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With development getting more and more complex and thousands of lines of code being required to do things that used to take a couple of hundred, it's nice to see a simpler approach to things.  Sometimes the complexity has great benefit (like reuse and flexibility), but when learning that isn't necessarily first on your mind...

I just noticed a blog post on the Microsoft Small Basic blog and have since had a quick try... It looks like an awesome educational tool - easy to use and I certainly remember playing with logo and basic when I was younger - this provides both of those combined (along with decent graphics and no overhead).

So the blog is here:-

And the program itself (which is basically a tiny IDE) is at - hopefully it will let a new generation of children find programming as fun as it was for me when I was young.

Edit: Yes this is no match for C# which is a wonderful language and has a vast framework beside it, but this IS able to make a logo turtle move around in three lines on screen...

Permalink  3 Comments 

Complexity is relative by chris at 11/15/2009 11:49:12
I don't get how development is becoming more complex?

With the advent of 4th gen languages and APIs that don't require a PhD (for the tolerence to handle the amount of drugs you need to understand them, not the qualification you get) to figure out; the bar has shifted and it is now much easier to do things that were way above school level before.

If we consider sending things down a TCP/IP pipe or doing 3d graphics with C#'s or Java's pretty APIs compared to how it was a few years ago in 3rd gen languages (run back even further and do it without MFC :p) you can really see how easy the basic stuff is becoming (or what we consider basic now), especially if you put it in the context of education where it's not just shoving knowlage down a child's throat but capturing their imagination and nurturing the drive to learn more. For example, showing kids how to create a quick chat app in a few lines of code is WAY more interesting than memory layouts and processor architecture which developers nowadays don't really need to know about to be able to function (although dammit they SHOULD but thats what you can learn while you are pretending to listen at University).

Remember at school we learnt how to make a console based calculator in BASIC? SNOOOOOORE, ok kids, now I can really easily show you how to make a gem collecting platform game on XNA. Whats going to make a kid want to learn programming? Okok, I know XNA is probally a bit advanced for highschool but the options are there now.

While I appreciate we are now playing around with much larger ideas of what computers can do in an OO fashion, at the school level I think it's now much easier for a kid in highschool to do something we were learning at Uni in a much more interesting way.

idea by chris at 11/15/2009 11:50:43
Speaking of, I just had an idea for an XNA based network toy (aka simple excuse to play with XNA)....but I have to focus on jobhunting and can't build it :( I hate how life gets in the way!

With power comes great responsibility... by simon at 11/15/2009 12:01:16
One of the examples in Small basic is actually a gem collecting game, well worth looking at.

It's a lot easier to do a gem collecting game and understand it using a language where there's only one file and no objects in an unmaintainable language with limited frameworks available to it... And if it's just a learning exercise to make people enjoy programming then I think it's a good starting point.

I think when you're starting out you need to learn the basics, then you can upgrade to something that can do anything later on... :)