R.T.Russell Home Page

Chapter 1 - Introduction

If you want to learn programming, you've just made the right choice. BBC BASIC has a long and mature pedigree and is ideally suited if you are taking your first steps in making the computer do what you want, rather than what someone else thinks you want. Once you've mastered the fundamentals, the domain of this tutorial, BB4W will stay with you all the way. Unlike other dialects that seem to run out of steam after the basics, you can incorporate Windows controls and access the native Windows commands (known as the API) all with the same version.

There are two versions available: demo and full. The demo is restricted only in the size of the programs that you can write and its ability to create standalone executables. All the commands are available, giving you the chance to try absolutely everything. If and when you decide to purchase the full version, there's only one. No silver and gold versions or professional and enterprise - again one version does it all. The executables are small, fast and standalone without the baggage of other files that some require.

This tutorial assumes absolutely no prior knowledge of any programming language, but if you have dabbled before, it won't hurt. I must emphasize at the outset that its scope is purposely limited. It doesn't cover, for example, file handling or graphics. This is not because these subjects are difficult, but rather that the intention was to leave the reader with a thorough knowledge of the building blocks of all programs and know where to find pointers for the rest.

I am not going to tell you how to install BBC BASIC as this is straightforward enough. The only thing that is assumed is that you can open a simple text editor (e.g. Notepad), enter some text, use cut and paste, save it and re-open it later. If you can't do this, I suggest that you may not have had sufficient exposure to computers in general to benefit from learning to program at this moment. Go to the library, get yourself an introductory book and come back in a week.

Learning to program is an interactive experience. I have programmed in several languages over the years and bought several of those big thick books that cost £30+. They all have CDs in the back with all the examples ready to run. How does anyone learn? I always ignore the CDs and type listings in by hand. That way you make mistakes. This is an advantage. By making and correcting mistakes, you learn far more than by just glancing over some source code and then running a precompiled example. It takes a little bit longer, but is far more worthwhile.

Everything in here was written and tested on the 8k demo version, but most of the examples are only 10 - 20 lines long anyway, so improve your touch typing, it'll be worth it. Similarly, a lot of the listings don't have example outputs. This again is to encourage you to type this stuff in and get it running on your own. The other thing is, play with the examples, improve them, prod them and find out what happens if ... Once you get the bug (no pun intended) you'll not be able to leave this alone. Have fun.


Thanks to my family who still can't understand what makes someone who programs for a living come home and do it for a hobby too.

Thanks must also go to Richard Russell for having the foresight to carry on developing and improving a language that first saw the light of day over twenty years ago and also for making suggestions and improvements to this document.

Any comments and questions please contact me at nextstep61@yahoo.co.uk



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© Peter Nairn 2006