The Best of Creative Computing Volume 1 (published 1976)

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Reviews of 34 Books on BASIC (Programming in BASIC, The Time-Sharing Language by Mario V. Farina, 1968)
Reviews of 34 Books on BASIC (Introduction to An Algorithmic Language (BASIC) by National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1968)

graphic of page

plotted on a Teletype. In the second edition, the graph is made by an X-Y
plotter. Three projects have been added at the end of this chapter, using the
computer to generate melodies, poetry, and artistic patterns.

***

3. Programming in BASIC, The Time-Sharing Language, by Mario V. Farina. Pub.
Feb. 1968, by Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N. J., 164 pages, 8% x ll, $7.50
(paperback).

Slow but sure approach, in one of the best of the elementary texts. Rating: A

On one hand, the preface states that the book is intended for engineers and
computer-programming students, as well as "programmers who need an easy-to-use
language for checking out programs written in a more difficult programming
language."

On the other hand, the book is designed like a primer, with short paragraphs of
only one to three sentences,
spaced a line apart, which spreads out the material and makes it so easy to read
that this would be an excellent book for secondary schools.

The opening is on a high-school level: "Do you have problems? Do those problems
involve repetitive calculations using a desk calculator or a slide rule? Why not
have a computer help solve your problems? It's easy!"

The first program has five lines, multiplies one constant by another and adds a
third to that. Widely spaced, the five lines take 1 5/8 inches of vertical
space, the most "spaced-out" of any of these books. The programs are all in the
same type as the text.

There are simple exercises at the end of each lesson, with "answers to selected
exercises" at the back of the
book.

The approach is slow but sure, with everything covered, leaving little if
anything to the imagination. This is
one of the best of the elementary BASIC texts, by a born teacher whose later
book (13) has an even better style.

Each chapter takes quite a few pages to present a limited amount of material.
Lesson 1 has a five-line
program and a long explanation of it, then goes into legal names. Lesson 2, on
What Is BASIC, is about writing
equations, using LET. Lesson 3 goes into Teletype timesharing, covering commands
and shows a drawing of the
keys and buttons of a model 33 Teletype. Lesson 4 is on flowcharting and is the
longest chapter in the book, 14 pages that proceed very slowly and carefully,
covering all the bases.

The style is conversational and light: "Of course, any names you choose would be
OK, but names chosen should
remind you what they stand for." There is a great deal of white space, such as
half an inch of it above and below examples of program lines.

Lessons 5 through ll are on: telling the computer about numbers, exponential
notation, telling the computer
what to do with numbers, built-in functions, making decisions, having the
computer print out answers, and
arrays and subscripts. Lessons 12, 13 and 14 are all on loops, a total of 24
pages.

Lesson 14, on Loops Within Loops, is 14 pages of the most explicit of all these
books on this particular subject, and also goes into double-subscripted arrays,
using the "loop-within-loop idea to set to 50 all elements of a
double-subscripted array." This chapter is about as complicated as the book
gets. Lesson 15, on Matrix Computations, has no examples of what MAT statements
actually do to a matrix. This is the only chapter that could perhaps be
improved, by having such examples, although their omission is in keeping with
the secondary-school level of the text.

Lessons 16 through 18 are on home-made functions, subroutines, and INPUT. The
lesson on Home-Made Functions, which is about DEF, shows how to use it to define
hyperbolic sine and cosine, which is surprising in what up
to this point was such a simple book.

Lesson 19, on Library, is about stored programs, and lists eleven that were
among the 50 available on the General Electric system at the time of writing,
including TRUINT*** and BLKJAK***.

Lessons 20 through 22 are on paper-tape usage, making corrections, and system
commands and features.

Lesson 23, on Edit Commands, is on delete, extract, merge, weave and resequence.
Lesson 24, on Extended
BASIC Features, goes into strings, RANDOMIZE, multiple assignments with LET,
TAB, MAT INPUT, passwords, etc.

Lesson 25 presents "A Program From Beginning to END," showing a 13-line program
as typed in by the user,
then the corrections made, the improvements and further errors and corrections,
a total of six pages that are unique and valuable.

The Appendix gives a summary of BASIC statements.

One of the few drawbacks is that, although there are 43 programs in the book,
there are no runs at all, except for the "Program From Beginning to End" in the
last lesson, and three tiny, one-line printouts in the next-to-last chapter, on
Extended BASIC Features. The reader may develop a somewhat constipated feeling,
having to digest all these programs that have no output.

***

4. Introduction to An Algorithmic Language /BASIC). Pub. May 1, 1968 (third
edition, 1972), by National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1906 Association
Drive, Reston, Va. 22091, 53 pages, 6 x 9, $1.40 (paperback).

Excellent for what it sets out to do. Rating: B+

According to the introduction, "This booklet aims to help the mathematics
teacher introduce computers through
an easy, problem-oriented language." It achieves this goal, giving the
essentials of BASIC in as little space as possible. It is a fine illustration of
what can be done well in a minimum of space, packing much more information per
page than many longer books, without skimping on detail.

The booklet starts right off on page 2 with a two-line program on squaring. The
subsequent eight programs
elaborate on that, all in Section I, on Introducing BASIC. In Section II, Sample
Problems and Exercises, the first problem is on finding divisors of a positive
integer, with three more programs that develop this further. The next program is
on maximizing an area, with two elaborations; the last is on mean and standard
deviation (this by page 32!), with one program 13 lines long. Each program
introduces new concepts and statements, with an explanation of each program line
where required.

There are three exercises at the end of the first section, and a total of eight
within the second section. The answers are in the back of the booklet, in full;
8 1/2 pages of answers for the eleven exercises, with 14 programs.

A short epilogue has a few words about other languages, and flowcharting.

Only nine statements are used (PRINT, END, READ, DATA, GO TO, INPUT, LET,
IF-THEN, FOR-NEXT) and
one system command, RUN. Nothing on REM, functions, matrices, arrays, lists,
tables, etc.

If one must find fault, it is simply that this booklet is so well written that
one wishes it were longer. Hence the highly subjective rating of B+. Many of
those who find the booklet long enough would rate it A.

***

"Like the Roman god Janus who faces both ways, BASIC faces the needs of those
just entering the world of automated data processing as well as those departing
for its more stratified plateaus."

From the preface to Entering BASIC, by John Sack and Judith Meadows (27)

To be continued next issue.

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