BBC BASIC

BBC BASIC and GCSE Related News

Teaching Materials

BBC BASIC is the programming language originally specified and adopted by the British Broadcasting Corporation for its groundbreaking Computer Literacy Project of the early 1980s.  It was designed to be simple enough to be used by a complete beginner yet powerful enough to cope with the demands of the very largest and most complex programs, and that remains true today.

During the intervening years BBC BASIC has been extended and ported onto at least seven different CPUs and more than thirty different platforms.  The main implementations currently available are BBC BASIC for Windows (for Microsoft Windows), Brandy BASIC (for Linux and MacOS) and ARM BASIC (for RISC OS and Raspberry Pi).

BBC BASIC is recommended by the OCR examining board, in particular in respect of its J275 Computing GCSE.  Unit A451 (Computer Systems and Programming) is stated as containing questions in “generic pseudocode that looks a lot like BBC BASIC, e.g. BBC BASIC for Windows”.

Useful Links:

BBC BASIC for Windows home page
Brandy BASIC home page
BBC BASIC ICT user group for teachers

An introduction to programming BBC BASIC

This structured online course by Peter Nairn is divided into 21 chapters, many of which include exercises (the answers to which are given in an appendix) and make use of cartoons to illustrate key programming concepts.   It covers topics such as variables, conditional execution, loops, arrays and structures.

Graphics and file-handling are notable by their absence, but these omissions do not detract from the consistently high quality presentation.  A PDF version is also available.

Baked ICT

This site by Nigel Ovens is a ‘work in progress’ so it would be unfair to judge it, but it looks very promising. It currently contains a set of BBC BASIC programs aimed at KS3 students; there is little accompanying documentation other than a few in-line comments, but the code is largely self-explanatory.

Definitely worth watching to see how it develops.

KS3 Workbook

This new workbook by Lin White is based on her earlier version for Python.  It introduces the IDE and rudimentary programming concepts, such as simple calculations and loops, and as such appears to be intended for complete beginners.   Its style is quite similar to Peter Nairn’s tutorial, with plenty of illustrations and exercises, but it doesn’t attempt to cover as much ground.

This is a welcome addition to the resources available for BBC BASIC.

BBC Basic Programming

This web site by Richard Weston PhD is somewhat disorganised and difficult to navigate, but it contains 42 tutorials covering a wide range of programming topics including graphics and sound.  It uses a ‘teaching by example’ approach and many of the tutorials consist of little more than an annotated program listing.

My overall assessment is ‘could do better’ but there is nevertheless much to commend.  The site doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2005.

OCR Computing for GCSE

This paperback, available from Amazon, isn’t specific to BBC BASIC but its coverage of OCR’s Unit A453 (Programming Project) uses  BBC BASIC for Windows throughout for its code listings.  An example assignment, related to the calculation of Body Mass Index, is described in detail with the  various stages – Programming Techniques, Design, Development and Testing – discussed at length.

An invaluable resource for students doing this particular course.

BBC Basic programming course

This product from Paw Software isn’t an online resource but a CD-ROM (£24.99) containing over 50 Mbytes of information in more than 600 files.  The principal components are two eBooks (in Word format): Think Like a Programmer (170 pages) which covers the methodology of creating modular, efficient and logical code, and BBC Basic (119 pages) which is a tutorial-style programming course with illustrations and examples.   There is some overlap and cross-referencing between them.

The method of presentation is a little unusual but there is no doubting the enthusiasm of its author, Peter Watmough, and there is a wealth of information on the CD.

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