GW-BASIC: Gee Whiz!
2020-05-21 Microsoft releases GW-BASIC circa 1983 as open source (MIT license). You can find the official announcment here and the repo on github here. I’ll have to carve out some time to review the source. ;-)
If you have any content related to GW-BASIC, please let me know here.
About this site
Howdy, I’m Cory Smith (aka DualBrain). Welcome to (what will hopefully become) the central hub for all things related to GW-BASIC. If you’d like to contribute to this project, please do so by visiting here.
Please allow me a moment to acknowledge Neil for originally starting this site. Here is his original introduction to the site:
Hello, I’m Neil C. Obremski. Welcome to my attempt at a central repository on the web for all things GW-BASIC. Technically, it wasn’t my first introduction to programming since I was exposed to LOGO on Apple II’s in 4th grade as part of Onalaska Elementary’s “Highly Capable” group. However, it struck a chord in me that has been playing a tune on down the decades ever since. And we all know, you never forget your first love.
The way I learned was from a handful of BAS files and whatever Aric Catron, my friend who introduced us, could teach. I had no books, there was no internet to browse and I had no clue what I was doing. Yet through perseverance and owing to the language’s accessibility, I made countless tiny applications and imitations of games I enjoyed like a text-based Oregon Trail. Eventually tomes of some usefulness surfaced at the Centralia Library, but by the time I knew where to look I was already onto QuickBasic.
Coming back to GW-BASIC after so long, I expected piles of minute instructional detail taking up space in the corners of the information superhighway. Unfortunately, as you know by ending up here, this was not the case at all. Like some distant or arcane technology, scarce records of this beloved and obsolete platform now exist. Certainly generic BASIC pages may abound, and perhaps you’ll find the proper solace in those, but of GW the list is preciously short. The potential extinction, besides a dry encyclopedic entry here or there, tickled my anxiety and interest enough to build the site before you.
My singular hope is that before moving on, once again, to other languages and development platforms that I can prove the worthiness of this one. The capabilities of it far exceed the pithy examples I’ve seen. And in my absence, down the road, this site will continue to stand as a beacon of innocent times when coding was for anyone with a computer. Times without layers of abstraction, without threading, functions, sub-routines, switch / select case, windows, frameworks, and all the other arbitrary complications which constitute the modern, the contemporary, and the future.
Come and stay a while, enjoy a line number or two …
Very interesting to come across your site.
I also took the self tought route with Basic. Firstly on a tiny computor plus TV monitor plus cassette tape deck to store my masterpieces in the early 80’s. With the 49k memory of the Oracle there was no room for anything fancy. I did have the benefit of a booklet with basic commands, a short explanation of binary code and machine code language with a page or two on how to switch pixels on and off to create unique character sets.
As you say it’s a shame the Basic language is all but forgoten. Later in the mid 80’s I used it to write a stock (over 8,000 items)and bill of materials program which included 40 screen displays, each with 40 pre selected product combinations. There was also a searchable customer database, by name or postcode and a discount option which could be set by product or product group and applied to the customer profile. It was fast, efficient and used on the road by a team of 13 reps for 5 years.
A sub program converted the “space delimited” stock file from the company mainframe Linux format to quote and comma delimiting so Basic could read and re-asemble it correctly.
The original full version ran on a twin floppy disc machine from Tandy in the UK (Radio Shack). One disc for the program and one for the data. The data disc was encrypted and self deleted if used after the specified end date.
*The stock was coded in this format 5ROT001 to 999 4MAC001-999 etc. It was a matter of getting the program to creat DOS files using the 1st 5 characters as it read in a stock update then file the 99 entries into each one. To search for a product Dos found the file and basic searched 99 items.**
After typing in a stock code or partial stock code and pressing enter the item or group by page displayed immediatly. I still have a couple of GW Basic and Dos books I bought, although sadly I no longer have the Oracle or Tandy booklets. But there we are times change, although even nuclear power stations still use steam technology to drive the turbines and maybe, as we need to consider our energy consumption, one day Basic in some form will be used again. It would certainly reduce the load on servers moving and storing bloated files. Many business applications would work fine with numbered menu selection just requiring a key press.
Regards, Brian Andrews. (retired)