The Best of Creative Computing Volume 1 (published 1976)

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Reviews of 34 Books on BASIC (BASIC: An Introduction to Computer Programming Using the BASIC Language by William F. Sharpe, 1967)
Reviews of 34 Books on BASIC (BASIC Programming by John G. Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz, 1971)

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Of all the 34 books, this is the only user's manual 'on
BASIC, with all the details, enough to satisfy the most
inquisitive time-sharer. However, many of the advanced
statements will be unknown and useless to any reader who
does not have access to one of the five systems now using
BASIC VI: Dartmouth, Annapolis (the Naval Academy),
Computer Sharing Services in Denver, Grumman Data
Systems on Long Island, and Polycom Systems in Toronto.

Nevertheless, it is still valuable and fascinating, not only for
its complete description of "standard" BASIC, but for
showing us what can be done with some very interesting
(and tantalizing) extensions to the standard language. It
shows how extensive and powerful BASIC can be, especially
when one reads the sections on FILES and segmentation.

The book is printed from typed originals, but is so
crammed with valuable information that  the reader easily
overlooks the difficulty, if any, of reading typed pages. The
programs are reproduced from Teletype originals.

There are ten chapters: introduction, BASIC primer
(12 statements, loops), more about BASIC, files, segmentation, arrays, the TEACH
system, debugging and compiling,
error messages and other information (ASCII character set,
accuracy and timing considerations), and a summary of
BASIC.

The book starts right off with a 10-line program, a
simple one on bank balance, with two and a half pages of
explanation. There are four BANK programs, each one
expanding and improving on the previous one, building up
to a 33-line program by page 14. There are also five blank
lines in BANK-4, "to divide visually the major sections of
the program" and "greatly enhance the appearance and
readibility of the program." Only four other books do this:

Kemeny & Kurtz (2), Barnett (23), Diehr (26) and Dymax
(28). Some program lines are indented, mostly those inside
a loop.

The authors say "The technique of ending a program
by having it run out of data is very simple and efficient.

However, it does not yield an attractive printout and
prevents taking any action after the program discovers that
it has run out of data." Several other authors make note of
the esthetic point, but none remark on the practical point.

The book abounds with unique nuggets that no other
authors mention. "If the FROM, TO, and STEP elements of
the FOR statement form an impossible combination…the
body of the loop will not be performed and the computer
will proceed immediately to the statement following the
next." Another: "A step size of zero…in any loop where
a positive step size is needed will cause an infinite loop."

The book is the only one that tells how to overprint,
by using the carriage-return character, CH$(13).

There is a long, full and excellent description of
FILES, 25 pages of it. There are I5 pages on error
messages, some of which are very intriguing, such as
ILLEGAL TREE CLIMBING, OUT OF ROOM, and
UNDERFLOW.

As examples of the goodies available with this version
of BASIC, there are eight special characters for defining
PRINT USING fields or areas where variables are to be
printed, and twelve commands for debugging, such as
BREAK and TRACE.

The negative points are few and far between. Where
every other system uses RESTORE, this one uses RESET.

No examples are given to show the results of simple MAT
operations. And no example is given of TEACH, an
instructor's test program, although the chapter on the
TEACH system is 4 ½ pages long. Very little information is
given about RND, only three-quarters of a page.

This book, then, is excellent as a reference, or for
reading if you want to know all there is to know about
BASIC; BASIC VI, that is. Or to read after working with
BASIC awhile, as this book will tell a beginner much more
than he may want to know. The book covers (or so it
seems) every last possible detail, and has a highly authoritative
ring to it, which is only natural. Perhaps because of its
extensive treatment of the language, the books, several
authors and editors seem to have more of a sense of the
"big picture" than all the others.

***

BASIC: An Inttroduction to Computer Programming Using
the BASIC Language, by William F. Sharpe. Pub. Aug.

1967, by The Free Press, div. of Macmillan, New York,
N. Y., 137 pages, 6 ¾ x 10, paperback.

(Out of print, superseded by a revised edition, by
Sharpe & Jacob (17).)

Sharpe published the first BASIC text. As he recounted
recently, Sharpe had gotten an early user's manual and the
specs from Dartmouth, and wrote a Fortran IV compiler
for batch-mode BASIC, called UWBIC (University of
Washington BASIC Interpretive Compiler). For a text to
use in his classes, he wrote this book, and sent the
manuscript to eight publishers. All eight said it was nice and
well done, but only four showed an interest in publishing it.

The other four said there was no market for a book on
Basic.

***

2. BASIC Programming, by John G. Kemeny and Thomas
E. Kurtz. Second edition pub. June 18, 1971 (first edition
pub. Oct. 20, 1967), by John Wiley & Sons, New York,
N. Y., 150 pages, 8 ½ x 11, $7.75 (paperback).

Not the first text, but the best, on almost all counts.

Rating: A+

A winner when it first came out, often imitated but
only partially equalled (and seldom, even that), this book
has been improved and enlarged in its second edition.

The modest authors make no reference to having been
the originators of BASIC, although the publisher does so on
the back cover. Even though Kemeny and Kurtz may be
said to have an inside track, the excellence of this book is
due rather to the authors' "simple, gradual introduction to
computer programming and to the use of time-sharing
systems," as the back cover puts it, plus the most careful
attention to every detail, covering all the bases and leaving
as few questions unanswered as possible. Although there are
many fine features, the outstanding one is the immense care
taken to ensure that the reader will have a minimum of
difficulty in learning BASIC.

Several BASIC books have summaries of the statements
on the inside cover; this is the earliest of three with
examples of each included.

The ,preface spells out the background requirements for
the various portions of the book: chapters 8 to I2 and 18
"may be mastered with a background of three years of high
school mathematics." Chapters 15 to 17 "consider three
mathematical areas [statistics, vectors and matrices, calculus]
that are normally taught at the college level."

The first chapter (numbered zero because it is new to
this edition) is a simple introduction, with a few paragraphs
on what is a computer, what is a program, what is BASIC,
and how a computer is used.

The first page of Chapter One, on Elementary BASIC,
presents a five-line program that divides one constant by
another. This is explained in four paragraphs. The second
program is 17 lines long, converts meters and centimeters to
feet and inches. Over a page and a half of explanation
follow (and these are large pages), covering every detail
more thoroughly than any other author on any program in
any of these books; the runner-up is the Waite & Mather
book (1), which was originally written by Kemeny & Kurtz.

This second program uses the INT statement, which most
authors don't introduce until later; it is explained neatly
and completely in four sentences.

There is a short summary at the end of each chapter,
followed by a dozen or so exercises that are quite sensible,
and some even include hints. But there are no answers.

After the elementary chapter is one on Time Sharing,
covering What is Time Sharing, commands, interaction in

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