An Easy Way to Learn Computer Programming Basics

There was a time when computers were used almost exclusively by professionals, college students and a few hobbyists. They were used frequently for programming since there was no Google, Facebook, or Twitter. In my case, my first actual experience with a computer was as a student. Our first assignment was to write a very simple program in FORTRAN to calculate and print the Fibonacchi sequence of numbers (just not all of them). Everything had to be typed on punchcards with a gigantic keypunch machine that required each key to be struck much more firmly than you would strike the keys on a conventional keyboard.

Recently (just last night), I decided to see if I could find a simple elegant programming language that I could use on a contemporary computer. It wasn’t difficult. The language is called COMAL (COMmon Algorithmic Language) and it’s very easy to use on either a Windows based or Linux based computer.

Here are the details:

(1) download DOSbox from SourceForge

(1a) if you’re using a Debian based (Ubuntu for instance) version of Linux, just open a terminal window and type the following:

sudo apt-get install dosbox

(2) download OpenComal from here.

(2a) If you’re using Windows, be sure to download and install WinRAR to extract your files from the tarred and gzipped OpenComal compressed download.

(3) run DOSbox

(4) mount your OpenComal folder into DOSbox

(4a) for Windows the mount command typed inside of DOSbox looks like this:

mount e c:\docume~1\user\Desktop\opencomal-0.2.6\bin

(4b) and for Linux

mount e Desktop/opencomal-0.2.6/bin

(5) change your drive letter to E:

(6) type OCOMAL
(see illustrations below)

Now, you’re actually in the COMAL programming environment. You can type the command auto and COMAL will automatically start with line number 10 and you can type your first line of code. Exit from auto mode by hitting (CTRL) (C). You can type any line number followed by a line of code and insert lines into your code (for example typing 35 and some code will insert a line between 30 and 40. Type renumber to renumber your lines. Type delete 160 to delete line number 160. You can simply type run to run your programs. Type save “programname to save your program and type list ,”programname.txt to save your program in a readable or printable form. You are actually in a interactive programming environment.

Be sure to read more about OpenComal at: http://www.josvisser.nl/opencomal/OpenComal.txt

In case, you’re interested, here’s the fibonacchi program in COMAL:

10 //
20 // Fibonacchi Sequence
30 //
40 // Maurice Tift — April 17, 2013
50 //
60 first:=0
70 second:=1
80 number:=first+second
90 PRINT first;” “;
100 WHILE number<300000 DO
110    PRINT number;" ";
120    number:=first+second
130    first:=second
140    second:=number
150 ENDWHILE
160 END

Think about writing your own program. A good place to start might be to take this simple program and modify it to print the first n numbers of the Fibonacchi sequence. Another fun modification would be to recode this program to print successive approximations of something called the Golden Ratio. The current program simply stops when the number in the sequence exceeds 300000.

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