The MiniBasic Homepage

By Malcolm McLean Homepage

MiniBasic is designed as a simple programming language, based on BASIC. If you already know BASIC then you are well on your way to learning MiniBasic, if you don’t then MiniBasic is one of the simplest programming languages to learn.

Book cover Buy the manual and source as a book. For a few cents you can have everything neatly formatted in a PDF and ready to print out. The book also includes an essay on how to implement a script interpreter.

MiniBasic programs are written in ASCII script. They are then interpreted by the computer. This is in contrast to most “serious” languages, which are compiled, that is, translated into machine instructions and then run. Interpreted languages are slower than compiled languages, but they have several advantages. One major one is that they are portable – a MiniBasic script will run on any computer that has a MiniBasic interpreter installed. Another advantage, especially for beginners, is that errors are much easier to identify. Finally, MiniBasic is not really intended as a standalone program, except for teaching purposes. It is meant for incorporation into other products, where the user is expected to provide functions in a general-purpose programming language. An example might be a desk calculator which can be extended to provide user-defined functions like the Fibonnaci series, or an adventure game for which the user can design his own levels. For technical reasons, this is much easier to implement as an interpreted rather than a compiled language.

The BASICdraw prodedural image editor is an example of such a program. It adds only four extensions to the language. BASICdraw additional commands.

One design goal of MiniBasic was that it should be easy to learn. Millions of people already know some BASIC from school or through having a microcomputer in the 1980s. The second design goal was that it should be easy to implement. The interpreter is written in portable ANSI C, and is freely available. It is in a single, reasonable-length source, and is available for incorporation into user programs.

The final goal is that the interpreter should be what is technically known as “Turing equivalent”. This means that it is possible to implement any algorithm in MiniBasic. This required one major extension to common Basic – the ability to redimension arrays.

It is impossible to implement graphics commands in portable ANSI C, so sound, graphics, and mice are not supported in MiniBasic. Interaction with the user in the standalone model is via the console. However, where MiniBasic is incorporated into another program, generally there will not be direct interaction with the user. The caller will create temporary files for input and output, fill an input stream, and pass it to the user-defined MiniBasic function for processing.

MiniBasic Tutorial

The first program
The second program
The third program
The fourth program
The fifth program
The sixth program
The seventh program


Keywords by type
Alphabetical list of keywords
Expression types
Keywords defined
List of errors
Design of the program and how to use

Some Example Programs

hello.bas Hello World
name.bas Get name from user
median.bas Calculate median
rot13.bas Apply rot13 encryption
lander.bas Land your starship

Source Code

You can do virtually anything you like with this code, including incorporating it into your own programs, or modifying as the basis for a scripting language of your own. It would be nice to be acknowledged but I don't insist on it - you can pretend that you created the program on your own if it makes your boss happy. The only thing you can't do is restrict my rights in the program in any way. So any derivative works or enhancements I can use as I see fit.

script.c (Trivial driver file)
Windows executable