
punch cards of that code to be read into the GE computer and [inaudible].>>And if any computer scientist was
to take a look at that the compiler, it was hard to understand, hard to maintain, only would John’s brilliance
could have controlled the beast of that complexity and made it work.>>During that summer we got a lot of it working
but there were still a lot of problems with it. But the first time that I thought it was
working successfully was when we could enter in a halfway decent sized program
and get the results we anticipated. And I can tell you for sure, I was
the first man to see BASIC run. My claim to fame. [ Music ]>>I had a scholarship. But as part of the scholarship was a
scholarship where you had to do something useful to the college during the academic year. It’s my freshmen year and I ended up
working at the library, the math library, which meant sitting behind
a desk and doing nothing. So it wasn’t bad, but it
wasn’t very interesting. And so the next year, again, I can’t remember
what the list was of things that I could choose, but one of them was, well, you
can work on this computer project which caused me to ask, what’s a computer?>>There was a meeting. Mike Busch was there, John
McGeachie, I was there. And Tom handed out manuals for the DATANET 30. So we each had to write some actual code
as part of the exam to see how well we did. Mike had some sort of programming experience. And so he wrote by far the best DATANET 30
executive program for scanning the serial lines and ever after he was the DATANET 30 programmer.>>And so we were learning how to write or
build what became called an operating system. They didn’t have one. I don’t think anybody had one at that point, so that was what building the
Dartmouth Time-Sharing System meant.>>Some of my earliest memories of the
project was, Tom Kurtz had a couple of memos. Memo number 0 was a memo on memos. And then memo number one was procedures for the
time sharing system, in which he laid out a lot of the principles including, wherever
there was a choice between simplicity and another approach, take the simple approach.>>The computer arrived, I think it was
in February of 1964, and the two students who were writing the operating systems for
the computer, Mike Busch and John McGeachie, had a real computer to work with.>>Working on the code long before the
computer arrives is actually quite hard to do because you don’t really
know if it’s going to work.>>It helps to have some other people around
that might be experts, but we didn’t have much in the way of experts at that time.>>So there was a lot of hand coding
and hand analysis that went on. When the computers came, then it became real.>>It took the GE engineers maybe a
month to get it all up and running. And then we were on it in the sense
that the undergraduates who were part of the student assistantship program,
basically had priority of access to the machine. And it was, for all intents and
purposes, it was our machine, which was we shared with John Kemeny.>>I remember in the basement of College
Hall, handing professor Kemeny a card that my BASIC program, he running it through the
card reader at the council hall of the GE 225 and then together we would go
over to look at the printer, he hoping that his BASIC
compiler did the right thing. Me hoping that my BASIC program did the
right, you know, the right calculation. And it was a glorious experience.>>The whole time sharing system revolved
around the DATANET 30 and the GE 225. Sort of talking to each other
on a very frequent basis.>>They weren’t really built
to do what we had in mind. There was nothing built to
do what we had in mind.>>I spent an extraordinary amount of hours
at College Hall trying to make things work.>>At the time we didn’t know that
this was supposed to be impossible. We didn’t know how, or I didn’t know
how revolutionary it was going to be. Kemeny and Kurtz clearly had
some vision but I as a freshmen and sophomore was just, you know, this is fun.>>May 1st, of course, is a
signal day in all of this. John McGeachie and Mike Busch were working
on the operating system for the GE hardware which involved the operating system for
two separate computers and a storage device which was accessed by both of them. It was quite a complicated
thing that it had to do. And the BASIC compiler had already been written
by John Kemeny and that was part of this mix. But John McGeachie and Mike Busch
didn’t have to work with that. They just had to use it. So on May 1st, overnight,
they were working all night. And we say 4 am in the morning, we don’t know
really where it was, that’s a wild guess. What happened was they got the operating
system to work, running a simple BASIC program on separate teletype machines at the same time. So we call it the birth of BASIC but it would
be just as legitimate to say it’s the birth of DTSS, the Dartmouth Time-Sharing System.>>What really happened on May
1st was a clear proof of concept. A clear demonstration that all the work that
had gone into the thinking about whether or not what could actually share
a machine amongst several people, the thinking about whether this
simple language would work. All of that was proved correct. And then from then on it was
merely a matter of improving it, expanding it and making it reliable. [ Music ]>>In Fall of ’64, we were invited
to make a presentation at AFIPS. It was a big deal of computer
people in San Francisco. There was a room of maybe
2,000 people in the room. We hooked up the acoustic coupler on with the
handset and we linked up the Model 33 teletype to Hanover, we’d have the dial tone. And all of this was videotaped
on a screen for the audience. And we were entering programs
in it and lo and behold up comes the answers and shown on the screen. And everybody went bananas on this simple BASIC
language being compiled and run in San Francisco over ordinary telephone lines in the
computer and college halls in Hanover. And we were bombarded with
questions of what it was. And that’s the first time I
really got to see the impact of what the Dartmouth time sharing had.>>We had taken a fairly expensive computer that
could only be used by one person at that time and converted it into something where
wasn’t just 30 users who could use it, it was 30 undergraduate students
using this computer simultaneously, writing programs, getting answers quickly. It was a combination of immediacy and
simplicity that had not previously existed.>>I know Kemeny was pushing
everybody to, you know, in their beginning math classes
to do something with a computer.>>Will be the solution for
[inaudible] equation. This is particularly interesting because>>If this had been built on a language like
ALGOR or Fortran instead of teaching students in 2 or 3 hours how to use BASIC, what
would have spent easily a full week trying to have them understand ALGOR unfortunately,
and a lot of students just lost interest.>>Writing this program in
BASIC is your next assignment.>>So this was the first
[inaudible] large scale effort and undergraduate [inaudible] for computing.>>Today, approximately 85 percent of all Dartmouth undergraduates
make use of the computer. Students in more than 100 courses,
ranging from the sciences and mathematics to economics and education and in psychology. To languages and sociology, make direct use of
the system in completing course assignments.>>So we had many different faculty members in
many departments who were doing more and more.>>This structured weight is also
using the computer in the study of Latin, poetry and prose style. As well as preparing elementary
exercises in beginning Latin.>>I would say that it was certainly a
revolution for people that were involved in it because people could actually get things done. People would come up with their own idea, hey
I have a computer and I have a right to use that computer, and I can
use it for anything I want. And they would.>>Very quickly after the Dartmouth
Time-Sharing System became available, people were making games. [Chuckles] it was a leading sign
of what was going to happen.>>Then we wrote a program that emulated
football that would run on the computer. Which was very popular with the students
because you could sit there and call the plays. You could pick simple runs. Tricky runs. Short pass, long pass.>>Somewhere during the game, there would
be a dog on the field who’d come up. You know, that game would have to be delayed. Had nothing to do with the
game, but that always happened at a real football game so we put it in there.>>Turned out that often a lot of the terminal
side are getting more use because lots of students hear, this is a great football game.>>Qubic was another one. You have a three dimensional tic tac
toe on a four by four by four board, people will keep writing programs for that.>>We didn’t care what the students did with it. And they did a lot of interesting
things, I’m sure, that we never heard of.>>In the Fall of 1964, Kemeny I think was
on the school board of Hanover High School. [Inaudible] high school to have a teletype.>>We learned pretty quickly that high school
students were just as eager and just as good as undergraduates at writing programs.>>We grow up, I think, as
the first computer kids, kids who had computers accessible on demand.>>Then before you knew it, it was you needed
to know something about computing, ask your kid.>>Pretty soon we had hundreds of users.>>There was a big phone
company follow them and they had to add new trunk lines into the town of Hanover.>>Oh they just bought New England. Bought times on Dartmouth Time-Sharing System
235 system that was running in the basement of College Hall or later in the computer center.>>The interesting thing about the architecture
of it, it was designed to hold a big computer. So there was a big central computer room
with glass doors at the front and the back so everybody would come in and see this
wonderful computer machine sitting there.>>I can remember tourists coming through
key web, there’ll be admission tours pointing out that this is the largest computer in
the world, you could see through the glass. I also heard that key was third on
the congresswomen /HREUPB’s list right after the Pentagon and sack oh /PHA had
a. That the big tree outside key web and the round planting tipped up,
that was the missile sigh low.>>I once estimated that even before
ill Gates got into the action at all, 5 million people in the world knew
how to write programs in BASIC. There were something like 80 time
sharing systems in the United States that offered BASIC as one of their languages. And it was all over the world. I even got a letter from somebody in Syberia. A student in Syberia wrote me a letter once. This is before Gates, BG.>>No, I was here when key wit was built
and I was there when I tore it down. So, I was kind of sort of realized that I had not only outlived an
operating system, I outlived a building.>>Over the 20 years, I’m
quite sure that the coming of the computer will have a significant effect
on all businesses and most private lives. Whether these affects will be fully favorable
as they could be or [inaudible] will depend on whether those who make
policy decisions are aware of what computers can do
and what they cannot do.>>There’s a couple of things
that make the story of Dartmouth time-sharing BASIC interesting. First of all, it was the first effort in the
history of computing to try to bring computing and make it simpler and bring it to the
masses, so that the masses could use it.>>Kemeny was amazing. A visionary. He had a view where we all
ought to be computer literate. Before most of us even realized
that computers existed.>>The second thing that was
interesting about it was, it was all done by undergraduate students. Nowhere else do I know of in the history of
computing, has something like this been done.>>As I grew up and worked in organizations, I realized that this was the most incredible
example of what’s called an aligned team.>>I’ve had a few super teams in my career,
but looking back on it, that Dartmouth team, is probably the most incredible experience, particularly considering it
was entirely undergraduates.>>The third thing is, it was done at Dartmouth.>>I hope the thousands of students I
have taught and the contribution I made to their education has to be
my number one contribution. Secondly, things I did to bring
Dartmouth to forefront of computing, which I hope is a contribution both to
Dartmouth and indirectly to the nation. [ Background Noise ]>>Kemeny was very helpful to me in my last
year at Dartmouth, I took a course from him. The night before the final exam, I
found out by telephone from my mother that my father had died that day. Kemeny spoke to me and said that I should
skip the final exam and take it in the summer. And that all worked out all right. But then there was a question of the money. So, my father having died, there was no
money neither for tuition nor for room. Well, Kemeny wrote letters to the
appropriate officials at Dartmouth and I was given a scholarship for a
thousand dollars and an offer of a loan. In addition, somehow magically
I got an offer from Bob and Anita Norman of free rent in their basement. Meanwhile, in 1962, Tom had
hired a secretary for the summer and that secretary ended up as my wife, Susan. Kemeny found out that Susan did not complete the
requirements for graduation from the University of Maryland and he arranged for her
to be accepted by the summer school. As you may know, summer schools
like to make money. They don’t give away free anything. I think Kemeny paid the tuition himself. [ Music ]

100 Replies to “Birth of BASIC”

  1. Delightful! I admired Dartmouth BASIC, but I didn't know who created it. Now I do.

    Did Dartmouth place the DTSS and BASIC source code in the public domain? Did Bill Gates borrow snippets for use in his 8080-based BASIC interpreter?

  2. That is really awesome. And the problem with computers to day. I think most people still do not know what a computer is, even though they know how to use it.

  3. As a New Hampshirite, and an IT professional I am proud to say that it is because of visits to Hanover and learning BASIC in high school, I am doing what I do today.   Like Kittyhawk is to space exploration, so is Dartmouth to the World Wide Web.  Thank you for compiling this for us.

  4. What a wonderful video. I was writing BASIC code on those teletype machines at the University of Louisville in 1972 and I loved it. That was the beginning of my career in programming. I am now retired, but I want to publicly thank Professors Kemeny and Kurtz and all of those who made BASIC possible.

  5. back when people came to this country and worked and studied hard and respected the flag and didn't go on welfare . thank you fucking liberalism for turning all schools and colleges to cesspool of USA hating mush brain liberals and socialists.

  6. My first introduction to BASIC was Microsoft's Level II BASIC for Tandy's TRS-80 computers. All in all, it was one of the better implementations of BASIC for Z-80 based computers. At that time, most of my programs were loaded or saved to cassette tapes.

  7. The music is used very poorly, sound design is all about subtlety, music is used to set the tone, to signal a transition, it should be used sparingly to this effect. You should always ask the question, "what is the purpose of having music here?" Apart from that this is a very interesting and well-put-together video. 🙂

  8. must have been hell to code a infinity loop with animation on a teletype. those guys must have had quite an imagination visualising their code in their heads.

  9. I first encountered BASIC through GE Timeshare in 1970. Sure beat carrying a load of FORTRAN punchcards over to the computer center, coming back a few hours later and sorting through the dump trying to figure out what went wrong!

  10. I think they should have said more about how MIT influenced the development of the DTSS time-sharing system.

    I started hanging out at Kiewit in the fall of '68. I was a high school freshman in Lebanon. I hung around there for 2 years. I was the sidekick of Lloyd Kelly, boy-genius. Lloyd re-wrote the operator's monitor, OpMan, which Kemeny had written and was super kludgy. It wasn't really Kemeny's fault, he had just worked too hard to minimize code-space and this resulted in spaghetti code.

    The SysProg crew when I was there was: Andy Behrens, Tony Dwyer, Ron Harris, Steve Reiss, Dave Relsen. Sidney Marshall still had an office in the back corner of the TTY room. I remember seeing Marshall's PhD dissertation in the math library: "A Garbage Collector for Algol68". It was 12 pages long. I thought it was a joke, didn't realize garbage collection is a serious matter.

    I wrote an article about my time there:

    Computers have had a mostly negative impact on my life. It's not everyone whose life has been enriched by them.

  11. I was often told that having BASIC as your first computer language resulted in a level of mediocrity that could never be corrected.

  12. What a wonderful history of BASIC! Also I was glad to know about the timesharing system. Didn't know how both are related. As many kids in the 1970's and 1980's the first programming language I've learned was BASIC and if I'm a programmer now, I own some debt to these guys too.

  13. The background music was distracting/annoying at times, but a very interesting documentary nonetheless. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Why are some of these old bofs claiming invention of Time Sharing? Should Corbato ad MULTICS be forgotten? They invented BASIC and that is enough by itself to feel a sense of achievement, no need to pull a Steve Jobs on it and claim invention for something that already existed.

  15. A question: When did computers monitor appear?. In which year?. I know thar with Dartmouth BASIC people programmed using teletypes that used papers. I want to know when did people use screens as output systems???

  16. Reading some of these comments demonstrates the disdain BASIC gets… yes, old versions used line numbers, but contemporary versions do not, and are procedural languages, some of which rival C in speed and ability.

  17. I was writing BASIC with my dad as a young girl, and found that great, my interest in computertechnology was from that moment upthere.

  18. I don't work in any capacity in the computer science field, but programming has given me joy over the last 20 years!

  19. Anche queste persone sono state degli eroi a cui dovremmo essere grati.
    Hanno lasciato il loro lavoro al mondo senza chiedere nulla in cambio, senza di loro probabilmente il mondo non sarebbe come lo conosciamo.

  20. (2:45) – Interesting to note here, on Kemeny's U.S. military discharge paper, the format of the dates are in European format, i.e: day, month, year.

  21. watching these documentaries on old school computing is great motivation for doing my programming homework. Now, back to those problems on inheritance and polymorphism….

  22. I still want to know how the on/off states were made to do what they do here. A combination of 1's and 0's does an action. How was that action assigned.

  23. I wrote programs in the late sixties – and never saw the computer. You gave the punch cards to the girl at the window, then got a printout back, a thin one if your program worked, a thick one if it was full of bugs (I had no idea at the time that I was a part of the eventual primary purpose of data processing – the efficient and cost effective delivery of porn.)

  24. Magyarok … ha itt hagyjuk őket alkotni, nem itt tartanánk…
    Akkoriban voltak itt zsenik bezzeg manapság

    (Dont worry just a random Hungarian comment passing through)

  25. I used to have to program in Visual Basic in my work. When I discovered "If Not IsNothing(obj) And obj.isValid() Then …" evaluates obj.isValid() even when the object "obj" is a Nothing, I wanted to find where the inventor of BASIC lives, and send an envelope full of razors. Yes I later found that you should use AndAlso instead of And, but really what's the use of And then? Overall just a terrible language, compared to C/C++, Java, C#, etc.

  26. I programmed in BASIC for the first time in 1981 when I was 9 years old on a TI/99 4A that my parents sacrificed a lot of money to purchase for me. They saw the future that I didn’t yet have the ability to see. Since then I have had a great career working for Boeing, NASA, and a variety of other great places. I owe it all to BASIC and the introduction to computing in general. These early pioneers were true geniuses.

  27. I got in just before the next wave in computer science when the structured programming guys complained incessantly about the "bad habits" from BASIC that we students were now required to unlearn. It didn't take me long to come to love C, but that time with BASIC was magical.


    IF A > B THEN
    LET C = A – B
    LET C = B – A
    LET C = A + B
    END IF

    hahaha i miss this kind of coding so classic!

  29. First up the music was great. I went to year 11 and 12 high school in Tasmania, Australia, 1974-75. We had teletype consoles, and stored our programs on punched tape. Our school was connected via telephone lines to a central computer about 300 kilometres away. We learnt basic. Great documentary. John Kemeny must have been an exceptional individual.

  30. A man named Mr. Anderson lit an eternal fire in me when he taught me how to program BASIC at a San Mateo high school where we had two ASR-33 teletypes connected to a remote HP-2000 computer. He taught a bunch of us even though he was already let go for preaching the value of computer education. The school heads disagreed, thought it was a waste of time, and gave him the pink slip.

    I wish I can find Mr. Anderson – the best teacher I ever had. He had given me a lifelong gift, an insatiable curiosity for computers, and a lucrative career. I loved that man dearly. Seems like John Kemeny was from the same mold.

  31. I still remember the amazing power of DIM. It opened so many doors when I was a kid using the Tandy Color Computer.

  32. It was a good intro to programming, but being totally line based it was guaranteed to create spaghetti.

  33. I was a HHS student, 1966-69, and was bitten by DTSS as others at that time. It created the foundation for my career in software. Thank you J.G. Kemeny and T. Kurtz for thinking outside the box and allowing we locals access to the Kiewit Computer Center and summer jobs programming for different Dartmouth departments.

  34. Kemeny, von Neumann, Einstein, and so many more were welcomed as immigrants fleeing from danger.
    Let's make America great again.

  35. i learned BASICat southeastern in durant ok.ion a DEC PDP-11. created a complete BASEBALL game complete with team selection .wonderous days thank you for your work

  36. In my last year at Dartmouth in 1981, I took "Computer Science for Social Science Majors" taught by John Kemeny. I had no idea at the time how the computer would become the center of life in the very near future so I'm very happy that I had that course. For my final project I wrote a program to play the game Monopoly. My level of sophistication in using BASIC was limited so writing code to substitute for human judgment ("I have only $2,500 and Susie already owns Boardwalk. Should I buy Park Place anyway?") was where the project fell short. But the lessons I learned have lasted a lifetime.

  37. Thank you. I was accepted as an undergraduate at Dartmouth, but decided to go elsewhere to study physics, which turned out to be inhuman. I was aware of the Dartmouth Timesharing System, but thought that other universities were more advanced. In light of the testimony presented at the end of this video, it's clear that I made the wrong choice. I'm grateful for your acceptance, Dartmouth; I'm sorry I made the wrong choice.

  38. What a wonderful story. Anyone who makes a living in computing owes much to John Kemeny. BASIC was the first language I learned.

  39. Basic classes at The George School, 1973.. Three teletype machines that worked off line to make paper tapes also.. School finances and class schedules where done in basic. In college Illinois State University, I got turned off having to use those stupid cards and (FORTRAN).. IBM360

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