The Best of Creative Computing Volume 1 (published 1976)

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Reviews of 34 Books on BASIC (exercises and problems, size and look, personal preferences)

graphic of page

Exercises and Problems
All the books have exercises (some call them problems)
that require writing programs, except for the General
Electric programmed-instruction text (15). The "self-instruction"

text by Peluso et al (20) has question-and-answer
exercises, plus an appendix containing practice problems
that require programs to be written. A few other texts
require a minimum of program-writing. Skelton (19) has
exercises that require modifying given programs and writing
short subroutines. Waite & Mather (1), being a user's
manual, has no problems or exercises of any kind.

There is a wide variety of ways of presenting problems
and answers. Some books, such as Sharpe & Jacob (17)
have problems at the end of each chapter, with all answers
given. Sack & Meadows (27) give answers to selected
problems at the end of each chapter. Kemeny & Kurtz (2)
give no answers to the end-of-chapter problems.

Many authors provide exercises after each new idea (or
group of new ideas); among these, Coan (11) gives answers
to the even-numbered exercises, Sass (21) gives answers to
selected ones, and Gross & Brainerd (22) give none.

A few books have only questions and answers, such as
the General Electric text (15). There are very many Q&A in
Stern & Stern (34) and all too many, 396 of them, in Diehr
(26). Some readers like a good many questions, to help
reinforce their learning; others will prefer more text or
more programming problems and fewer questions.

Although most of the authors provide problems or
exercises that are quite satisfactory, most of these are
straightforward mathematics problems. This is fine for most
readers, but for the younger ones, and perhaps also for
those of us who get bored easily, several authors have out
of their way to provide problems of unusual interest.

Albrecht et al (32) have problems, for example, on
generating "computer art," Barnett (23) on computing the
(x y, z) position of a satellite, Dwyer & Kaufman (33) on
an airline reservation system, and Kemeny & Kurtz (2) on
writing four-part harmony for a given melody.


Handsome Is...

Not every good-looking BASIC book is also good
reading. On one hand, the three handsomest single-volume
works - Kemeny & Kurtz (2), Gateley & Bitter (9), and
Barnett (23) - rate highly as useful taxes in addition to
having excellent typography and layout. Also to be listed
among the good-looking books are those by Sharpe &
Jacobs (17), Pavlovich & Tahan (18), Gross & Brainerd
(22), and Dwyer & Kaufman (33).

But the two handsome multiple-volume sets - Forsythe
et al (12) and Stern & Stern (34) - have BASIC
supplements that rate poorly, although Stern & Stern's
main text and workbook give an excellent coverage of data

Any bound book is difficult to use comfortably at the
Teletype or other terminal. The first version of the earlier
Smith book (10) was loose-leaf, so that individual pages (of
heavy stock) could be removed for use at a terminal. The
problem there, of course, was that those removable pages
could be lost.

Most of the books use several type styles, but some
overdo it, with up to seven in some cases, so that many
pages are very distracting, as in the books by Ivan Flores.

Hare (8), Murrill & Smith (16) and Albrecht et al (32) use
up to seven typefaces on some pages, Spencer (6) has up to
six, and Dymax (28) and Gruenberger (25) have as many as
five. Dwyer & Kaufman (33) also use as many as seven, but
in a way that isn't anywhere nearly as obtrusive as the
others, which is one more tribute to the fine design of this

Half the authors show programs in Teletype originals
(and many should have put a new ribbon on the machine);
the rest use typed or machine-set examples. Two of the
authors - Smith (10) and Coan (ll) - give examples to
problems requiring programs, in the back of the book, in
Teletype originals reduced so greatly as to be eye-straining.

Lewis & Blakeley (29), for some reason, show their
Teletyped programs much smaller than necessary, even
though there is plenty of room for them to be shown much

The size of each book is given because the number of
pages alone is deceiving. Many of the smaller books contain
over 300 pages, but contain less text than some larger
books with many less pages. The most popular size is 6 by 9
inches, with 15 books at or near those dimensions. Second
most popular is 8 1/2 by 11 inches, with a dozen that size.

Eight of the authors are sinners in the eyes of Teletype
Corp., because they write "teletype." No doubt all have
been cautioned by Teletype's eagle-eyed legal department.


Personal Preferences
If I were limited to choosing only one book from these
34, it would be Kemeny & Kurtz (2), which is still the
standard of excellence by which all the others must be
judged. Waite & Mather (1) give all the nitty-gritty details.

Then come, in order of preference, Barnett (23), Murrill &
Smith (16), Dwyer & Kaufman (33), and Gross & Brainerd

If a friend were to ask for a recommendation, it would
be, again, Kemeny & Kurtz (2), if he wanted only to learn
BASIC. For someone wanting to know about computers
and BASIC, then it's Hare (8). If he wanted to learn about
BASIC and business programming, I'd recommend Stern &
Stern (34) for their main text and workbook, plus one of
the five BASIC books listed above.

For any young person, or as a matter of fact for almost
anybody, I'd recommend Dwyer & Kaufman (33), who do
their best to make learning fun.


For a future group review of books on
applications of BASIC, I would appreciate
information concerning such publications.

This would include not only books such as
Peckham's Computers, BASIC and Physics,
but also applications books not oriented
toward any particular language, but which
could be used with BASIC, such as Gruenberger
& Gaffrey's Problems for Computer

Also appreciated is information about
books on BASIC in languages other than

1. BASIC, Sixth Edition, edited by Stephen V. F. Waite
and Diane G. Mather. In print Mar. 19, 1971, University
Press of New England, Hanover, N. H., 183 pages, 8 1/2 x ll,
$4.00 (paperback).

The first BASIC user's manual, and still the best,
although it describes an advanced version of BASIC.

Rating: A

The first few editions of this user's manual were
authored by John G. Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz, the
originators of BASIC; the more recent editions carry the
names of the editors.

According to Prof. Kurtz, the first draft of the BASIC
instruction manual appeared in June 1964. The third
edition was published on Jan. 1, 1966. ("Whatever happened
to the second edition, I'll never know. I think we
started counting editions with number three, and chose that
number just to be on the safe side.") The date of the fourth
edition is Jan. 1, 1968; Version I of the supplement, Feb.

28, 1969; Version II, April 3, 1969. The preliminary fifth
edition, 1969, the fifth edition, 1970. The sixth edition,
1971 ; second printing, 1972.

According to the British book, Specification for
Standard BASIC, by Bull, Freeman and Garland (National
Computing Centre, London, 1973), "the first implementation
was on a GE 265 system in 1964. The first issue of the
programming manual from Dartmouth College (hitherto
this and subsequent updates were the only definitive
documents on BASIC) was in January 1965...By January
1966, the third edition of the manual was published."

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