JavaScript is the new Basic

JavaScript Book

BASIC, you either love it or hate it. For a lot of developers, it was their first dip into programming. Others will quickly explode into all the bad habits BASIC taught and promoted. But it wasn’t about being a good language, but enabling non-programmers to get a taste making a computer listen to you (or at least trying to).

These days, finding the BASIC environment is no longer obvious for most operating systems, and the relationship between casually user and the OS is also less obvious. Today, a lot of users boot up just to log on. Much of what people run today runs in a web browser, and web browsers ship with a lingua franca themselves: JavaScript.

Back in 1998, when I was trying to convince our CTO that JavaScript could improve our products, she told me it was just a fad. She went on to work at Enron. The fact that JavaScript survived the browser wars and even its inventor, Netscape, tells you that it lives by popular necessity. If you need code that will do something, and you need it to run most anywhere, and you can’t stomach another plugin; JavaScript.

I am not going to say that it is the perfect language, but it has it’s place and I think that place is bigger than most people expect. It is the perfect interstitial language. It is the Web version of Perl. That is a strange compli-diss. The joke is: any developer that admits to loving Perl is really a Sysadmin trapped in a developer’s job. They are just waiting to re-route your IP tables and rotate some logs when you are not looking.

JavaScript is great in all those in-between places on the web. Just like how Perl get’s down to text files to automate between Unix processes, JavaScript is a lowest common denominator where most web technologies can meet.

If I had to teach a first year programming class, I would skip the BASIC and head for JavaScript. There is no shortage of free development environments, tools, and things to do with it. People speak breathlessly of Ruby or Python, but I can get a hello world in JavaScript up and running in 5 min with a text editor and a browser. It supports, in some form or another, most advanced programing ideas. It can be procedural or object oriented. I can learn about recursion, algorithms, data structure, etc. Or, I could just keep it simple and let people get used to the fact that they can make their browsers listen to them…give them a taste of coding.

It just seems everyone, especially in these heady, buzzword days of Web 2.0, is looking for the new, streamlined, shiny silver bullet. A new religion seems to start on the web every other week. Starting developers are tossed a suggestion list of precious stones on tracks to resurgences of LISP, but a quick search of dice.com will show you that JavaScript garners more hits that Ruby, Lisp, Perl, or Flash. (C# came is slightly ahead). So, not only is it a good language to introduce yourself to the idea of programing, you can even get a job with it. Try that with BASIC!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Keith says:

    Hello Script Kitty rules!

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