Published: November 1, 1989
ISBN: 978-1556152405
Publisher: Microsoft Press
Length: 490 pages

Learn BASIC Now

By Michael Halvorson and David Rygmyr

Foreword by Bill Gates

An innovative learning system that introduced BASIC to a generation of programmers.

In 1985, Microsoft introduced QuickBASIC, a “modernized” version of the BASIC programming language for IBM PCs and compatibles. QuickBASIC (QB) had new language features and an innovative integrated development environment (IDE), which allowed students, hobbyists, and professional programmers to create programs quickly and inexpensively for DOS-based systems. Bolstered by new versions of QB, which arrived about every 18 months, the installed base of structured BASIC programmers soon hit four million users in the U.S.

Contributing to the growth of this user base was Halvorson and Rygmyr’s Learn BASIC Now, a bestselling programming tutorial published by Microsoft Press. The programming primer was released in IBM PC and Macintosh versions in 1989 and 1990, respectively. Both books included an interpreted version of QB on disk so that readers could experiment with the enhanced (or “structured” language) and use it to build their own programs.

The story of how Learn BASIC Now came to be is recounted in Chapter 5 of Code Nation. The title is a play on Ted Nelson’s 1974 mandate, “You can and must understand computers NOW!”

The PC version of Learn BASIC Now sold 100,000 copies in the first 10 months, and it was included in several Microsoft products, including Microsoft Game Shop: Games and the QBasic Learning Environment (1990). The book received numerous positive reviews and notices. In 1990, the Computer Press awarded Learn BASIC Now its runner-up prize for “Best How-to Computer Book” published in the previous year.


“Learn BASIC Now offers an easy entry into the fun and challenge of programming on your computer.”  -Bill Gates (Foreword to Learn BASIC Now)

“For anyone who wants to learn something about programming, it would be hard to find an easier or more cost-effective source than Learn BASIC Now.”  -R. L. Shannon, The New York Times

“There is a new book from Microsoft Press called Learn BASIC Now. The book was written by Michael Halvorson and David Rygmyr and is the best beginner’s level book I have seen.”  -Jim Pile, Contributing Editor, Personal Computer Magazine

“If you’ve got a job to do, BASIC remains one of your best choices, and this book takes the sting out of learning it. I only wish I’d had an intro half this good when I started programming.”  -Jerry Pournelle, Columnist and author

“This book and disk package is all you need to begin using the QuickBASIC interpreter.”  -Robert Albrecht, More DragonTown Library (The BASIC Teacher)

“For hobbyists, this is an unbeatable hands-on introduction to computer programming.”  -Computer Book Review

Products mentioned:
Learn BASIC Now, by Michael Halvorson and David Rygmyr, Foreword by Bill Gates (Microsoft Press, 1989). ISBN-13: 978-1556152405. 490 pages.

Learn BASIC for the Apple Macintosh Now, by Michael Halvorson and David Rygmyr, Foreword by Jerry Pournelle (Microsoft Press, 1990). ISBN-13: 978-1556153143. 479 pages.

Running MS-DOS QBasic, by Michael Halvorson and David Rygmyr (Microsoft Press, 1991). ISBN-13: 978-1556153402. 496 pages.

Microsoft Game Shop: Games and the QBasic Learning Environment (software package). Microsoft Corporation, 1990.

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