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    Love that Alsup is a self-taught QBasic hobbyist – discovering qbasic.exe sitting around on my harddrive is how I got my start as well. With qbasic gone from modern machines, what’s filling this role? Javascript? Ugh.

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      I question your assumption that Javascript in the browser is a worse language for a beginner to start playing around with programming with than QBasic was. I agree that Javascript has a lot of design warts and awkward corner cases, and that it was a relatively poor choice to become the ubiquitous scripting language of the web. But at the end of the day Javascript is a powerful and modern programming language that you can build pretty sophisticated software with. More powerful than QBasic was for sure. And having the modern web browser as a platform means a beginner has immediate access to all sorts of cool technologies (3d graphics, network requests, the web itself, etc.) that would’ve blown the minds of kids raised on QBasic.

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        Well, real-talk for a moment: what’s the bare minimum I need to know in JavaScript to draw a simple picture? Without using a library or P5.js or something. Contrast that to QBasic.

        I think the most important feature for a beginner is speed of feedback. I should be able to write a line of code, and see an immediate result. A beginner doesn’t care about 3d graphics, network requests, DOM structure, hyperlinks, etc. They don’t yet know enough to know why those things are valuable (or not), or if they do (like 3d graphics), they’re not ready to integrate them into an application yet. Hell, they’re not ready to have an application yet!

        QBasic, with no libraries and minimal knowledge, allowed a budding programmer to produce simple-but-interesting programs with a small amount of code, with visual (and audio! don’t forget the PC speaker!) feedback. Don’t forget the value of that kind of simplicity.

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          It’s much more powerful, but try to forget absolutely everything you know about software for a sec and think about what you have to know to write a simple graphical program from scratch.

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            I agree with all of this except that JavaScript is more powerful than QBasic. The “power” of a language is a vague notion which people have conflicting ideas about what it means, and I personally think that’s not the interesting point anyway. I agree with you that JavaScript is an excellent language for beginners.

            As remy_porter noted, speed of feedback is really important for learning. Both languages provide this, and I think for Judge Alsup’s purposes they’re quite similar. I would always recommend JavaScript over QBasic to a young person whose goal was to go on to a career in software development, but that has to do with the technologies it integrates with being more contemporary.

            Anything the judge learns is going to be out of date for the majority of his career, but that isn’t really a detriment given his goals. In particular since he probably expects to have to rule on more cases require understanding the comparative merits of different programming languages, I think it’s entirely appropriate that he’s going back in the timeline a bit. You really have to go back to earlier languages to understand what motivates modern ones.

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            QBasic here, too. Did VB6 later. Loved the fast startup of environment, fast compiles, English-like readability, and ability to compile-run-debug faster than friends using C. Helped me pick up programming quickly. VB6 similarly started and ran my code both in 1 second on a 400MHz machine. Could throw GUI’s together but learning to wrap Win32 for toy games was a pain. Among other things. That led me to study how the languages could be extended into 4GL’s that made common things effortless to express. Went from there. :)

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            Alsup is an old-school geek, and more of a ham radio geek than a coder really. Which is cool, certainly, but I get the sense that the people who wrote this article describe him as a “judge who codes” because can only really conceive of a geeky hobbyist relating to technology in the way that 2010s silicon valley web programmers do. They think that Alsup is, in some sense, the same sort of figure as a guy who works at Google today, when the way he actually relates to technology is actually rather different because the technology available to him in his youth was different than the technology available to the Google-employee-cohort.

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              I think you nailed it. He was probably using BASIC specifically because he wasn’t a coder geek. It’s one of easiest languages to pick up to have fun and solve problems without really committing fully to programming in its many forms. He was focusing on other things.

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              It’s a good article, but I almost stopped reading because of some polemical writing at the start. I started again, and did skim to the end, but the writer’s style, though toned down, kept that, in my opinion, unprofessional, tone throughout.

              The most blatant was:

              The belief that the law will never “catch up” to technology is borne in part of tech exceptionalism, a libertarian elitism that derides any kind of legal or regulatory impediment as Luddism.

              Again, does the writer know this for a fact? Could it not be better written “Counsel for many tech companies believe that the judiciary lacks key knowledge vital for understanding the core of many legal disputes between software and technology companies”. They could perhaps have then pondered on how the law through the ages has had to deal with specialist and new technologies and concepts, like the wheel, electricity, nuclear power, environmental poisoning, when does life start and stop and so on. But no, we had to have exactly those words there.

              Another was:

              By sheer coincidence, these major cases have wound up in the docket of maybe the one judge in America capable of understanding their technical details: a judge who can code.

              Ok, this not polemic, but it’s a strange statement. First, it’s probably not by coincidence - the plaintiffs perhaps maneuver to get the cases to this judge. Second, we probably don’t know this for sure, so why not say “Many major such cases have wound up in the docket of maybe the one judge in America capable of understanding their technical details: a judge who can code.” Again, this is reaching - there may be judges with less publicity who can code, but I can accept a certain amount of dramatic license.

              The rest of the article was similarly sprinkled with this kind of weird hero worship/bashing of things not Alsup. I guess it’s a style, but it could very well be written more professionally without having to be dry.

              Is this typical of the Verge?