Fifty Years of BASIC: the Programming Language That Made Computers Personal #BASIC

Fifty Years of BASIC, the Programming Language That Made Computers Personal

Time magazine features an article on the 50th anniversary of the BASIC programming language.

BASIC was primarily John Kemeny’s idea, and he wrote the first version himself. Starting in September 1963, he and Tom Kurtz began the overarching effort to get the language and the DTSS up and running. They led a team of a dozen undergraduate students–young men who were still in the process of learning about computers themselves. (Dartmouth was a male-only institution at the time: Kemeny himself took it co-ed in 1972 as president of the college).

A goal:

BASIC quote

early Dartmouth BASIC program
An early Dartmouth BASIC program, performing a simple math exercise, as run on a simulator of the university’s time-sharing system Harry McCracken / TIME


Read the article on Time. Do you remember BASIC? Did you program some neat stuff in BASIC (I did) – post in the comments below.

Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here:

Join Adafruit on Mastodon

Adafruit is on Mastodon, join in!

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Join over 36,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community!

CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers –

Maker Business — “Packaging” chips in the US

Wearables — Enclosures help fight body humidity in costumes

Electronics — Transformers: More than meets the eye!

Python for Microcontrollers — Python on Microcontrollers Newsletter: Silicon Labs introduces CircuitPython support, and more! #CircuitPython #Python #micropython @ThePSF @Raspberry_Pi

Adafruit IoT Monthly — Guardian Robot, Weather-wise Umbrella Stand, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode Thank You!

EYE on NPI — Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC Step-Down Power Module #EyeOnNPI @maximintegrated @digikey

New Products – Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! — #NewProds 7/19/23 Feat. Adafruit Matrix Portal S3 CircuitPython Powered Internet Display!

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at !


  1. Ah yes, BASIC — acronym for “Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Insruction Code”! Even the earliest implementations usually allowed one enough functionality to solve some fairly complex problems, while removing the headaches often associated with other languages such as FORTRAN. While FORTRAN still had its place in the scientific community, even the “format free” versions still added burden to the programmer from which BASIC usually liberated one. I used BASIC often in my early career to optimize solutions to engineering-type problems — solutions that would have otherwise been too complex to compel one to want to optimize. I found the language very powerful, useful and yet very forgiving — especially “interpreted” versions, as compared to compiled languages such as FORTRAN.

  2. BASIC, or Basic, is still around and useful and fun. Possibly interesting links for the Adafruitati:

    8-Bit Guy:
    Color Maximite SBC with really nice Basic, PS/2 keyboard input, and VGA output

    Geoff Graham:
    Creator of MicroMite and Maximite Basic environment for PIC-based SBCs

    The Back Shed:
    Down Under + international forum for MicroMite questions, applications, and variations

  3. One Friday evening between mid-1979 and early 1982, I got my copy of Creative Computing in the mail. It included a challenge: write a program to inscribe a five-pointed star in a circle.

    I no longer had the access to TRS-80s that I had while in college, but I remembered TRS-80 BASIC, so I sat down, wrote out the appropriate rotation matrices, and wrote in a notebook a program that would prompt you for m and n and then inscribe an (m, n) polygram (the five pointed star is a (5, 2) polygram) in a circle, drawing it so that the segments of the polygram would reach their ends just as the circle plot came along to meet it, and then display “PRESS ANY KEY TO CONTINUE” marquee-style underneath. I mailed it off with a description of how it worked, and forgot about it.

    Some time later–a year or so–Creative Computing arrived in the mail, and the columnist finally wrote about the submissions he’d received. There was a photo of the output of my program, and he mentioned that I sent in a handwritten listing and evidently had never actually run it. I think someone else got the most favorable mention… and at the end the author said that thenceforth, submissions *MUST* be in machine-readable form.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.