Jeff Pack, Brown University '99 (English 112, 1996)

One of the nifty things about the Apple II was that it came with BASIC hard-wired into the system; so when I got sick of playing games I could tinker around with programming of my own. I never did create anything much in BASIC; most of my "creations" were short little number-crunchers typed in in a single sitting, or programs from Family Computing meticulously transcribed (with more than a few "syntax errors" along the way).

What I gained from studying BASIC was more than just knowledge of a simplistic programming language; it introduced me to a programming paradigm ("divide and conquer") that had applications in the analog world as well as the digital. One creates a program (when writing in BASIC, anyway) line by line; each line is a single step in the execution of the program. Similarly, problems in math and science (and occasionally in the humanities, though less evident), are more easily tackled through a step-by-step process rather than the intuitive leap.

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