Mind Your Language #2

By Christian Weber

Originally published in EUG #08

Although the letter to which I am about to refer appeared back in EUG #5, I feel I must reply to the comments made by T. Claydon about BASIC and other programming languages.

BBC BASIC is a good language that many people, myself included, use regularly with great ease and enjoyment, but I think it was unfair to compare a BASIC of any type with AMOS and STOS as these were primarily produced with games creation in mind. Of course, when compared to Amiga, Amstrad, Sinclair and other BASICs, it's a lot better - or is it?

Surely a good programming language is 'user friendly', but what of its other aspects? If BBC BASIC is compared to other dialects such as GWBASIC and QUICK BASIC, its performance can look a little poor. And so it should when you keep in mind the age difference between these hybrids.

T. Claydon then mentions that the only other BASIC that supports procedures is SAM COUPE BASIC. Not surprising really when you take into account the fact that some of the people responsible for creating BBC BASIC also worked on SAM COUPE BASIC. But are procedures really all that necessary? I think not. I tend to get rather peeved when looking at somebody else's program, trying to find the elusive DEFPROC command within hundreds of lines. I would prefer a GOSUB with a REM beside it - and before someone comments on memory wasteage, you need a fair few REMs before you need to start worrying about the amount of memory left, even with only 32K.

I feel that a good programming language should be structured. With a language such as COBOL, I find it very easy to produce structured diagrams to plan my program before I even start to code it. But with BASIC I tend to produce the diagram, but, because BASIC lets me, alter the coding until the final program is completely different to the original plan. I tend to find more problems occur because of this, especially when altering the program at a later date (i.e. months at least).

I think a problem that a lot of people have is that tend to get comfortable with one language and don't want to change their programming style to fit a new one. I can safely say that I fit into this category, as there have been many times I've wished that COBOL arrays were just like they are on the Elk!

Finally, I must agree with T. Claydon that a lot more people should learn to use BBC BASIC. If it hadn't been for BBC BASIC my interest in programming wouldn't have turned to thoughts of (hopefully!) getting a job as a programmer when I have finished my education.

Christian Weber