BASIC is a family of general-purpose, high-level programming languages whose design philosophy emphasizes ease of use.

John G. Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz designed the original BASIC language at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire in 1964. They wanted to enable students in fields other than science and mathematics to use computers and at the time, nearly all use of computers required writing custom software, which was something only scientists and mathematicians tended to learn.

Versions of BASIC became widespread on microcomputers in the mid-1970s and 1980s. Microcomputers usually shipped with BASIC, often in the machine's firmware. Having an easy-to-learn language on these early personal computers allowed small business owners, professionals, hobbyists, and consultants to develop custom software on computers they could afford.

Knowledge of the relatively simple BASIC became widespread for a computer language, and it was implemented by a number of manufacturers, becoming fairly popular on newer minicomputers such as the DEC PDP series and the Data General Nova. The BASIC language was also central to the HP Time-Shared BASIC system in the late 1960s and early 1970s, where the language was implemented as an interpreter. A version was a core part of the Pick operating system from 1973 onward, where a compiler renders it into byte code, able to be interpreted by a virtual machine.

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