This month marks the 50th anniversary of the invention of the BASIC (Beginners All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) computer language.
I have fond memories of BASIC -- without it, my life may have turned out very differently.
I went to highschool in a small town in India (Bilimora). It was the mid 1980s There were no computers at my school. Best I knew, there were no personal computers in the entire town.
Then, I went to mechanical engineering school in a larger town (Surat). They had PCs. 6 of them, if I recall correctly. In a "computer lab". It was open only a few hours a day, because the room had to be air-conditioned, and air-conditioning was expensive. In the 2 years that I was there I didn't get to touch any of those 6 computers. At the time, that wasn't a super-big deal, but I really didn't know what I was missing.
Then, I came to the U.S. to visit my parents in the summer. They were living in Michigan City, Indiana at the time. There was a satellite campus of Purdue University out there. Folks had told me that since I enjoyed math so much, I should check out "this computer stuff". Purdue had a short "Intro to Computers" class which I decided to take.
Thankfully, getting access to computers was trivial at Purdue (this is the early 90s). And, that was a good thing, because the first time I worked on a computer, it was love at first sight. I knew, just knew that this is what I wanted to do. It just clicked.
That first day, I read both of the manuals that came with every PC -- front-to-back, in one sitting. The MS-DOS manual and the GW-BASIC manual. (This was not a particularly impressive feat, as those were quick reads). Wrote my first (super-simple) programs in BASIC -- but I was hooked. I had found my calling.
So, even though I had planned to go back to India to finissh my engineering undergrad degree, instead I stayed in the U.S. and enrolled in their computer science program at Purdue. I would ultimately finish my computer science degree at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.
Oh, and I worked with a LOT of programming languages and development platforms over the years. DBase IV, Framework, TurboPascal (which was awesome), Easel, ColdFusion, COBOL, C, C++ and C# -- and eventually, the languages I use mostly today: Python and PHP.
But, fact is, if it hadn't been that random exposure to computers and access to the BASIC language, I may have never been a programmer. If I hadn't been a programmer, I likely would never have started a software business. Never started a second software business. And never started the company I'm working on now (HubSpot), which has grown to 800 people and is doing pretty well.
So, Happy Birthday BASIC, and Thanks!