Comment from E-mail
At the current age of 41, I remember that the first language I learned was FORTRAN via a paper tape teletype at my high school connected to a time share system…I later learned BASIC on the Apple as I recall…
I learned FORTRAN even though our HS had no computer. I just learned it on paper and then my electronics teacher arranged for me to go to Sylvania once a week to program an IBM 1370. My first program was the Knight’s Tour of a chessboard. Nothing came out so I assumed that I had an infinite loop. The next week I determined that my program was fine. Then I calculated that I’d find a result, by standard backtracking, in about ten to the 25th years! A good algorithm is worth more than a machine that can do a million things a second.
I’d never programmed BASIC in my life when I developed the Apple I. But I could tell that BASIC was the way to go if you wanted to be able to buy books of computer games. Plus, the Altair, with Bill Gates’ BASIC, had shown that this was the popular language among the crowd interested in hobby computers. I used a manual for HP Basic (that’s where I worked) to learn it and develop my interpreter architecture and syntax diagrams. The major differences between HP BASIC (that mine was modeled on) and DEC BASIC (that Microsoft’s is modeled on) is in the string functions and strings. HP’s strings had to have a size dimensioned whereas DEC’s could grow to whatever size if I remember correctly. But the LEFT$, MID$, and RIGHT$ functions of DEC BASIC were much nicer in HP’s. You could specify STRING (5,8) for characters 5 through 8 of the string, for example.