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DavidS
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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Tue Jan 29, 2013 9:20 pm

Ok each language has its pros and cons. Having followed this thread since it fit on a single page, I would say that the initial question of "Harmful?" is answered, it does seems that every one agrees that it is NOT.

Now there have been a couple of 3D Games written in interpreted BBC BASIC V that were quite fast even on an 8MHz Archie, so if you can find another interpreter that is equally fast, I will be impressed. BBC BASIC V grew up with the ARM, the RPi is an ARM based computer. Need I say more?


How about we take the time to agree on a set of benchmarks for testing the speed of interpreted languages, that we feel will give a good and accurate image of the speed of each. It seems that this thread is currently about the speed of BBC BASIC vs the speed of interpreted language X.
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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Tue Jan 29, 2013 10:01 pm

Quite a task - I guess to avoid comparing apples and pears you would have to do all the comparrisons on RISC OS and use a handfull of test programs to really do a thorough job - although it would be equally interesting to compare those numbers to the same code run on other OSeses.

All the interpreted languages that I can think of that are available on RISC OS are:

Smalltalk/Squeak
Lua
Python
PHP
BASIC
Charm

My money's on either Lua or BASIC being fastest but thats just a hunch.

Compile wise I guess there's GCC to use as a datum for all of the above. I'm not really competant in any of those except PHP& C(++).

I guess in answer to whether its worth a newbie learning BASIC as opposed to Python, you would have to consider their options if/when the out-grow/out-pace Python. If they need something faster they can either move onto a compiled language or back down to a more 'basic' interpreted language such as BASIC or they can insert in-line assembler in their Python code if that is possible?

The other question to someone new to programming would be regarding the time taken to learn the language the scope of it and the ease of transition from that language to the next. I suspect that BASIC is faster to learn but also faster to out-grow.

And of course there is portability accross platforms - Python probably has that one due to BASIC diaects.

All this points have already been made ad nauseum though - all I care about is speed - thats my definition of 'best'.

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Tue Jan 29, 2013 11:50 pm

I would say start by implementing the standard benchmarks in each available interpreted language, fallow up with some form of console IO benchmarking then Graphics benchmarks, fallowed by windowing benchmarks. So lets think about what benchmarks to use for each:

Standard benchmarks
Dhrystone (DUH)
Whetstone
Others appropriate for interpreted languages?

Console IO Benchmarks:
Printing something to the console?
I can not think of any way to benchmark console input.

Graphics benchmarks (non accelerated):
Rectangles per second
Circles per second
Lines per second
Arcs per second
triangles per second
Rectangles per second Filled
Circles per second Filled
triangles per second Filled
Others???

GUI Benchmarks:
Window Creates per second
Window Open/Close per second
Window Draw sprite Icons per second
Window Draw Text Icons per second
Menu Open/Close per second
Window Stack Order Change Per second
Window Scroll Area x1 OS Display Unit Units Per Second
Window Resize x1 OS Display Unit Units Per Second
Others?

Other Benchmarks that speak to the responsiveness AND speed of an interpreted language?


And we will have to think about how to standardize the result (eg Screen mode will likely make a difference on most of these).
pygmy_giant wrote: All the interpreted languages that I can think of that are available on RISC OS are:

Smalltalk/Squeak
Lua
Python
PHP
BASIC
Charm
I did not know that there was an interpreted version of Charm, Could you please point me to it? I do use the compiled version (which I had thought was the only).
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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Wed Jan 30, 2013 12:15 am

oh is it - my mistake - how embarasing - maybe compare Charm with GCC then - sounds like alot of work - maybe just start with a single program like the Ackermann test?

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Wed Jan 30, 2013 10:47 pm

pygmy_giant wrote:Had a little look at Gordon's BASIC - the documentation that is, as I dont run Linux.

My personal view is that:

On the one hand - the closer to BBC BASIC the better as that is the inherited educational legacy from the 80s (I bet some people still have their old battered beeb manuals lying around).

On the other - it must be tempting to completely re-invent your own syntax for your own beginner language, but that begs the questions: could you improve on BBC BASIC, should you, and can you be bothered? I'm guessing the answers are no, no and no - but it must be nice to have that ability!

I think that for a beginner unambiguous error messages would be a big help.
I thing there is a need for a more updated basic, by using simtex that is more used these days.
For example some useful bits from wiring (as used on the arduino) which i am glad to see Gordon has done.
This will make it easier to port arduino code and for people who know wiring, to learn to use basic, or the other way around.
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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Wed Jan 30, 2013 11:29 pm

There is an updated BASIC of course, they updated it, then updated the name. To Python.

;-)
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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Thu Jan 31, 2013 12:48 am

Less is more - speedwise at run time

But then you'd probably spend longer writing the program

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Thu Jan 31, 2013 8:25 am

pygmy_giant wrote:Less is more - speedwise at run time

But then you'd probably spend longer writing the program
You want speed? Use C or assembler....neither of which are suitable for the initial stages of teaching. Speed is a red herring.
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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Thu Jan 31, 2013 2:49 pm

jamesh wrote:
pygmy_giant wrote:Less is more - speedwise at run time

But then you'd probably spend longer writing the program
You want speed? Use C or assembler....neither of which are suitable for the initial stages of teaching. Speed is a red herring.
*sigh* I'm probably going to regret asking this, but while I understand why assembly is too complicated for the initial stages of teaching programing (heck I had a couple languages under my belt when I first was introduced to it and I still wanted to run off screaming!), but why not C? It seems like a fairly straight forward language.
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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Thu Jan 31, 2013 3:02 pm

abishur wrote:
jamesh wrote:
pygmy_giant wrote:Less is more - speedwise at run time

But then you'd probably spend longer writing the program
You want speed? Use C or assembler....neither of which are suitable for the initial stages of teaching. Speed is a red herring.
*sigh* I'm probably going to regret asking this, but while I understand why assembly is too complicated for the initial stages of teaching programing (heck I had a couple languages under my belt when I first was introduced to it and I still wanted to run off screaming!), but why not C? It seems like a fairly straight forward language.
I like C too... But it like every other language other than BASIC (or maybe LOGO) has an entry level - and that's my issue. BASIC - Turn it on and GO. Just about everything else needs some sort of "environment" - login, open an editor, or an IDE, run the compiler, link the libraries, un the program, oh look, hello world. 10 print "Hello world"/run

I'd hapily take people from BASIC to C. Or not - because very quickly you'll find out the people who have the knack and those who don't, and it's finding those who have the knack and separting them from those won't are just not interested, and in any case, they'll then make that leap themselves - once they get their own "eureka moment" and realise that programming is for them - or not. If (young) people are not interested in programming then why make them sit through months of boredome at school - at least make it easy & fun for them and take those who are intersted on to greater and better things.

I spoke with some staff in a local college this morning - they're still teaching Pascal, but want to get away from it and are looking at C & C++ as it has more "industry application" than anything else they have worked with.

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Thu Jan 31, 2013 3:09 pm

abishur wrote:
jamesh wrote:
pygmy_giant wrote:Less is more - speedwise at run time

But then you'd probably spend longer writing the program
You want speed? Use C or assembler....neither of which are suitable for the initial stages of teaching. Speed is a red herring.
*sigh* I'm probably going to regret asking this, but while I understand why assembly is too complicated for the initial stages of teaching programing (heck I had a couple languages under my belt when I first was introduced to it and I still wanted to run off screaming!), but why not C? It seems like a fairly straight forward language.
Pointers. (memory and function).
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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Thu Jan 31, 2013 3:50 pm

[email protected] wrote:
I like C too... But it like every other language other than BASIC (or maybe LOGO) has an entry level - and that's my issue. BASIC - Turn it on and GO. Just about everything else needs some sort of "environment" - login, open an editor, or an IDE, run the compiler, link the libraries, un the program, oh look, hello world. 10 print "Hello world"/run
jamesh wrote:
Pointers. (memory and function).
I can accept the IDE issue as a serious problem with C as well as the need to do a couple #includes for even rather basic programs. I don't think I agree with the nothing that it shouldn't be used because it has advanced features (sorry James :-P). I mean just because C has pointers doesn't mean I have to use them or teach them to someone trying to learn it until much, much later.

But I was mainly just curious to the thought process so that answers my question is a pleasantly straightforward manner.

One other question though, do you feel the "environment" applies to python as well? And I ask this because even if one were to make an emulator for the pi to boot straight into a Basic environment, that would still mean at the end of the day it was logging in, and opening an IDE (pardon the crude comparison, but I think you get what I mean) to give you a Basic programming environment which would let you run a program at a key combo. One could just as easily have it log into a special version of vi or nano that had a key combo to run the python code you just typed up, right?
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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Thu Jan 31, 2013 3:54 pm

abishur wrote:
[email protected] wrote:
I like C too... But it like every other language other than BASIC (or maybe LOGO) has an entry level - and that's my issue. BASIC - Turn it on and GO. Just about everything else needs some sort of "environment" - login, open an editor, or an IDE, run the compiler, link the libraries, un the program, oh look, hello world. 10 print "Hello world"/run
jamesh wrote:
Pointers. (memory and function).
I can accept the IDE issue as a serious problem with C as well as the need to do a couple #includes for even rather basic programs. I don't think I agree with the nothing that it shouldn't be used because it has advanced features (sorry James :-P). I mean just because C has pointers doesn't mean I have to use them or teach them to someone trying to learn it until much, much later.

But I was mainly just curious to the thought process so that answers my question is a pleasantly straightforward manner.

One other question though, do you feel the "environment" applies to python as well? And I ask this because even if one were to make an emulator for the pi to boot straight into a Basic environment, that would still mean at the end of the day it was logging in, and opening an IDE (pardon the crude comparison, but I think you get what I mean) to give you a Basic programming environment which would let you run a program at a key combo. One could just as easily have it log into a special version of vi or nano that had a key combo to run the python code you just typed up, right?
You can of course, just type Python and get in to the Python interpreter.
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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:09 pm

jamesh wrote: You can of course, just type Python and get in to the Python interpreter.
But can you actually type and edit and run a program from there? I'm not sure you can.

I'm not bashing Python although I'll probably never program in it, but my point is that you need to make the entry level easy. If you've ever been in-front of a class of young people you'll know what I mean. Make the entry level easy and they'll pay attention. Bombard them on day 1 with classes, dots, dollars, arcane runes and symbols and you'll probably lose the 1 or 2 that are genuinely intersted because those that are not will disrupt the class.

Make it easy. Get them hooked on programming. Teach them that it's a means to an end, then the ones who're really keen can go on and program in C, C++, PHP, Python, FORTRAN, etc.

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:13 pm

So with their google money and the ear of politicians, will the Foundation be able to influence the curriculum to become Linux/Python/Scratch centric?

I wouldn't be surprised - I accept their logic.

But I still don't think that makes BASIC obsolete - if it was going to turn turtle, it would have done so by now. People like it because it is simple and fast.

By fast I mean fast at runtime and fast to learn.

I accept that it may not be as fast as Python to program in and maintain for many tasks, but thats the trade-off.
Last edited by pygmy_giant on Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:27 pm

[email protected] wrote:
jamesh wrote: You can of course, just type Python and get in to the Python interpreter.
But can you actually type and edit and run a program from there? I'm not sure you can.

I'm not bashing Python although I'll probably never program in it, but my point is that you need to make the entry level easy. If you've ever been in-front of a class of young people you'll know what I mean. Make the entry level easy and they'll pay attention. Bombard them on day 1 with classes, dots, dollars, arcane runes and symbols and you'll probably lose the 1 or 2 that are genuinely intersted because those that are not will disrupt the class.

Make it easy. Get them hooked on programming. Teach them that it's a means to an end, then the ones who're really keen can go on and program in C, C++, PHP, Python, FORTRAN, etc.

-Gordon
See I actually agree with this. I personally have enjoyed nano, and like the idea of adding a new keypress (say alt-R) that takes the code you have on the screen and attempts to run it. Then one could have the pi boot straight into it, hmm... I'm gonna go play with this idea, thanks Gordon!
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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Fri Feb 01, 2013 2:46 am

jamesh wrote:
pygmy_giant wrote:Less is more - speedwise at run time

But then you'd probably spend longer writing the program
You want speed? Use C or assembler....neither of which are suitable for the initial stages of teaching. Speed is a red herring.
I know i will get a lot of stick, but i think assembly is a good beginners language, as long as the beginners is not too young.
The thing that puts most people off, is when they see some assembly source code and think its so unreadable.
But if they took the time to find out what them statement mean, and was taught on a basic microcontroller like the arduino, they would learn more about coding in 3 weeks, than using a higher level interpreted language like
python in 10 years.
Eg: x86 assembly
mov = move
cmp = compare
add = add
inc = increment by 1
jmp = Jump
mul = unsigned multiply
ret = return from procedure

The good thing about assembly is once you have the basic, you can write anything, by using the same basic instructions.
I admit it would not be the most optimized code.
And remember its easy to make assembly as readably as say Basic.
THIS IS 100% ASM CODE:

Code: Select all

include 'FBasic_L.inc'
CLS
COLOR  11
LOCATE 2,1
PRINT "This app is written in Macro Basic, for Linux "
COLOR  12
LOCATE 2,2
PRINT "With the ease of Basic and the power of ASM "
COLOR  15
LOCATE 2,3
PRINT "It user's the basic commands:"
PRINT " "
PRINT "    CLS"
PRINT "    SCREEN"
PRINT "    COLOR"
PRINT "    LOCATE"
PRINT "    PRINT"
PRINT "    GOSUB"
PRINT "    RETURN"
PRINT "    SLEEP"
PRINT "    END"
PRINT " "
GOSUB TestSub
SLEEP
END

TestSub:
PRINT "  Press any key to quit."
RETURN                                         
Now is that assembly code easy for beginners ?.
The same code will run on x86 linux, raspberry pi linux, raspberry pi bare metal, dos, windows.
Image
Batteries not included, Some assembly required.

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Fri Feb 01, 2013 9:23 am

I do wonder whether it would be worth writing a very simple instruction parsing type application to ease people in to assembler - i.e. invent your own very assembler language for teaching, and interpret it in real time with graphics to display what's actually happening under the skin (I expect someone has already done it though!).

I started with 6502 which is pretty easy stuff, modern Arm assembler is really quite a complicated beast, hence I've never really moved up to it.
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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Fri Feb 01, 2013 9:30 am

jamesh wrote:I do wonder whether it would be worth writing a very simple instruction parsing type application to ease people in to assembler - i.e. invent your own very assembler language for teaching, and interpret it in real time with graphics to display what's actually happening under the skin (I expect someone has already done it though!).

I started with 6502 which is pretty easy stuff, modern Arm assembler is really quite a complicated beast, hence I've never really moved up to it.
That's what CESIL was for.. I did an implemntation recently that allowed you to control xmas tree lights:

https://projects.drogon.net/cesil-contr ... pberry-pi/

Prime number printer:

http://unicorn.drogon.net/primes.csl

Although I could add a visualisation thing into it to allow you to see memory, etc. I think it's sufficiently simple to not need it at this level.

The next level would be to introduce memory as a concept rather than named variables, then index registers, but I think that's as far as I'd take it for a pseudo assembler.

Also look at "sweet16" - something Woz wrote 35 years ago for the Apple I & II ...

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Fri Feb 01, 2013 9:39 am

I did something similar for my A-level project. It was a base-10 machine-code virtual machine, with assemblers provided. There weren't many addressing modes available, but you could do 9 levels of indirection.

The idea being that you could teach the concept of machine-code without having to get into binary in depth.

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Fri Feb 01, 2013 11:38 am

you need to make the entry level easy. If you've ever been in-front of a class of young people you'll know what I mean. Make the entry level easy and they'll pay attention. Bombard them on day 1 with classes, dots, dollars, arcane runes and symbols and you'll probably lose the 1 or 2 that are genuinely intersted because those that are not will disrupt the class.
Hear hear :)

There's little doubt in my mind that Python is quite a good way of learning about "proper" programming and it would probably be a good language to program in at GCSE level in schools.

But the gap between Scratch and Python is probably too wide for Yrs 7,8 and 9 and there's a vacant slot for a text based language that can do graphics stuff easily.

So a nice interpreted language that understands sprites and costumes would be ideal.

And of course IT MUST control the GPIO pins directly :)

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Fri Feb 01, 2013 1:32 pm

[email protected] wrote: ..
Although I could add a visualisation thing into it to allow you to see memory, etc. I think it's sufficiently simple to not need it at this level.
...
-Gordon
i think you should add the visualization thing !

why? , because ..

'Visualizing Code to Fail Faster' - Inventing on Principle. !
lend me your arms, fast as thunderbolts, for a pillow on my journey.
If the environment was a bank, would it be too big to fail
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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Fri Feb 01, 2013 1:53 pm

duberry wrote:
[email protected] wrote: ..
Although I could add a visualisation thing into it to allow you to see memory, etc. I think it's sufficiently simple to not need it at this level.
...
-Gordon
i think you should add the visualization thing !

why? , because ..

'Visualizing Code to Fail Faster' - Inventing on Principle. !
Well the source code is there - in RTB - please feel free to modify it and re-publish it.

git clone git://git.drogon.net/cesil

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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Fri Feb 01, 2013 2:04 pm

[email protected] wrote: Well the source code is there - in RTB - please feel free to modify it and re-publish it.

git clone git://git.drogon.net/cesil
-Gordon
thanks , thats good to know ! ,
tho i was hoping to encourage
you to do something you could easy
but had decided was not worth it
because imho it is !
lend me your arms, fast as thunderbolts, for a pillow on my journey.
If the environment was a bank, would it be too big to fail
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Re: BASIC - more harmful than useful?

Fri Feb 01, 2013 2:09 pm

duberry wrote:
[email protected] wrote: Well the source code is there - in RTB - please feel free to modify it and re-publish it.

git clone git://git.drogon.net/cesil
-Gordon
thanks , thats good to know ! ,
tho i was hoping to encourage
you to do something you could easy
but had decided was not worth it
because imho it is !
Lots of things are easy - or take no more than an afternoon - like changing the way for/loops work in my Basic - but how many people rushed out to download the new version after I did, test it and give me feedback? The former was about 4, the latter none.

And FWIW - the competition I ran last year (up to Jan 25ths this year) to produce a cesil program to flash the xmas tree lights in an interesting manner (prize: one of my ladder boards) was a complete failure. No entries.

So you can see why I may be somewhat reluctant to go out and spent more time on it.

-Gordon
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