Basic and Visual Basic

Visual Basic evolved from the third-generation language called Basic (Beginners All Purpose Instruction Code). This was originally developed at Dartmouth College in 1965 on a mainframe computer. Its primary purpose at that time was as an educational language and it was intended to be used as a stepping-stone for students to learn a more advanced language, such as ALGOL. However, the status of Basic changed rapidly when it became the established language for the first wave of microcomputers. In the late 1970s, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, created a version of Basic which was ideally suited to 8-bit microcomputers. Bill Gates and Paul Allen formed the Microsoft Corporation with Microsoft Basic becoming available on a range of microcomputers such as the Apple, the BBC Micro and the Commodore range.

Basic was a language that was perfectly suited to the microcomputer because of its small memory requirements compared to other languages. Moreover, Basic was an interpreted language, and was easier to use than compiled languages such as FORTRAN and COBOL. However, Basic also had severe critics: especially in the academic community. Basic was seen to be encouraging 'bad programming habits'; the main culprit being the dreaded 'Go To' statement that was part of the Basic language. This statement was seen as anathema to good structured programming skills because programmers could use this statement to do anything without regard to good programming style and structure. Nevertheless, Microsoft continued their commitment to the development to Basic alongside the DOS operating system during the 1980s. A major revision of Basic was undertaken in the early 1990s to enable it to work under the then new Windows operating system. Basic became Visual Basic - so-called because it supports many of the visually based drag and drop graphic user interface operations that are prevalent in the Windows operating system. Visual Basic version 1 was released in 1991 and experienced rapid version changes that roughly reflected the changes in the Windows operating system itself during the next decade. Visual Basic has now established itself as a very successful standalone visual programming language.

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