The Best of Creative Computing Volume 1 (published 1976)

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Reviews of 34 Books on BASIC (Elementary BASIC With Applications, by Mario V. Farina, 1972)

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else were available, this system might seem admirable, but there are better and
more interesting books that teach BASIC, and more of it, from a single text,
without requiring the reader to switch back and forth between two books.

For schools, there may be much value in these three books. But the solitary
reader may not enjoy having to study an artificial language and an imaginary
computer to such depths. The whole idea of learning a flowchart language as an
intermediate step is like having to learn Esperanto before being allowed to go
on to a living language.


13. Elementary BASIC With Applications, by Mario V. Farina. Pub. Dec. 8, 1972,
by Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N. J., 309 pages, 6 x 9, $8.95 (hardcover),
$5.95 (paperback, out of print).

Well written by a born teacher who moves along quickly but covers every point.
Rating: A

The free-flowing, conversational writing style makes this a pleasure to read.
The author is a born teacher who anticipates the reader's questions.

There are 24 chapters, covering such basic areas as loops, reading data,
printing headings and labels, making decisions, flowcharting, lists, random
numbers, alpha-numeric manipulations, and applications such as finding areas
under curves, random motion in two directions, plotting, and file maintenance.

Each chapter ends with a "mini-lesson" that recaps what was learned in the
lesson, and a set of exercises (with answers at the back of the book).

A unique and appealing feature is the presenting of an example program, and then
explaining the point it demonstrates, thus giving the reader a chance to figure
out for himself what's going on, if he can.

The book begins to get difficult at page 105, with list-searching by the binary
method, but the author later explains everything in detail.

The writing is informal, with "OK" used often.

Farina is imaginative: the random-walk problem is presented on the basis of a
wandering drunk. He is the only one to go into such areas of string manipulation
as foreign-language translation, in addition to cryptography.

Early in the book, on page 30, the author stresses the advantage of program
efficiency: after pointing out that a certain program could be run faster by
computing and assigning a name to a certain function, he says, "...we save the
computer some effort in computing. Saving the computer effort, saves money. It's
a small point, but it is the awareness of cost-saving techniques like this which
differentiate between a mediocre programmer and a good one." No other author
makes this point.

There are only a few minor errors in this book. Some readers may object to the
text being typewritten, which is not as easy to read as a typeset book. And it
does take a while to get used to the flowcharts being laid out horizontally. The
chapter on tape sorting, although only five pages long, seems somewhat
extraneous, especially since the method given is described as inefficient, and
no program is included. The only real objection is to the total lack of REM
statements - there isn't one in the book.


14. Teach Yourself BASIC, by Robert L. Albrecht. Pub. 1970 by Tecnica Education
Corp., 1864 S. State St., Suite 100, Salt Lake City, Utah 84115. Vol. I, 64
pages; Vol. II, 64 pages, 8½ x 11, $1.95 (paperback) each, plus 15¢ each for
shipping and handling.

Fine for someone wanting or needing a slow start on a minimum amount of BASIC.
Rating: B

These two booklets were first published by a company of the same name in San
Carlos, Calif., whose publications were later taken over by a Utah organization
formed for the purpose.

Presenting BASIC at about the lowest possible level, these booklets proceed
quite slowly, emphasizing each point. Only 13 statements are covered in Volume I
(from PRINT to SQR), and 9 in Volume II (from IF-THEN to DIM).

The first program is on page 5, a simple two-liner using only PRINT and END. No
new statements are used for the next 15 pages, after which LET is introduced,
and that holds the stage for the following seven pages, until INPUT.

Yet despite such limited coverage and the slow pace, there is much here to hold
the interest of the school-age reader. The author chooses a simple yet ingenious
method for demonstrating elementary FOR-NEXT loops, by using them to print
computer-art patterns. This is picked up again in Volume II, with a whole
chapter on patterns, a graphic and interesting way of demonstrating INPUT and
TAB statements.

Instead of printing H or T for the output of a coin-flipping program, the
author's program prints out either asterisks or spaces in small rectangular
patterns, producing an output much more pleasing than HTHHHTTT....

Poll-taking is on the popular level: Snoopy or the Red Baron for President?
Trix, Total, Cheerios or No Opinion for the preferred breakfast cereal?

The last program is the only one the average might have trouble with, a 38-liner
on the game of "23 matches." Only the bright readers may be able to get much out
of this program, but in any case it's the last one.

There are only two drawbacks. One is that the reader may wish to go further, but
he won't find another text that teaches BASIC in such a slow, relaxed and
interesting manner; the closest is Dwyer & Kaufman (33). The second is that the
exercises at the ends of each chapter include programs for the reader to write,
but there are no answers.

There are seven chapters in the first booklet, with catchy, pop-style headings:
Getting Started, Moving On (PRINT, floating point, exponents), Gathering Speed
(variables), Feeding the Beast (INPUT, GO TO, READ, DATA), You Can Count On It
(loops), Encore (FOR-NEXT), Function Junction (INT, SQR). In the second booklet,
eight chapters: Finding Your Way (flowcharts), Decisions (IF), Patterns
(computer graphics), Meandering (random numbers), Little Boxes (subscripts),
Snoopy and the Red Baron, The People's Poll, Kaleidoscope (coin-tossing, dice,
Nim, rounding, trig functions).

The contents of these two booklets appeared later, in almost identical form, as
the first chapter in the Digital Equipment Corp. "Edusystem Handbook," which is
part of the PDP-8 handbook series. DEC has added pages on RESTORE, subroutines,
"miscellaneous math" (LOG, EXP, ABS, SGN), and programmer-defined functions. For
the most part, the Tecnica and DEC texts run in parallel, line for line. The
Tecnica booklets are set entirely from type; the DEC book uses the actual
Teletype output where applicable.



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