The Best of Creative Computing Volume 1 (published 1976)

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Reviews of 34 Books on BASIC (BASIC Programming for Business, by Joseph C. Sass, 1971)

graphic of page

program is on page 52, four lines long. The IF-THEN statement is covered so
completely that even the slowest learner should be able to understand it. The
chapter on Advanced Branching is excellent, covering some areas that few other
BASIC authors do. In these pages is one of the few full and excellent
explanations of the DEF statement. Arrays are gone into fully, with many
detailed examples. Appendix I contains 25 practice problems; "A few of these
problems require a knowledge of first-year high school algebra, but most
problems require no mathematical training." Appendix VII contains ten sample
programs, with flowcharts, input listing and output, on interest, largest and
smallest numbers in an array, averages, etc. Simple but instructive.

Another unique feature is that by page 25 the reader is writing program
statements based on word descriptions of the desired function.

The entire book is typewritten, except for some Teletype output after page 106,
and is double-spaced, so it could be half as long, although not as easy to read.
The self-instruction part of the book uses very little extra white space, in
comparison with, for example, the General Electric book (15).

The authors use a zero as the final data element to "provide a means of
terminating execution of the program." Only three other books use a zero; most
prefer either something like 99999, or a very large number such as 1E20, because
zero could in some cases be a valid data element. There isn't much on matrices;
13 pages cover both arrays and matrices, with only one example of manipulation:
addition of matrices. However, the slighting of this area may be understandable
in light of the back-cover note that this is "written for beginning students
with little or no background in the computer field." Although some statements
are thoroughly covered, there are only two pages on GOSUB and RETURN. Appendix
II contains Hints to Practice Problems to help solve those on the preceding
pages, but without answers to any of the 25.

All in all, a very satisfying text, written by people who not only have teaching
experience, but who know how a teaching text should be written. Some 40 BASIC
statements are covered (of which 11 are for matrices, 9 are built-in functions,
and two are logic operators for "advanced branching").


21. BASIC Programming for Business, by Joseph C. Sass. Pub. Nov. l, 1971, by
Allyn and Bacon, Boston, Mass., 310 pages, 5¾ x 8¾, $7.95 (paperback).

Several unique and outstanding features, but sticking to a rigid method causes
serious problems. Rating: B

This book has many things going for it. It is small and convenient to hold, well
designed in both layout and typography. There are two unique features of great
merit. The first is the use of examples of every statement: a set of proper
ones, and another set of statements illustrating common errors occuring with
that statement. The second outstanding feature is the use of a column of
description alongside the example statements, explaining each one, not in the
following text, but right up where it can be read with the statement, right
where it is most needed.

There are nine chapters: Introduction; BASIC Commands; INPUT, READ-DATA, and
REMARK; Transfer Commands; FOR-NEXT Loops and Arrays; Additional Features;
Matrix Commands; Files; Samples With Solutions and Additional Problems. There
are appendixes on error messages, correcting errors, system commands, terminal
operation, and an eight-page glossary.

The text combines three kinds of type. The main body is in a sans-serif font,
while the word BASIC, and all statements, whether in the text or in example
groupings, are in serif type. The programs themselves are Teletype originals,
reduced (when required) to a maximum 4½-inch width.

The main programs are based on two problems, bank deposit and salesmen's pay,
which start small, and are expanded upon in each new chapter.

Each chapter is divided into sections; each important section is followed by
exercises that pertain only to the preceding material. Answers are provided for
selected exercises.

But all these fine features are not put to the best use, and the resulting book
does not live up to its initial promise.

The bank deposit and salesmen's pay examples, although standard types, tend to
become dull after the reader has seen them so many times, getting longer and
longer as they get more complex. There are 15 of the bank problems and 12 pay
problems. Although, for instance, the BANK10 program has some quite different
statements than BANK09, these differences are not explained very well. And what
is said, is confusing. The buildup of a simple program into more and more
complex ones begins to bog down on page 119, due to their own weight,
complexity, and single-mindedness. Shorter programs could have been used much
more effectively to highlight the new types of statements used. BANK 10 could
have been made much more understandable with the use of some examples at vital
points in the discussion, but the author's rigid format, which puts examples
only in groups that are not related to any of the programs, does not allow using
examples where they are most needed.

The writing is another drawback; in many places it is pedantic and dull. On page
2: "The user has access to the computer by means of a typewriter-like device
called a remote terminal...." Even worse is on page 4: "One of the most popular
terminals being used to utilize the time sharing computer...." There is much
excess verbiage, as on page 2: "The memory unit performs the function of
retaining or storing for later use the data or information that is transmitted
to the computer by the input function." On page 12: "The purpose of flowcharting
is fourfold."

Sass is the only one to trace, although briefly, the origins of BASIC, from MIT
down through JOSS. Also unique is the only illustration in all 34 books that
graphically shows what Teletype print fields are. Also unique: three different
ways of writing the first program, to show the reader that "there are many
different, but all correct, solutions to the same problem when writing
programs." Sass is one of the few authors to use string variables right from the
beginning; page 15, in this case.

Although there are many exercises, and they are well placed in the book, the
answers at the end of the book are to only a select few, usually only the first
and third ones. Fine for school use, but hard on the lone reader.

Sorting by the "copy method" is explained only by a flowchart, without any
accompanying, amplifying text.

The book doesn't live up to its title. There is nothing on business programs
until page 189, other than the deposit and pay programs, which are standard in
many programming texts. The first business program is on page 189, on production
management, illustrating the use of matrix statements, just to solve two
equations in two unknowns. Chapter 9, beginning on page 223, contains seven
business problems, which is about all the claim this book has to being
business-oriented, other than that item on page 189. The seven problems are on:
"switch method" of sorting, sort using a key, marketing simulation, depreciation
of an asset, interest, inventory simulation, and production simulation, a total
of 29 pages. Two of the programs, marketing simulation and depreciation, need
explanations, but don't get them. The "switch method" of sorting is not properly
described: it is said to be done "by swapping locations with another value." The
swapping is of adjacent pairs.

Appendix B shows a six-line program as run on twelve different systems. There is
very little difference in the twelve runs, so why take up a dozen pages with
them? The stated reason: " illustrate the slight differences in sign-on and
sign-off procedures for different commercial sharing vendors." Fascinating.


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