History of BASIC, King James Edition
by John Browne, on Oct 31, 2013 4:14:00 PM
I've always been a sucker for the majesty and sheer incomprehensibility of the King James Bible, which of course we were read to as children as though we might actually understand it. Since today is a day of illusion, I thought it would be fun to consider what might have turned out if the authors of the KJV had written a history of BASIC. So with apologies to those long-dead literary titans who have added so many many memorable and wonderful sound bites to our language and culture, may I present...
The Book of Basic
- In the beginning was ENIAC, and it was large.
- And ENIAC begat HOPPER who summoned the priests and said, Behold ENIAC. Each day at the sound of the pipe, and the flute, and the clicking relay it must be fed the blood of three rams, two goats, and ten thousand instructions.
- And so it came to pass that each day the priests of ENIAC fed it the blood of three rams, two goats, and ten thousand instructions at the sound of the pipe, and the flute, and the clicking relay. And it was good.
- And it came to pass that one day ENIAC would not work. Lo though the priests brought the blood of the rams, and the goats, and the instructions ENIAC would not work. And the priests were sore distressed, and did tear their raiment and cry out, Oh Great ENIAC why hast thou failed us?
- And on the second day HOPPER spieth a Moth in the bowels of ENIAC, and her countenance was wroth. And HOPPER summoned the priests and the acolytes and the slayers of the rams and the goats and the creators of instructions and sayeth to all assembled, Behold the bug! For it hath slain our mighty ENIAC as the typhoon to the twig. For its name is Legion and it shall forevermore be a plague upon your house and all the peoples of the earth.
- These are the sons of ENIAC: FORTRAN, and FLOW-MATIC that begat COMTRAN that begat FACT that begat COBOL, and IPL that begat LISP, and ALGOL 58 that begat ALGOL 60, and APL, and Simula, and RPG, and SNOBOL, and nations were made of them.
- And it came to pass that Kemeny and Kurtz came into the land of Dartmouth, and they looked upon the tribes of ENIAC, and were sore afraid.
- And Kemeny and Kurtz walked out into the land of Dartmouth, saying, Hark unto ENIAC, which priests alone can serve. But wherefore now art the saddlers, and the fishermen, and keepers of the flock, and the counters of the beans? For they are forbidden to serve ENIAC, and our wrath is mighty.
- And ENIAC begat FORTRAN II, and Kemeny and Kurtz took FORTRAN II unto them a wife, and it bore them a child, and they called its name BASIC. And ENIAC said, thou hast been faithful unto my people, therefore shall I bless thy son BASIC and make a nation of him.
- And so it came to pass that BASIC became a mighty nation, and the saddlers, and the fishermen, and the keepers of the flocks, and the counters of the beans did populate its land and prosper thereof.
- And the people built great cities there, and called them Data General, and PDP, and HP, and the cities prospered with many bullocks, and sheep, and cattle.
- And it came to pass that the cities were too full of men, and they sayeth, go thou, from the left hand to the right hand, and let your people not lift up their hands against our people. For a house in our city is 500 shekels, but what is that betwixt us?
- And so the people on the right hand of PDP, and of HP, and of Data General Nova, and of more, did leavest the cities and came to dwell among the villages of Apple II, and PET, and Commodore 64, and more.
- And BASIC begat Tiny BASIC, and Altair BASIC, and BBC BASIC.
- And Altair BASIC begat Micro-Soft BASIC, which begat MBASIC, which begat IBM Disk BASIC, which begat GW-BASIC.
- And GW-BASIC begat QuickBASIC and QBASIC.
- And it came to pass in the land of Redmond, which lieth on the fields of Washington, that Bill Gates, who was a priest of BASIC, sayeth unto his tribe, Verily BASIC is good. It hath brought many shekels to the house of Microsoft, and unto the land of Redmond.
- But there were some in the house of Microsoft who wept, and beat their breasts, and put on sackcloth, saying, Woe unto us. For QuickBASIC is only character mode, and Bill Gates hath given us Windows that smiteth DOS, that character mode shall be cast from this earth, and nevermore will it be blessed.
- And others in the house of Microsoft heard their cries, and said hearken unto me, for Windows is a sore trial, and only the high priests of the innermost sanctum are allowed to make offerings to it.
- And they were likewise cast down in their misery.
- And the people were cast down, and beat their plowshares into swords, that they might rise up against Windows.
- And it came to pass that Bill Gates did say unto the people of the land of Redmond who were downcast, Halt! Raise not thy hand against Windows, for behold I hath a form generator to strike down and slay thine enemy the Windows API.
- But the people sayeth unto him, Behold, for thy form generator doth not branch, nor doth it calculate, nor any part print. It is as the leaves upon the waters, or the slop before the swine.
- And Bill Gates called his people unto him, and to them he said, Hark, let the form generator go forth unto BASIC, and take a wife there, and its seed shall be legion, and I will call it Visual Basic.
- And so it came to pass that the Alan Cooper form generator was wed to QuickBASIC, the daughter of BASIC, and their seed was called Ruby, who begat Thunder, who begat Visual Basic 1.0.
- And Visual Basic had 5 sons, and their names were 2.0, and 3.0, and 4.0, and 5.0, and the last son was called 6.0. And Visual Basic 6.0 begat VB.NET, who went to live in a strange land and was never able to find its way home again.
- And it came to pass that the sons of Visual Basic had many sons, and many goats, and much cattle and flocks of sheep. For the children of Visual Basic were fertile and their host was a multitude upon the land. And the saddlers, and fishermen, and the keepers of the flocks, and the counters of the beans rejoiced at the multitudes, and sang its praises, but the priests of Windows wept, and tore their clothes, and cried, Alas, alas it is a blight upon the land.
(Note: it wouldn't be at all right not to mention at least some of the extraordinary people who actually made VB come to pass at Microsoft. Right outside my office is a picture of maybe 100 who comprised the team a few years after it took off, but for version 1 four names come to mind as people who more than anyone else drove the vision and creation: Scott Ferguson, Len Oorthuys, Brian Lewis, and John Fine.)