The Best of Creative Computing Volume 1 (published 1976)

Page 315 << PREVIOUS >> NEXT Jump to page:
Go to contents Go to thumbnails

Reviews of 34 Books on BASIC (An Introduction to the BASIC Language, by John E. Skelton, 1971)
Reviews of 34 Books on BASIC (Basic BASIC Programming: Self-Instructional Manual and Text, by Anthony P. Peluso, Charles R. Bauer, and Dalward J. Debruzzi, 1972)

graphic of page

A very neat format, with all program examples in
Teletype originals, set off by horizontal lines across the
page, above and below each program and its output. There
are many of these examples. The authors go into many
areas, such as exponential notation, in great detail.

    There are eleven chapters, each divided into sections:

time-sharing; Teletype; PRINT, arithmetic operation,
corrections, LEFT, READ and DATA, INPUT; built-in
functions, numbers in BASIC; flowcharts, IF-THEN,
alphanumeric data and string variables, GO TO, loops
FOR-NEXT, DIM; GOSUB-RETURN, MAT, CHANGE,
defining functions; debugging, solutions of triangles, graphs,
real zeroes; matrices; statistical program, area under a curve;
summary of BASIC statements; system commands. There
are excellent exercises at the end of most of these sections,
although without answers. Each chapter ends with a
summary of what the reader has learned.

    The seven appendixes give a, variety of programs (and
runs) in seven categories: algebra (15 programs), geometry
(3), trig (1), analytic geometry (2), calculus (4), 
probability (1), special (4). The last of the specials is a 130-line
program that prints "A Meaningless Technical Report" by
randomly combining phrases used in the aerospace industry.

    Two ingenious lines in the dice-game program are all
that's needed to take care of the five combinations that win
or lose on the first roll:

410 IF (R-7)*(R-ll)=0 THEN 490
420 IF (R-2)*(R-12)=0 THEN 530
(Kemeny & Kurtz (2) do it with a single ON-GOTO
statement using ll branches; Smith (10) uses four IF
statements).

    The authors are among the very few to note that quote
marks around a space in a PRINT statement will skip a
column, in some systems.

    The RESTORE statement is explained too soon, on
page 38, with an example of no significant value. And
instead of explaining built-in functions simply, as almost all
other authors do, these define it in all too stiff and formal
mathematical terms, using words such as "domain,"

"range" and "set." Fine for those familiar with set theory;
Greek to the rest.

    Although a great variety of flowcharting symbols is
used in these books, this is the only one to use a 
triangle - for a starting or stopping point 
(Peluso et al (20) use it for an entry point) - even though 
it is the ANSI symbol for off-line storage.

    Multiline function definitions are presented as though
available on any BASIC time-sharing system, instead of
only a few. And although the section on this subject
contains some clever programs, they are difficult to
understand, even with the explanations.

    Ten pages are taken up with a long tutorial on
trigonometry, leading up to one big program that solves any
triangle, given a side and any two other parts. And there are
nine pages of tutorial on matrices, a total of I9 pages that
might have been better spent teaching BASIC.

    By page 180, the book has gotten quite complex for a
non-mathematician, with a program for finding real zeros
of a function, which requires very close attention to be able
to follow, and is very difficult to do so.

                      *     *     *

19. An Introduction to the BASIC Language, by John E.

Skelton. Pub. Aug. 17, 1971, by Rinehart and Winston,
New York, N. Y., 158 pages, 6 x 9, $3.95 (paperback).

     Although fairly well written, there is too much padding
and too little coverage of some areas. Rate: C

     The preface notes that this slim paperback is an
introductory text "intended for use at the high-school
junior or senior or the college freshman level.... The text
is not intended to be an exhaustive treatment of the BASIC
language; in fact some features of the language (such as
MAT) have been left out."

    Not for lack of space, surely. There are many blank
pages between chapters, and a whole page is used up for
each chapter number and title. Some 20 percent of the
book (over 30 pages) is blank or almost-blank pages, which
could have been used to better advantage, such as providing
more examples, of which there are all too few. And there is
too little on lists and tables, only 2 1/2 pages, to be really
worthwhile. An entire chapter is devoted to READ and
DATA, a full 2 1/2 pages, with no mention of RESTORE.

    There are ten chapters: The Problem-Solving Process;
Computation: LEFT; Input/Output: INPUT and PRINT;
Control Statements: GO TO, IF and END; Lists and Tables:

DIM; Computing the Values of Polynomials (algorithms,
flowcharts); Loops: FOR and NEXT; READ and DATA;
Functions and Subroutines: DEF and GOSUB; Some More
Programming Techniques. The exercises at the end of each
chapter are few, without answers.

    The real padding is in the eight appendixes, 42 pages
showing how eight different time-sharing systems operate.

Seven of these are accompanied by exactly the same
photograph of an ASR33 Teletype, taken from a low angle
so that only the tape unit shows clearly.

    The writing style is rather dull. The first sentence is
enough to put one off: "lt is a well-known mathematical
fact that any integer can be expressed as the product of
prime numbers." And the text is not always easy to follow.

The FOR statement is introduced this way: "The general
form of the FOR statement is: LN FOR CV = EXI TO EX2
STEP EX3, and corresponding to this statement somewhat
later, LN NEXT CV." A practical example would be much
better.

    There are some nice things to be said about this book.

Although some authors do mention that a flowchart should
be checked out by hand calculations, Skelton is the only
one to show exactly how this is done, several times, by
giving a table of, for instance, "Calculations to Check
Flowchart of Figure 1-l." There is a good section on
number representation, and a detailed discussion of
rounding.

    This, then, is a 62-page book stretched out to 158 with
many blank pages, 42 pages of not-too-useful appendixes,
and a few exercises. Not quite cricket, really.

                      *     *     *

20. Basic BASIC Programming: Self-Instructional Manual
and Text, by Anthony P. Peluso, Charles R. Bauer, and
Dalward J. Debruzzi. Pub. Sept. 13, 1972, by Addison-Wesley,
Reading, Mass., 274 pages, 8 1/2x ll, $7.50 (paperback).

    An excellent book, very thorough in imparting
information. Rating: A

    There are many excellent features in this book, and
very few drawbacks. The self-instructional feature involves
blanks or questions, following short portions of text called
"frames." The reader is asked to place a shield over the
page to cover the correct responses which follow the blanks
or questions immediately, just below a dotted line across
the page, which indicates that a response is required. There
are tests throughout the book, at the end of each chapter,
plus five tests within Chapter Two. All answers are at the
back of the book.

    There are twelve chapters: Introduction to Computers,
Fundamentals of BASIC, Input/Output (PRINT, END,
READ, DATA), Branching, Looping, Program Preparation
and Processing (including flowcharting), Advanced Looping,
Advanced Branching, Advanced Input/Output, Special
Functions and Subroutines, Arrays, Matrices. There are
eight appendixes: Practice Problems, Hints to Practice
Problems, Error Messages, Errors While the Program is in
Progress, Control Commands, Limitations on BASIC,
Sample Programs, Solutions to Exercises and Answers to
Tests.

    The best feature of this book is its thoroughness. It
starts out slow and easy, goes a little faster starting with
Chapter Four, but remains relatively slow. There are over
ten pages on the order of operations. The first complete

Page 315 << PREVIOUS >> NEXT Jump to page:
Go to contents Go to thumbnails