'Just like we speak and understand English or Spanish or French, computers can understand programs written in certain languages. These are called programming languages. In the beginning there were just a few programming languages and they were really easy to learn and comprehend. But as computers and software became more and more sophisticated, programming languages evolved fast, gathering more complex concepts along the way.'
This is were Microsoft Small Basic comes in. Small Basic is a programming language that is designed to make programming easy, approachable and fun for beginners. Here is how to get started.
Get going with Small Basic.
The Small Basic install file can be downloaded from http://SmallBasic.com. You need to have a personal computer running Windows XP or higher operating system. Additionally the .Net Framework 3.5 will be installed during installation if necessary. Small Basic is free.
Once you have downloaded the 'SmallBasic.MSI' installer file just run it to install Small Basic. You will need to accept the license agreement to successfully complete the installation.
Small Basic will appear as an application on your Windows programs menu with the 'Introducing Small Basic' guide. The guide is an excellent resource for teaching programming. Watch the video below to get the idea, then work through the guide exercises.
Windows Vista's All Programs menu illustrated.
Selecting Microsoft Small Basic will start the programming tool.
You are now ready to start programming! Try typing this short program into the white editor window:
Now press the blue 'Run' arrow or press the F5 key.
The result of your program will be displayed in a small 'command window'. It will say Hello World and then ask you to press any key to continue. Pressing a key takes you back to your program editor. Well done! You have created your first computer program. It really isn't that hard is it?
While typing in your line of code, you may have noticed the dynamic little help window and the detailed command help window appear. The command help window tells you want the command will do, and the little help window tells you what commands you can use at that point of the program. This is called 'Intellisense' - the computer is helping you write your program! Once the little help window appears you can use the up and down arrows to find the command you need and then press the Return key to select it. You don't even have to type all the commands!
Now try adding one more bit to your program. Add this line of code to the start of your program:
TextWindow.ForeGroundColor = "Yellow"
So your complete program should now look like this:
TextWindow.ForeGroundColor = "Yellow"
Press the blue arrow again, or F5, to run your application. You should see the same as before but in yellow!
To learn more programming watch this little video. Pause it frequently so you can copy the program code into your own program editor window. You can watch the video full screen by double clicking the video window when playing. You will need Microsoft SilverLight to watch the video - this is free to use.
You can also follow along and learn a lot more by working through this 'Small Basic Introduction to Programming' (Note this document should also be on your Start menu once you have installed Small Basic). This document is a full guide to programming with Small Basic. By the time you have finished working through it you will be able to write your own computer programs in Small Basic using advanced features to connect to the Internet and control your Windows computer!
There are some sample programs installed with Small Basic - look in the Samples directory.
Tetris - the popular game of falling blocks, all written in Small Basic - is available here.
Flickr - search for pictures on Flickr using tags and then set your favourite to be your computers Desktop background - is available here.
Other samples are published here