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Happy Birthday BASIC, Thanks For Making Me Possible

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on May 7, 2014 1 Comment

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.basic-screen

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!