Need Rec: Book to teach about computers and BASIC at an eight year old level

Liam Proven lproven at
Mon Jun 6 09:25:08 CDT 2016

On 27 May 2016 at 19:29, Ali <cctalk at> wrote:
> So somewhat OT - I've setup an 8 year old w/ an IBM PC XT w/ CGA. To say he
> is less than impressed is understating things :).

Honestly, not wishing to be off-putting or anything, but that was a
widely-agreed crap computer in 1981 & it's about 3 orders of magnitude
worse now. It was nasty hardware with a crude clunky OS and a poor

Staying in the retro world, if you wanted a kid to learn BASIC -- and
that's a dubious choice, today, much as I still love it myself -- then
I'd suggest something like a Raspberry Pi Zero running RISC OS Pico.

That gives you a fast native 32-bit OS on a 32-bit CPU, the best BASIC
interpreter ever -- BBC BASIC V -- with an integrated (if weird)
editor. It's very fast, even today. They could learn about grown-up
stuff like named procedures, recursion and so on, in a BASIC that lets
you declare and manipulate a 300-400MB array and play with it. No 64kB
limits or anything, no graphical desktop, no distractions.

There are plentiful books on BBC BASIC, both for the BBC Micro and the
later RISC OS machine range. And BASIC programs in that interpreter
will run at something near the speed of compiled Pascal on an IBM PC.

Cost of hardware: GBP 5. (Assuming you can spare a mouse, keyboard,
screen, a USB wall-wart and a small MicroSD card.)

Cost of software: GBP 0. Free download.

But more seriously, something like Scratch on a Raspberry Pi 3 would
be a much more pleasant environment for a C21 kid. More colourful,
interactive, interesting and it too is free software running on a GBP
25 computer. That's about USD 35.

Honestly, I suspect that a slow, clunky, noisy old antique with
limited old-fashioned tools would turn a little kid off computers
forever. I have no kids but if I did, I wouldn't start them with a
Sinclair ZX Spectrum, even if it's what I started on!

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