Best beginner’s programming language: an aside to Alec Muffett’s Dropsafe posting.

A week ago Alec Muffett posed a question as to what the best beginners’ programming language would be on his blog. He suggested that BASIC was a no-hoper as there are no good, freely distributable BASIC languages available, especially if you want a full procedural form.

Well, I think I’ve just found a possible answer to that problem. Admittedly, it’s a bit more than a pure language, it’s more of an interpreter running under a virtual machine. It’s freely distributable source, or at least the virtual machine is.

So, what is this wonderful thing?

It’s the UQLX Sinclair QL emulator which includes the excellent Sinclair SuperBASIC interpreter. Not only this but it’s been extended to add TCP/IP support, direct access to the UNIX filesystem and displayless scripting. And, of course, people can always download and run QL software or use it as a Motorola 680×0 development system with a downloaded assembler.

I freely admit that this is not at all an object oriented programming language which Alec thinks people should start with. Then again, OOP programming languages aren’t the most appropriate language type for all things, especially if you’re prototyping certain scientific problems where program structure is less important than the thought process when developing a technique. (However, it seems like a GoodIdea™ for big programming projects and those where structure is very important.)

I would be interested in any comments people might have with my opinions, be it with UQLX or programming languages in general.

And so, yet again it’s the last day of my holiday. There’s the drive back to come tomorrow.

I made the decision this morning that I’ll start the process of moving my old computers from here and up to Oxford. It should help my parents clear out their loft a little. As this first step I’m taking back my ZX81, ZX Spectrum, QL and Atari STM (plus floppy drive and software) tomorrow. That will leave behind the Atari TT, Memotech MTX500, BBC B plus various disk drives, dot matrix printer and a couple of monitors. I think that’s all of them. I’ve still yet to find the ZX Interface 1 even though I’ve found the Kempston joystick interface and the ZX Microdrive and cartridges.

I did test the ST this afternoon. A surprising number of the games floppy disks have stopped working. It seems to be mostly the newer games from Electrontic Arts such as Populous Ii and the two versions of Lemmings. The slightly older stuff such as Starglider and it sequel work fine as does the original Populous. Maybe the newer stuff was written on substandard media.

What did surprise me was how slow, jerky and primitive the games now seem. I’m sure they didn’t seem that way when I first got them. 🙂 Memory’s a wonderful thing.

Anyway, I’ve mostly packed. Just a few more things to put away in the morning before putting it in the car.

Woke up and got up very late. Tried and failed to get further on MoH:Spearhead then watched LotR:RotK extended edition. That was pretty much all of the day’s events.