A Brief History of BASIC

The BASIC language was developed in the early 1960's at Dartmouth College as a device for teaching programming to “ordinary” people. There is a reason it’s called BASIC:

B (Beginner's)
A (All-Purpose)
S (Symbolic)
I (Instruction)
C (Code)

When time-sharing systems were introduced in the 1960’s, BASIC was the language of choice. Many of the first computer simulation games (Star Trek, for example) were written in timeshare BASIC. In the mid-1970's, two college students decided that the new Altair microcomputer needed a BASIC language interpreter. They sold their product on cassette tape for a cost of $350. You may have heard of these entrepreneurs: Bill Gates and Paul Allen!

Every BASIC written since then has been based on that early version. Examples include: GW-Basic, QBasic, QuickBasic, Visual Basic. All the toy computers of the early 80’s (anyone remember TI99/4A, Commodore 64, Timex, Atari 400?) used BASIC for programming. Small Basic continues the tradition of BASIC programming. It uses the simple concepts of the early BASIC language with a modern development environment.

This chapter provides an overview of the BASIC language used in the Small Basic environment. If you’ve ever used another programming language (or some version of BASIC), you will see equivalent structures in the language of Small Basic.

Read the full chapter here:

The Developer’s Reference Guide to Small Basic: 2. Overview of Small Basic Programming


The Developer’s Reference Guide

This chapter is adapted from the book The Developer’s Reference Guide To Microsoft Small Basic by Philip Conrod and Lou Tylee.

You can purchase the book here:


You can find more online content here:

Small Basic >Small Basic E-Books >The Developer’s Reference Guide to Small Basic > 2. Overview of Small Basic 


Thanks to Philip Conrod for the great resource!

   - Ninja Ed

Comments (5)

  1. anonymouscommenter says:

    The most popular and successful Basic is Visual Basic 6.

    Even though VB6 was released in 1998 it is the sixth most popular programming language in the Tiobe index.

    Vote for an updated VB6 at:


  2. I found an article in TIME Tech Technologizer:

    Fifty Years of BASIC, the Programming Language That Made Computers Personal


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