Tutorial 1: Getting Started

If you're reading this, you're probably a QBASIC Programmer, or want to become one. QBASIC Programmers: You probably know most of this stuff already, but, read it anyway. You might find out something you didn't know before.

Part I: What is QBASIC?

Before I tell you about QBASIC itself you should know a little about computers and programming language's history. In the 1800's, during the industrial revolution, a mechanical calculator was developed. It could add and subtract, writing the total on a piece of paper with typewriter number hammers. This was the first computer. Over the next 60 to 70 years, people improved calculators, and made more mechanical and electronic computing devices. In the 1950's, during the space race, people began developing better, completely electronic computers. Computers make calculations and decisions with two characters- zeros and ones. It's called binary, and all computers - even up to today - use this language. These computers (and I use the term loosely) took rooms to fit in - even a man could walk through one! They couldn't do much, either. One Kilobyte was an unimaginable amount of memory, and 86's (yes, 86's) were fast enough to leave these machines at the starting line in speed. Computers had to be programmed in Binary, and the only way to communicate with these computers was to use printed circuit boards.

By the mid 1960's, electronic calculators and computer programming languages were developed. The first programming language (other than Binary and printed circuit boards) was called APL (It meant A Programming Language!). It was developed by college students, and was typed in with a keyboard! The characters were very strange with backward Zs, and upside down As, and many letters with strange markings. Over the next 20 years, many things changed. Computers kept on decreasing in size, and becoming more powerful. New programming languages were developed in the very late 1970's. They including Fortran, COBOL, Pascal, and most importantly-BASIC!

BASIC was an amateur's programming language that stood for Beginners All Purpose Standard Instruction Code. It was developed so that people who had no programming background could learn how to program, with easy, basic (forgive the pun) commands. The commands were in English, and easy to use and implement into your program. All microcomputers back then came with BASIC on them, and their own form of it. There were more than 20 different versions of BASIC such as: Apple BASIC, Atari BASIC, Commodore BASIC, Commodore 64 BASIC, Timex BASIC, Sinclair BASIC, Texas Instrument BASIC, Radio Shack BASIC, and so on. The version of BASIC that evolved into QBASIC was Microsoft BASIC. In the late 1980's, Microsoft decided to make a more powerful and user friendly version of BASIC. It was QUICKER, thus the name- QBASIC, the Q standing for Quick. Microsoft realized that people wouldn't want to switch to the new language. Only real, devoted enthusiasts would want to buy the program. So they made it free. If it was free, people were guaranteed to begin using it. They also released it freely with MS-DOS after that. People would find the program on their computer, wonder "what's this?" and get hooked. People would get free copies from Microsoft and friends. QBASIC spread like wildfire, which brings us to our next topic.

Part II: Now To Get QBASIC:

So, you want to become a QBASIC programmer? Great! First of all, you need QBASIC. If you have Windows 95, take out your set up CD, and click "Find" on the start menu. Search for QBASIC in Q:\ . (I think the directory is Q:\extras\oldmsdos\, or something like that...). If you have windows 3.x, you should have it in DOS. Just type in QBASIC, and you're there. If you don't have Windows 3.1, type QBASIC at the dos prompt. If it doesn't work, download it. You can get it from microsoft.com, and from lots of QBASIC Sites.

QuickBASIC 4.5 can also be downloaded off of several websites. It's not completely legal, but if you really want it, go and get it. It is faster, and can compile programs and make quick libraries. QBASIC PDS 7.1 is also available for download in some places, but most people think that QuickBASIC 4.5 is better.

Part III: You Need To Know This Before Starting:

Here are a few things you need to know and do:

These things may sound Greek to you now, but in a few days, they'll seem like natural. If you really get in to QBASIC,. you might even find yourself pressing shift+F5 to view html code you write, and in math class, writing * instead of a multiplication sign!

Normally at the end of tutorials, I would advise you to wait a few days (or hours) to read the next one, but I'm sure you're really anxious to start programming, so go on, read tutorial number two!!


December 5, 1998