10 PRINT “Happy 50th Birthday Basic!” 20 GOTO 10


I was probably unusual for my age when I started to learn BASIC and mess around on computers since my parents were IT professionals, and bought a Computer Graveyard’s worth of long-forgotten technology, dusty long forgotten machines. So the machine I learn BASIC on to begin with was the shopping-till chic of the Sharp MZ-80K – well before your BBCs, Spectrums, or Oric 20’s, and probably just before the ZX-81, or around that time.

It was heavy, large, sharp edged, but I loved to play Space Invaders on it, but lack of games meant I started to delve into the massive BASIC manual and tried to do stuff on it. Sharp BASIC was odd though, extremely odd. As you can see from the manual cover above, the graphic design always intrigued me, a sort of neo-Space Viking/Tolkein thing, through a very odd Japanese filter. I never worked out what the hell was going on with that. Voyage to the new world of BASIC? Z80 Wanderers Across The Stars? but like my mother’s Zastava Yugo manuals I spent a lot of time flicking through and digging the different (well, odd) design ethic. It beat trying to code on a very strange machine, anyway – trying to convert other BASIC games to Sharp was a completely impossible task at that point!

And then there was the Memotech 512, a machine that put the Commodore’s ‘professional’ build to shame, it was amazingly well built and a great keyboard and when not playing TOADO or messing around with simple programs in Noddy, I tried some early programming experiments. But it wasn’t til I got my own machine, the new Spectrum+ that I started coding in earnest. I did my Computer Studies G.C.S.E. on it with Wafadrives (oh dear) and got a good mark, although at school we learnt on frankly dreadful BBC Model Bs. Which some love, but I knew I could do more on my Speccy.

But a lot of people started on BASIC – not sure many do now, apart from the Frankenstein Horror that is Visual BASIC – and so it was an important first step to the current world. But I agree with this man, programming does indeed suck as a career. I only do it for fun now, where I can at least control the amount of cluelessness to me. *Shudders at the memory of all that Actionscript and HTML/CSS code I had to fix written by people with no logic or coding skills at all*

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