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Microsoft has signed on to promote a new programming language intended to replace BASIC as the first step students take towards learning how to code.
The Kid's Programming Language, or KPL, was developed under the direction of Jonah Stagner, and his colleagues, ex-Microsoft program manager Jon Schwartz and former NCR engineer Walt Morrison. The three run the software consultancy Morrison-Schwartz Inc.
"One of the things we realized is that we all learned programming on some flavor of BASIC when we started. You're not going to learn how to program in BASIC anymore," said Morrison, in an interview. "We wanted something that isn't 20 years old; modern technology that uses an integrated development environment, so we can take our kids and move them directly from this to the .NET environment." [Morrison was speaking figuratively; officially, BASIC was originally devised in the early 1960s at Dartmouth.]
While KPL can be downloaded for free off of a dedicated Web site, it's poised to get wider exposure thanks to a recent descriptive article posted on the Coding4FunWeb site, which is part of Microsoft's MSDN developer network.
Indeed, KPL's affinity for .NET, and the fact that it runs only on Windows, may be the big reason Microsoft is supporting the new language. "Microsoft's major interest is, they want to bring another generation of talented programmers to the world," said Morrison. "And they want them using their platforms. It makes sense to us, too. We believe in the .NET environment. We've been using it for the last four years and that's where we want our kids to go."
As the next step in the promulgation of the language, Morrison said KPL will be sent out in October via CD-ROM inserted into 70,000 Australian computer magazines.
The original catalyst for the development of language, Morrison said, was Stagner's desire to give his 10-year-old son and kids like him a worthwhile language with which to get started. "The idea for us was, let's get them going. Let's give them lots of examples of how games are written that are sound and audio and visually interesting to them, so they'll stay interested," Morrison said. "We think learning is best when learning is fun, that’s our most important reason for the game and sound approach in KPL."
Along with English, versions of KPL are available in German, Swedish, Polish, and Romanian. Additional versions, as well as new features, will be forthcoming. "KPL will have lots of new and interesting things happening very shortly," Morrison said. "We're diverting a lot of our development talent onto it. We've made a decision that this language will definitely be a first step towards Microsoft technology."