The Best of Creative Computing Volume 1 (published 1976)

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Reviews of 34 Books on BASIC (Introduction to Computing Through the BASIC Language by Richard L. Nolan, 1974)

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5. Introduction to Computing Through The BASIC Language, by Richard L. Nolan.
Second edition pub. June 1974 (first edition pub. June 5, 1969), by Holt,
Rinehart and Winston, New York, N. Y., 352 pages, 6 x 9, $9.00 (hardcover).

Some very good parts, but too disjointed, too many tangents. Rating: C

This review could have been rewritten to reflect the changes made in the
recently-received second edition, but there are not many of significance, and it
may be of interest to show how an author attempted to improve his text, but left
the biggest fault untouched.

Although some of the changes are notable improvements, the allover effect is
still the same, and so the one-line judgment and rating given for the first
edition still apply to the second, except that the book might possibly rate a C+
now. The next dozen paragraphs refer to the first edition; the remaining ones
delineate the changes, additions and deletions to the second.

The beginning is promising, with one of the most practical openings of all these
books: the formula for calculating "the present worth of an investment for some
number of years hence" is given. Then the author shows how the equivalent BASIC
program line is almost the same. Four more lines are added to make the book's
first program, which is then expanded upon so that several sets of constants can
be used. These two programs and their explanations take up the first chapter,
five pages.

But by page 13, the book begins to fall apart, with four pages that give a long
table of nine BASIC definitions and twelve statements, with two or three
examples of each. Too much is given in too short a space. This material should
be spread out over a chapter or two, with much more text and also more examples.

Another "too much, too soon" item starts on page 19: three and a half pages of
the error statements printed out by the batch-mode BASIC compiler (UWBIC) in
response to 35 BASIC statements that contain one or more syntactical errors. lf
this is meant to show the wrong way of writing statements, there must be a
better way of doing it.

Nolan goes into flowcharting early, and uses a good number of flowcharts in the

Page 47 starts a 69-line program, with a two-page flowchart, but there is no run
to show what the program can do.

There are ten chapters: Introduction, Introduction to BASIC, BASIC Definitions,
three chapters on 13 BASIC statements and the functions, Concept of a Computer
(computer simulation model), Computer Hardware, Computer Software, Conclusion.
There are five appendixes: time-sharing and batch-mode BASIC, techniques of
flowcharting, matrices and MAT statements, additional BASIC statements (strings,
computed GO TO, SGN, DEF, etc.), and some general application programs.

BASIC is covered in the first six chapters and 96 pages.

There are review questions and exercises at the end of each of these chapters
(and of most of the others), with full answers and solutions at the end of the

Chapter 4 starts with a vocabulary and dryness that do not make this an easy
book to read: "The syntactical relations and grammar discussed in the previous
chapter provide the basis for developing a BASIC program. In this chapter, the
response elicited from the computer by the REMARK, READ, DATA, END, LET, PRINT,
and GO TO statements will be explained. This will be done in the context of the
logic required to …." The first example of each of these statement is in
words, such as "READ variable, variable ..., variable," after which actual
examples are usually given. The first program in this chapter is a slight
enlargement (via REMARK statements) of the very first program, which determines
present worth. Memory cells are explained with a drawing of several mailboxes.
The same program is used throughout the chapter, basically unchanged, to
illustrate the use of the various statements. There are 18 excellent Review
Questions and Exercises, seven of them requiring programs to be written.

Chapter 5 covers IF/THEN, FOR/NEXT, DIM, and STOP. The program on page 43 is
actually only the second program in the book, if one discounts the several
variations on the first one. This second program seems more complex than it
really is, perhaps due to the nine REMARK statements in a program that has only
six active lines plus two DATA statements. Again, the language is stiff and
pedagogic, with words such as "concatenated." The third program (sorting, and
counting in categories) is much too long so soon, unless the author's idea is to
get the reader used to long programs. The principles could be explained with one
or more much shorter programs; this one is 69 lines long (20 are REMARK lines),
but without a run. A grade-sorting program is so long that the flowchart takes
up three pages. The chapter contains too many programs without RUNs: ten of
them, and only one with an output.

Chapter 6 is on functions and GOSUB/RETURN. A "nonsensical program" illustrates
four stored functions, when several shorter, meaningful ones would be much
better. RND is explained in one sentence: "The function returns a six-digit,
uniformly distributed pseudo-random number between zero and one." The program
using RND, concerning a silver miner's "grubstake," is explained in only five
short sentences, leaving many readers still largely in the dark about RND.
Perhaps as an exercise for the brighter students, the chapter ends with a
time-sharing simulation program that computes a historical analysis of use
(average wait, longest wait), with 76 lines and a 50-box flowchart three pages

Chapter 7 is Concept of a Computer, subtitled Computer Simulation Model. This
goes into the writing of a BASIC program that will translate "Op-codes for
machine-language programming system of model computer" (in machine language), so
that programs can be written directly in the "pseudo-machine-language," as
required in most of the exercises accompanying this chapter. A fascinating
chapter, but this elementary book is not the place for it, not right after six

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