Monthly Archives: May 2014

Young Hacks Academy Coming to Rutland in July

I recently found out through a Front Porch Forum email ad that there is a new summer camp which includes some computer programming skills training.  The camp is called Young Hacks Academy and will offer programs around Vermont this summer, including two weeks in Rutland.

The YHA uses Scratch programming (MIT Media Lab) to teach some basic programming, logic and problem solving skills.  This is the same programming tool that we covered at our recent RTC event in April.  Anyone wanting to learn more about Scratch programming should check out this learning opportunity.  YHA is coming to Rutland the weeks of July 7 – 11 and July 14 -18.  The summer camp will take place at Christ the King School.  For more info, check out the YHA website.

Thank You Rutland Free Library!

I would like to say Thank You to the Rutland Free Library in beautiful downtown Rutland for helping us host our RTC events.

We have held 4 monthly events so far this year, including the Code.org Hour of Code, a video presentation by author and media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, and an introduction to Scratch programming (MIT Media Lab).  Thanks also to everyone who attended these events.

Finally, thank you to Asst. Director Randal Smathers and library staff for accommodating our technical and audio/visual needs, and room setup.

The Fox Room is a great space for public events, and we appreciate your help and support.

Ron Pulcer

BASIC Computer Language’s 50th Birthday

This morning I heard a NPR radio story about the BASIC computer language’s 50th year celebration.  Yesterday, Dartmouth College celebrated by hosting a BASIC @ 50: The Future of Computing panel discussion.

Wow!  When I learned to program in BASIC around 1974-75, BASIC was not even a teenager yet.  I’m a few years older than BASIC, but I am still amazed at the journey from teletype machines to smartphones.

BASIC stands for Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code.  This computer language was developed with the intent to be able to program remotely on a teletype, via dial-up to a Time Sharing computer.  BASIC was developed by two Dartmouth College professors, John G. Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz.  Prior to the development of BASIC, Professor Kurtz would have to drive 125 miles to Boston to use a computer at MIT.  The turnaround times could be a week or two, and if you made programming error(s), you could lose weeks of time.  Also, BASIC did not require the use of punch cards.

The professors also wanted to allow people from other academic disciplines to be able to use computers besides the mathematicians and computer folks.

In the NPR broadcast, Dartmouth Professor Dan Rockmore recalled writing a poker game in BASIC.  When I was in high school, my parents celebrated their anniversary with a trip to Las Vegas.  They brought back a dice game, that was a mimic of a slot machine.  Based on the game instructions (my system requirements), I programmed a simple Slot Machine game in BASIC.  Back then everything was text (no images, non-visual).  So I had to print out the fruity names, “Cherry”, “Lemon”, “Orange” on the roll of teletype paper (sorry no Photoshop images or clip art GIF files back then).  But I was able to make the teletype’s “Bell” ring, “ding, ding, ding, …”, when you had a good combination of matching fruit.  I even kept track of how much virtual money you still had, and how much you won or lost on each play.  As the teletype printed out the Slot Machine fruit names, it would bounce slightly across the floor whenever the carriage return went back to the left.

Today the closest thing a smartphone can do is “vibrate”.  But smartphones will never be as loud as a teletype!

BASIC went on to be ported to minicomputers and microcomputers (personal computers).  Microsoft’s Visual Basic was influenced by the BASIC language.

Happy Birthday BASIC!