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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

CLOUDBASIC opens computing paradigm to students, Mindy

DARTMOUTH, N.H., APRIL 1 — Hearkening back to the earliest days of computing education, a team of computer scientists have developed a special programming language to help students learn how to create mashups in the cloud. The language, CLOUDBASIC, was unveiled at Dartmouth College, home of the original version of BASIC.

“It’s been 47 years since John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz showed off Dartmouth BASIC,” said Sara dePragma, a graduate student involved with the programming initiative as part of her Masters in Computer Education. “Heck, I wasn’t even born then. Come to think of it, neither were my parents. Sheesh!”

According to dePragma, the eight design principles of CLOUDBASIC are:

1. Be so easy that total losers like her roommate Mindy could use it.
2. Be a general-purpose programming language suitable to use as both a dessert topping and a floor wax.
3. Allow advanced features to be added for experts (which, duh, would make the language unusable by Mindy).
4. Be interactive using things called “dialog boxes.”
5. Provide clear and friendly error messages when a rogue program brings down the entire cloud environment.
6. Respond quickly for small programs, such as “Hello, Cloud.”
7. Not to require an understanding of the cloud’s hardware, unless the server is using an AMD processor.
8. Shield the user from the cloud, because the cloud is very big and ethereal.

Prof. Angus McMushroom, dePragma’s advisor, was quick to point out that the use of the GOTO statement within CLOUDBASIC was not his idea. “It’s not my idea,” he insisted. “I just know that nothing good’s going to come of it. I can just imagine that Ed Dijkstra’s turning in his grave. Just don’t blame me, okay?”

At the Dartmouth announcement, representatives of major cloud and industry players were present to pledge their support for the language:

• Microsoft released the first Community Technology Preview of CloudBasic#.NET for Windows Azure and the unannounced Visual Studio Team System Cloud Edition 2012.

• Sun announced that the Java Community Process would begin a JSR to develop with a language that’s similar to CloudBasic#.NET, except incompatible in a few subtle ways, and which would be implemented in NetBeans.

• The Eclipse Foundation is trying hard to come up with an acronym for their own CLOUDBASIC project, which it says will have OSGi extensions that will render it subtly incompatible with what Microsoft and Sun are doing.

• Apple has released iCLOUDBASIC, available in the iTunes App Store as a US$0.99 download.

• Google showed off the public beta of Google CLOUDBASIC Web Services, which are expected to remain in public beta for the next 20 years.

• invited SD Times readers to purchase the Kindle version of “CLOUDBASIC for Total Losers Like Mindy” at a 25% discount. Use the code MINDYISALOSER at checkout.

• The Free Software Foundation released an angry statement warning that it and the Software Freedom Law Center will sue any organization that doesn’t refer to the language as either GNU/CLOUDBASIC or as gcb.

“I’m so delighted to see everyone adopting CLOUDBASIC,” said Dartmouth’s dePragma. “Now, who’s up for helping me design its debugger for my Ph.D. dissertation? Mindy?”

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