1) If you have a long list of items to add up on a calculator, and you find yourself interrupted for some reason, you lose your place and have to start again. To avoid errors, you either need a perfect memory or you have to write a list on paper. BBC BASIC, however, not only performs calculations, but can print out a record in both figures and text of the task in hand.
2) If you wish you can use brackets, as in algebra, to perform a series of interlinked calculations in one go.
As promised in the introduction, we will assume you are an absolute beginner in BBC BASIC and have never succeeded in doing anything with the blank screen showing the BASIC prompt. Perhaps you have tried, in the absence of a tutor, to use BASIC like a calculator, by typing in figures and linking them together with the signs for addition or subtraction. Nothing happens. Perhaps you have tried typing in letters from the keyboard, just like a typewriter, and have been even more discouraged to get the error message MISTAKE! Or perhaps, if you are a "restart" beginner, you once tried to teach yourself BBC BASIC from the BBC Micro User Manual, and found, in the absence of a tutor, that every program you tried to follow seemed to pre-suppose that you were at home with commands that you had never seen before! All of these are common problems which can be easily surmounted. What you need to appreciate at the outset is that there is a difference between cataloguing the material to be learnt and managing your personal learning strategies. Successful cataloguing follows on from successful understanding, and no definition needs to be learnt just for the sake of learning it.
Similarly, the BASIC keyword PRINT can send the result of a calculation to a number of hardware devices controlled by the computer: the screen, the printer or the disk drive. The default destination in BBC BASIC is the screen, not the printer, and extra commands are needed to send the answer to the printer or to save it to disc. So in practice the simple command PRINT means: "Print the results of my keyboard operation on screen." We can now put this into practice with arithmetic. Locate the instructions for accessing BBC BASIC on the web page, and don't forget to type *BYE when you want to quit.
PRINT 2+2 [Enter]
The answer is worked out and printed on the screen. Realists will at this point object that no sane person on Earth needs to know how to work out the sum of two and two. True. But there are millions of people who do indeed need to make a breakthrough in computer programming, by appreciating that success follows on from seeing not only that the numerical operation 2+2 can be represented by the single figure 4, but that this single figure can be assigned to a letter such as A, that algebraic operations can be performed on this letter by the computer, and the numerical result delivered automatically.
However, we shall come to algebra when we have finished with simple arithmetic. To take the next step, type in a whole row of figures to add together. Start your row with the command PRINT, join your figures with the plus sign, and finish by pressing the [Enter] key.
The genie of the lamp produces the answer - but so does a pocket calculator. So what is the advantage of a computer? The initial answer is that BBC BASIC gives greater security in adding up a long list. The computer displays a memo of what you are doing as you go along and saves you the added task of making jottings. Now let's put this new knowledge into practice with some real-life accounting.
|PREVIOUS STATEMENT BALANCE
|S-ORDER TO SUPERSOFT SOFTWARE
|DIRECT DEBIT TO PURPLE PAGES
|BANK CREDIT BOOMTOWN 7 A/C
On your statement, pencil in the additional cheques you have drawn since the statement was issued, as well as standing orders and direct debits due on the calendar. Then pencil in additional credits such as cheques you have paid in, or your salary if you have received the usual slip from your employer. At a later stage you will learn how to simulate a bank statement, but for the moment let us simply use BBC BASIC as a combination of calculator and jotter.
REM CREDITS [Enter]
Now type PRINT, followed by all the credits you have pencilled into your statement since the last entry. Use the + arithmetic operator between each keyboard entry. Don't forget to press [Enter] at the end of your row of entries. This will total your credits and you can then check each entry for accuracy. Do the same with your debits (typing in REM DEBITS at the start) to add up the total. Working out the final balance is a simple matter of subtracting the sum of the debits from the existing balance, and adding the sum of the credits. The combination of REMarks and figures on screen should ensure that you don't make a mistake.
In the course of Unit 1 you will learn how to write a program so that the computer can carry out a series of calculations in separate stages. But by using BASIC in calculator mode, with jottings entered after the keyword REM, an enormous amount of rapid and accurate work can be done with figures without any need for programming.
PRINT 567*567 [Enter]
PRINT 999/9 [Enter]
You no doubt remember that in order to arrive at x, you have to add a and b, then divide c by d, then subtract the answer in the second set of brackets from the answer in the first. The use of BASIC as a machine for handling letters as algebraic symbols will be considered later. For the moment we want to examine the question of brackets purely for arithmetic in BASIC. There are two points to make:
1) Although the above operation will work successfully as shown, using the brackets given, it is a point of interest to note that BBC BASIC adheres to the normal rules of arithmetic, and does not technically need the brackets shown in the example above. To illustrate this, carry out the calculation below, first on a pocket calculator, then using BBC BASIC:
9/5-6*7If you find this confusing, don't worry: the author also found it a hard nut to crack at first. So a word needs to be said here about the successful management of learning strategies. The student of BBC BASIC needs to distinguish between essential and optional routines. Programming can be laborious when it gets complicated, and so short cuts save time and effort in the long term. However, if in the immediate term a short cut requires tricky technical definitions which complicate matters for you as a beginner, then it can be shelved for now and then re-examined at a later stage. The technical definitions are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. So if you clearly understand how the omission of brackets works, and feel confident about leaving them aside, then go ahead. If you can't quite see how it works, you can be assured that the conventional use of brackets in both arithmetic and algebra will work in BBC BASIC.
If you divide 9 by 5 on the calculator, it gives you 1.8.
Subtract 6 from 1.8 and you get -4.2
Multiply -4.2 by 7 and you get -29.4
However, now type the following into BBC BASIC
it returns an answer of -40.2, the same answer that you will get if you use brackets, as follows:
To find a square root, use the abbreviation SQR, as in the following example:
PRINT SQR 16 [Enter]
To those who are familiar with geometry, this evidently promises to be useful in calculations involving Pythagoras' theorem. Later in this tutor, you will learn how to use BBC BASIC to produce both geometrical diagrams and technical drawings.
If you are a restart beginner, and have been foxed up to now by the use of letters to represent variables in BBC BASIC, then here is a useful piece of advice written sixty years ago by John Davidson in Teach Yourself Mathematics: "...if the student makes up his mind to see in algebraical operations only arithmetical processes generalised, he ought to find little difficulty"(p.19). Applied to BBC BASIC, that means that the computer will work out any unknowns in algebra, provided you key in the known figures at the outset, and you state what arithmetical functions have to be performed between the known figures and the unknown figures.
Nothing will be achieved by typing in an algebraic formula at the outset, such as the following:
When you as a human being write such a formula, you know from experience that you can work out the value of x once you have assigned values to the other letters. But that experience is stored knowledge, whereas nothing is stored by the computer in BBC BASIC, in terms of values, until you key them in, or "assign" them, by means of the equals sign. This sign is a command, which can be summed up as follows: "Note the figure displayed on the right of the equals sign, and store it in the letter(s) on the left of the sign, when I press [Enter]." Any calculations which are performed on this letter will then be performed on the numeric value which it represents. This value can be updated at any time by typing in a new value. Because it can be updated at any time, the letter itself is called a variable, and because it represents a number it is called a numeric variable. Once you have grasped this fact, it is equivalent in programming to learning to keep your balance on a bicycle!
We have to tell the computer what one packet costs. Type the following:
LET EGGS=50 [Enter]
Here we have assigned a value to a word. As soon as we press the [Enter] key, the computer stores the value. This is called an ASSIGNMENT STATEMENT. (We will assume that by now you have made a habit of pressing the [Enter] key after a keyboard statement or command, and from now on it will be omitted in the text! ) To check that the value has been committed to memory, tell the computer to print it out, as follows:
The computer returns (on screen) the figure we have assigned to the word EGGS. Suppose we want two packets of eggs. We can instruct the computer to add 50 and 50 or multiply 50 by 2, using EGGS as the code-word for 50. Try it, using the PRINT command to mean "calculate and print on the screen", as follows:
In each case, the answer is given as 100. We know it is 100p, and that 100p=£1.00, but the computer has simply added 50 and 50. How do we get it to convert pence to pounds? In the long run we can use the command IF, followed by the command THEN, to deal with ifs and buts. But for the moment we shall learn how to get the computer to carry out two commands in sequence: to multiply the cost of a packet of eggs by the number of packets we want, then to convert the sum from pence into pounds. Logically enough, a sequence of two or more commands is called a program. Hence the origin of the word!
BBC BASIC requires the steps in a program to be numbered. Not all programming languages do - but the real beginner is helped by numbering statements, because it makes it easier to edit anything that goes wrong. For editing purposes also we number our lines in steps of 10: line one is 10, line two 20, and so on. The reason for this is that if you need to put finer detail into a program when you're revising it, you can add lines in between each step of 10. Now let's get back to our program.
10 LET E=70
20 PRINT E
This two-line program is a program, however short. The combination of the BASIC keyword LET and the equals sign stores the value of 70 in the letter E. To get the computer to execute the program we enter the BASIC keyword RUN. Sure enough, the figure we have entered for E is displayed on the screen. Now let's make the computer earn its keep by doing some computing. We want two packets of eggs. What do they cost? Type the following:
10 LET E=70
20 PRINT 2*E
We are told that the total cost is 140p. The computer cannot be expected to know that 140p=£1.40, but we can instruct it to convert the total pence into pounds as part of the program. Here we have a new variable called "total", which we shall abbreviate to T. So we now give the computer four instructions in sequence:
1) to store to memory the statement that one packet of eggs costs 70 p
2) to multiply the cost by two
3) to divide the total by 100 to give the cost in pounds and pence as a decimal fraction. (The pound sign can give problems, so we shall use the abbreviation GBP for sterling.)
4) to print out the total on screen.
Now that we are familiar with the assignment statement, we can note in passing that the BASIC keyword LET can be dropped. Type in the following program and RUN it:
40 PRINT GBP
To consolidate this, let us assume a range of three prices, from small eggs to extra large, @ 70p, 80p and 99p respectively. Type in the following assignment statements and PRINT commands:
10 INPUT E
40 PRINT GBP
The obvious drawback of entering the price of the eggs in pence is that we have to divide by 100 to convert into pounds. To avoid this, we will henceforth enter all pence values as decimal fractions of a pound.
Suppose we're doing the weekly shop, and we want small eggs for baking, medium eggs for omelettes and large eggs to boil. We want two packets of small, two of medium and three of large. How do we do it?
Type the following opening line:
5 REM S=SMALL EGGS: M=MEDIUM EGGS: L=LARGE EGGS
We are now ready to calculate the cost of our eggs before we shop. Let's assume that half a dozen small eggs cost 70p, medium cost 80p and large cost 99p, and we want three packets of each. Even without starting our program, it's obvious that multiplying prices in pence will give a large total of pence, so we will enter each price as a decimal fraction of a pound.
5 REM S=SMALL EGGS : M=MEDIUM EGGS: L=LARGE EGGS
50 PRINT T
10 REM EGGS
20 REM S=SMALL:M=MEDIUM:L=LARGE
30 INPUT S
40 INPUT M
50 INPUT L
70 PRINT T
When you RUN this program , the computer will present you on screen with three question marks, one after the other. You choose and then type in (i.e. INPUT) the figures (nothing else) for the separate values of a packet of small eggs, a packet of medium eggs and a packet of large eggs, in response to each of the question marks. Once you ENTER the final figure, the computer then returns the total cost in pounds and pence. Thus if you choose £0.50 for a packet of small, £0.60 for a packet of medium and £0.70 for a packet of large, your total cost comes to GBP 5.40.
The question might arise at this point why three different sizes of the same article can't be grouped under a single heading. This can in fact be done in the form of an Array, where E stands for eggs, and the three different sizes appear as E(1), E(2) and E(3). However, in order to take full advantage of this, we need to construct a program which goes round in numbered circles - doing a differentiated task each time round - and that will require a separate chapter. For the moment we can simply note the possibility of grouping like variables in sets - a facility to be elaborated later - so as to achieve the true economy of effort of which BBC BASIC is capable.
This has often been confusing for beginners, but the key to getting it clear lies in the fact that the name of the variable, whether E or eggs, can have a numeric value assigned to it by means of the equals sign: the computer reads that letter as a token for a specific agreed number. When we start using text, however, we have to type in a command which changes the role of the keyboard. Once the command is issued, every key on the keyboard sends a code to the processor, which produces the letter represented by the key code on screen. In other words, it types it. That seems common sense enough, but it is a different deal from representing numbers.
The programming switch which changes over this function of representation, from numbers to text, is a "two-pole" switch: the variable name is followed by the dollar sign, and the text itself is enclosed in inverted commas, as follows:
10 N$= "Ebenezer Scrooge"
20 PRINT N$
As soon as you RUN this program, it prints out the name Ebenezer Scrooge. Try it several times, substituting a different name for Dickens' celebrated character. From this it becomes clear that N$ is a variable, and because it represents a string of characters rather than a number, we call it a "string variable".
10 REM EGGS
20 REM S=SMALL: M=MEDIUM:L=LARGE
30 L$= "Large eggs"
40 M$=" Medium eggs"
50 S$= " Small eggs"
60 PRINT S$
70 INPUT S
80 PRINT M$
90 INPUT M
100 PRINT L$
110 INPUT L
200 PRINT "The total cost is GBP";T
When you RUN this program, you will find that instead of being presented with three disembodied question marks for the INPUT, each question is labelled according to the size of the eggs. From this the obvious conclusion can be drawn that we have here, in outline, the beginnings of the dialogue box, which constitutes such a familiar feature of commercial software. In the next Unit we will enhance it with graphics and colour.
To draw together the threads of text and numbers under the PRINT keyword, we will reproduce a section of a supermarket till receipt. This is what language teachers call an "authentic text" - i.e. a text drawn from real life, for the purpose of obtaining and giving information, rather than a text that has been invented for the purpose of illustrating a grammatical principle - although the latter does sometimes have its uses!
|1.770 kg @ £ 1.08 /kg
|0.640 kg @ £ 1.08 /kg
|0.650 kg @ £ 0.36 /kg
10 PRINTTAB(7) "BANANAS"
We then need to add the price, separated from the text. There is no need to add spaces, since BBC BASIC will print the figures flushed right. So type the following:
10 PRINTTAB(7) "BANANAS"0.79
To familiarise yourself with this you can print the remainder of the items from the receipt in this way. We have now completed the lesson material of Unit 1. Before going on, it needs plenty of practice in the form of assignments, where the routines studied here can be repeated and adapted and thereby learnt from memory.
Let's assume a family of four on a modest income. You might want, say, a 5kg turkey, four packs of mince pies, a pudding for Christmas and one for New Year, 1kg of parsnips, 500g of sprouts, two bottles of sherry, half a dozen bottles of hock and two bottles of port. All the items in the list begin with a different letter, so you can name each numeric variable by the first letter, e.g.T=2.89. Once the values are assigned, you can find the total by adding together the numeric variable letters. To print out the bill on screen, you will need to assign the name of each article as a string variable name, e.g. T$= "Turkey"
By chance, your college has just had a new central heating system installed, and the Principal has arranged with the Bursar to let the students use the surplus copper piping for project work. To save the situation you decide to make a sculpture out of 22 millimetre (internal diameter) copper piping, and to decant the cider into the sculpture to hide it. Write a program to work out what length of piping you will need. (The formula for the area of a circle in BASIC is PI*(R^2), where R is the radius. BBC BASIC automatically supplies the value of PI. You will naturally find the radius by halving the diameter of the cross-section of the piping.) In geometrical terms, the internal volume of the required piping will effectively be a cylinder, where the area of the cross-section is multiplied by the length. Since you know from the quantity of cider what the internal volume has to be, you can work out the overall length of piping you will need with the help of the formula.