Chris Pietschmann

husband, father, hacker, entrepreneur, futurist, innovator, autodidact

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QBasic was my First Programming Language

Recently, I got to thinking about my beginning of programming, and the Basic language. So, I thought I'd explain my early history with Basic a little bit.

Basic was Easy

My first programming language was QBasic. The reason I started learning QBasic was for the following reasons:

  1. QBasic came for Free on the Windows 95 CD-ROM
  2. There were more help sites on the internet dedicated to QB than any other language at the time.
  3. There weren't many resources on C++ back in the day (about 1996), even though it was the most used programming language.

Also, I was able to easily read and play with other peoples code to learn how to do things. I spent hours breaking code I found online, just to learn what different things did. I never had a book on QBasic, and I read very few tutorials. I actually learned mostly from reading and breaking other peoples code.

QBasic was Powerful

Basic was a very powerful language. I actually created a couple really need programs back then, along with a bunch of other ones not as noteworthy:

1) I created a QBasic application that allowed you to connect two computers over the modem and chat via text and share files. I named the program Tele-Chat and submitted it to a QB help site and actually won an award for it.

2)I created a DOS Program Manager app that made use of the mouse to give a nice UI for launching applications rather than using the command line. This was my first Event Driven application; I wrote this before I even saw what Visual Basic was. When I wrote it, I just wanted to make an app that worked more like Windows 3.1. The code snippet that I used to enable the use of the Mouse was actually a bit of Assembly that was executed from within QB that I copied from some help site somewhere.

3) I also started writing an RPG, named The Unknown World, that was sort of an original Zelda style game in QBasic. It made use of bit masking, and timers. It was pretty cool. The timer was essentially an infinite loop that looked for keys to be pressed to do stuff like move the character. I had a friend helping me on the graphics a little bit, and the game was looking pretty cool.

However, development slowed when I hit the file site limit in QBasic. If I remember correctly you could only have a code file of 64K or smaller. So to get around this limitation that crippled my game, I just created seperate EXE's for different parts of the game (like going into a building) that I ran at those moments. Then it would write to a TXT file what happened in the room, and when it was done executing the main app would read that TXT file and take the appropriate action.

However, The Unkown World was never finished as I lost interest in it. I was also moving on to VB at the time.

Conclusion

I, just as many others, found QBasic to be the gateway to becoming a programmer and software developer. I'll never forget those days of spending hours after school playing around with the wonder that was this big white IBM 486 PC on my fathers desk.

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