BASIC at 55

I recently found this post in my drafts and realized I had never published it. Five years later, here it is.

After I graduated Dartmouth College, I worked at the college for six years. Somewhere in that time, I was backing out of a parking space in downtown Hanover when I backed into a car I didn’t realize was right behind me. I got out and began apologizing. I saw an older man getting out of the car and I began looking for damage while continuing my litany of apologies. I could see no damage and the man was saying that everything was fine, no worries. Then I glanced at the license plate. It was a New Hampshire plate that read, simply, “BASIC” I looked at the man again and realized, in a moment of mortification, that I had just backed into John Kemeny’s car. Kemeny invented the programming language BASIC along with Thomas Kurtz (who I’d met as an undergraduate when he was part of a competition to design a futuristic technology, my roommate Serge and I invented something we dubbed, “The Internet” not knowing that The Internet  was an actual thing (we would within a year when Dartmouth connected to it)).

Kemeny assured me that everything was fine, gave me a genial smile, got back into his car and drove off. And that’s how I met John Kemeny.

BASIC turns 50 on May 1 [Like I said, this is a five year old post] and Dartmouth is planning a series of events to mark the occasion. BASIC was my own introduction to programming. I taught it to myself in high school on a friend’s Atari 400 and, later, my own Atari 800XL. My senior year of high school I wrote my own Mandelbrot Set generator. It took 24 hours to generate a single 384×192 picture (something my iPad can do in a fraction of a second today). As a freshman at Dartmouth College in 1986, I took my first Computer Science course using Real Basic, an update to BASIC. Soon afterwards I graduated to Pascal, 68000 assembly, and, ultimately, C. But it was BASIC that started it all. So, thank you Kemeny and Kurtz! And Happy Birthday BASIC!

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Pokémon

My daughter challenged me to write a blog post every day using a topic she chooses. And it’s been 4 days since my last one. But I got busy, OK?

I got into Pokémon a bit late in the game. Well, by the standard of now, not that late. The first game I played was Pokémon Pearl, a fourth generation game, set in the Sinnoh region. I started with a chimchar named Monty. The whole reason I started playing was because Marci was playing. She got her start with Emerald, a 3rd gen game on GameBoy Advance. In fact, that’s how she learned to read! But when Diamond and Pearl came out, they allowed for wireless interactions with others and she really wanted to play with me. So I got a DS and Pearl and we had a blast.

Over the years, we’ve continued to buy complementary games. Next it was Heart Gold (Marcy) and Soul Silver (me), Marci then did Platinum and I saw that round out, and then Black (Marci) and White (me). Marci got Black 2 but I skipped that one. Next came X (me) and Y (Marci), then Omega Ruby (me) and Alpha Sapphire (Marci), then Sun (Marci) and Moon (me), and then Ultra Sun (me) and Ultra Moon (Marci). With Let’s Go Eevee! I stopped. Mainly because I do not have a Switch and can’t really justify getting one for a single game. I may get on this fall when the 8th gen games Sword and Shield come out.

Out of all of them, Pearl and X are the only ones I finished (and I only finished X last year). I go through phases now where I play a lot and then I got through long stretches of not playing. For the last year and a half, I’ve mostly played Pokémon Go, and even that sporadically. I was to finish Moon and Ultra Sun and Marci tells me that of all the games, Black/White have the best story so I may have to circle back to White, if I can stand playing a game that many generations back from what I am used to graphically with Ultra Sun.

We’ve also played the card game over the years but only after we’d started playing Magic: The Gathering so it was a bit simplistic for us when we circled back around to it. It’s not a bad game and it does have some fun nuances to it, but it is hardly anywhere near as deep or strategic as Magic is. Of course, it’s also marketed to a younger audience. And there’s a not-bad Mac/iPad app for playing the card game that is fun to pull out ever once in a while.

For me, though, it’s not the cute characters, the apparently open world (that’s really railroaded until you complete much of the game), or the depth of the game play that makes Pokémon so special to me. It’s that it is something I bonded with Marci over for all these years. And it was the first thing that she knew more about than I did so I got to learn from her and she got to teach the old man some new tricks. I will always cherish those times and love that we can still geek out over upcoming game announcements and learning what we can about the impending Gen 8 release. And, this fall, we’ll get to play together again (either with me on my own Switch or by taking turns with hers). And I can’t wait!

The 8 Generation Starting Pokémon for Sword and Shield.