Programming Windows: Hello, Microsoft Basic (Premium)

In researching the history of Microsoft Basic, I realized I had forgotten something: We need to look at hello, world in Microsoft Basic too!

This one will be quick.

As you’ll soon learn in the next article in this series, while Microsoft is most closely identified by its Redmond, Washington campus and the market dominance of Windows today, it started more humbly in a strip mall office in a rundown part of Albuquerque, New Mexico in which it created and sold its first version of the BASIC programming language and interpreter, called Altair BASIC.

From there, the firm supplied Microsoft BASIC, and a growing collection of other programming languages and environments, to virtually every 8-bit and then 16-bit personal computer that arrived in the late 1970s and 1980s. Among them was my first interaction with Microsoft BASIC, more specifically Microsoft 6502 BASIC, via the Commodore 64. Where it was called Commodore BASIC.

Like some other early personal computers, the Commodore 64 offered users access to its BASIC interpreter right from its boot-up screen. So, you could enter individual BASIC commands directly and have them be interpreted on the fly. Or, you could even type in a BASIC program, complete with line numbers, and then execute the program directly. Like so.

Eventually, IBM came calling, looking to Microsoft for BASIC and other languages for its first personal computer, called the IBM PC. Microsoft was happy to oblige, but when Digital Research refused to sign an IBM non-disclosure agreement that would have made its CP/M-86 the default operating system on the PC, Microsoft was again happy to oblige: It bought a CP/M-86-like product called QDOS and renamed it to MS-DOS. (Which IBM called PC-DOS and bundled with its PCs; I’ll get into that history more later.) MS-DOS, of course, shipped with a copy of Microsoft BASIC too.

Microsoft’s BASIC evolved along with the PC and was rebranded, in turn, as BASICA, GW-BASIC (for “gee whiz”), and then QBasic (for “quick”; Microsoft also sold a commercial version of QBasic called QuickBasic that could compile Basic code into standalone executable programs.) QBasic is what shipped with MS-DOS 6.22, the last standalone, retail version of DOS. Which you can easily run in a virtual environment today.

And that means that you can also run QBasic today too, just like it’s 1991 again.

It works exactly as you’d expect, and for purposes of hello, world, exactly like the 1980-era Commodore BASIC. QBasic is, of course, far more sophisticated, with its DOS-based editor environment. But the code is exactly the same.
10 PRINT "Hello, QBasic!"
20 END

The output, too, is exactly the same.


Next up: A more complete history of Microsoft Basic

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