= B =
BASIC /bay'-sic/ n.
A programming language,
originally designed for Dartmouth's experimental timesharing system
in the early 1960s, which for many years was the leading cause of
brain damage in proto-hackers. Edsger W. Dijkstra observed in
"Selected Writings on Computing: A Personal Perspective" that
"It is practically impossible to teach good programming style to
students that have had prior exposure to BASIC: as potential
programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of
regeneration." This is another case (like Pascal) of the
cascading lossage that happens when a language deliberately
designed as an educational toy gets taken too seriously. A novice
can write short BASIC programs (on the order of 10-20 lines) very
easily; writing anything longer (a) is very painful, and (b)
encourages bad habits that will make it harder to use more powerful
languages well. This wouldn't be so bad if historical accidents
hadn't made BASIC so common on low-end micros in the 1980s. As it
is, it probably ruined tens of thousands of potential wizards.
[1995: Some languages called `BASIC' aren't quite this nasty any
more, having acquired Pascal- and C-like procedures and control
structures and shed their line numbers. --ESR]
BASIC stands for "Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction
Code". Earlier versions of this entry claiming this was a
later backronym were incorrect.
--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.