Microsoft makes interpreter source code from 1983 open source

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Basic. (Photo: TypoArt BS / Shutterstock)

May 24, 2020, 9:28 pm
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Microsoft has made the source code of the interpreter available for its programming language Basic, GW-Basic, at Github. The files date from February 1983 – and are of historical value.

In autumn 2018, Microsoft released the source code of its over 30-year-old operating system MS-Dos in versions 1.25 and 2.0 on Github. As part of the Build 2020 developer conference, the software giant is now taking the step for its Basic programming language. The source code of the interpreter GW-Basic is now available in an open source version on Github, as Microsoft reports.

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GW-Basic: Interesting for historical reasons

These are the 8088 assembly language source files dated February 10, 1983. Incidentally, the MS-Dos version 2.0 mentioned above also dates from 1983. The fact that Microsoft GW-Basic has now made Open Source is rather interesting for historical and scientific reasons. Microsoft will therefore not allow the source code to be modified, as the software giant lets it know.

For this reason, there is only read access on Github. The GW-Basic source code is also published there completely in the machine-related language (.asm). According to Microsoft, the reason that the developers didn’t use programming languages ​​such as C or Pascal is that they wanted to save space, as was customary in the 1970s and 80s. This was the only way to fit the programmed applications on the available space on the early computers.

Apple II and Commodore 64 rely on Basic

Basic (Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code), whose interpreter is GW-Basic, was developed by Microsoft from IBM’s Basica. In the early 1980s, the programming language was used on practically all home computers – including the Apple II or the Commodore 64. Basic was considered to be easy to learn and to use universally.

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