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Title: Gw-basic  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: QBasic, QuickBASIC, BASIC, True BASIC, ASIC programming language
Collection: Basic Interpreters, Discontinued Microsoft Basics, Programming Languages Created in 1983
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.10. It used the CP/M-derived file control blocks for disk access and did not support subdirectories. Later versions added this feature and improved graphics and other capabilities.

GW-BASIC 3.20 (1986) added EGA graphics support (no version of BASICA or GWBASIC had VGA support) and was in effect the last new version released before it was superseded by QBASIC.

Buyers of Hercules Graphics Cards received a special version of GWBASIC on the card's utility disk that was called HBASIC and which added support for its 720x348 monochrome graphics (other versions of BASICA/GWBASIC only allowed graphics on Hercules cards if SIMCGA was loaded)

GW-BASIC has a command line-based integrated development environment (IDE) based on Dartmouth BASIC. Using the cursor movement keys, any line displayed on screen can be edited. It also includes function key shortcuts at the bottom of the screen. Like other early microcomputer versions of BASIC, GW-BASIC lacked many of the structures needed for structured programming such as local variables, and GW-BASIC programs executed relatively slowly, because it was an interpreted programming language. All program lines must be numbered; all non-numbered lines are considered to be commands in direct mode to be executed immediately. Program source files are normally saved in binary compressed format with tokens replacing commands, with an option to save in ASCII text form.[4]

The GW-BASIC command-line environment has commands to RUN,LOAD,SAVE,LIST the current program, or quit to the operating SYSTEM; these commands can also be used as program statements. There is little support for structured programming in GW-BASIC. All IF/THEN/ELSE conditional statements must be written on one line, although WHILE/WEND statements may group multiple lines. Functions can only be defined using the single line DEF FNf(x)= statement (e.g., DEF FNLOG(base,number)=LOG(number)/LOG(base)). The data type of variables can be specified with a character at the end of the variable name: A$ is a string of characters, A% is an integer, etc. Groups of variables can also be set to default types based on the initial letter of their name by use of the DEFINT, DEFSTR, etc., statements. The default type for undeclared variables not identified by such typing statements, is single-precision floating point.[5]

GW-BASIC allowed use of joystick and light pen input devices. GW-BASIC can read from and write to files and COM ports; it can also do event trapping for ports. Since the cassette port interface of the original IBM PC was never implemented on compatibles, cassette operations are not supported. GW-BASIC can play simple music using the PLAY statement, needing a string of notes represented in a music macro language (e.g. PLAY "edcdeee2dfedc4") . More low-level control is possible with the SOUND statement, which takes the arguments of a frequency in hertz and a length in clock ticks for the standard internal PC speaker in IBM machines. Consequently sound is limited to single channel beeps and whistles as befits a 'business' machine. Home-based PCs such as the Tandy 1000 allowed up to three channels of sound for the SOUND and PLAY commands.[5]


There are several theories on what the initials "GW" stand for. Greg Whitten, an early Microsoft employee who developed the standards in the company's BASIC compiler line, says Bill Gates picked the name GW-BASIC. Whitten refers to it as Gee-Whiz BASIC and is unsure if Gates named the program after him.[6] The Microsoft User Manual from Microsoft Press also refers to it by this name. It may have also been nicknamed Gee-Whiz because it had a large number of graphics commands.[6] Other common theories as to the initials' origins include "Graphics and Windows", "Gates, William" (Microsoft's president at the time), or "Gates-Whitten" (the two main designers of the program).[7][8]


  1. ^ "KindlyRat". "GW-BASIC". Archived from the original on 2005-07-26. Retrieved 2009-11-10. 
  2. ^ "Leon". "GWBASIC Games & Other Programs". Archived from the original on 2009-10-26. Retrieved 2009-11-10. 
  3. ^ "Microsoft BASIC version information". Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  4. ^ "GW-BASIC Documentation and Utilities". Archived from the original on 2007-12-17. 
  5. ^ a b "GW-BASIC User's Guide". 1987. Retrieved 2008-06-28. 
  6. ^ a b Gregory Whitten (2005-04-13). "GW-BASIC". Retrieved 2008-06-29. 
  7. ^ "Linux Dictionary:G". Retrieved 2008-06-28. 
  8. ^ "GW-BASIC". 2005-04-13. Retrieved 2008-06-28. 

External links

  • Classic Basic Games Page, a resource for BASIC games and other programs
  • Back to BASICs, another BASIC resource site
  • GW-BASIC interpreter program and files download site at the Wayback Machine (archived October 27, 2009)
  • GW-BASIC User's Manual
  • Gary Beene's Information Center regarding BASIC, with timeline dates for DOS, Windows and BASIC dialects
  • GW-BASIC - Gee Whiz! Neil C. Obremski’s site devoted to GW-BASIC.
  • PC-BASIC 3.23 - a GW-BASIC emulator for modern operating systems.
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