February 9, 2011
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Much Twittering today on the subject of teaching BASIC to beginning students of electronic literature.

In its defense, BASIC was important in the earliest days. Some of today’s professors of electronic literature got started with BASIC. Lots of them don’t program very much – they’re critics, not creators, or they use specialized environments like Flash or Avid that can’t easily (or affordably) be covered in an hour or two. And it makes sense that students learn something about programming.

I hadn’t laid eyes on BASIC in ages, though. It’s horrible. BASIC was meant to be FORTRAN IV with training wheels, and that was a great idea in its time, but nobody needs to build toward FORTRAN anymore – especially not students of literature.

We used to mourn the old days when programming languages were built into our computers and everybody learned to program. But – look! Your Macintosh comes with Perl and Ruby and Python built in, right out of the box. I’m sure you could get Squeak or Scheme set up in minutes. But the obvious language for the task, it seems to me, is Processing – and that’s just a download away.