After a year in the making, and with very little fanfare, Microsoft last month launched Small Basic, a free programming language aimed at kids. Unlike Scratch and Alice, tools designed for kids to learn programming in a 'codeless' environment, Small Basic is essentially a small version of the BASIC language.

Drawing inspiration from the original BASIC language, but based on the newer .Net Framework, Small Basic consists of three distinct pieces:

The Language

Consists of just 14 keywords, Small Basic is pure imperative code that runs on the .Net Framework.

The Environment

Small Basic's development environment is simple but provides features that professional developers have come to expect from an IDE including Intellisense

Libraries

Small Basic comes with a set of libraries, and allows you to create new libraries or modify existing ones. It also allows third-party libraries to be plugged in.



A comprehensive and easy to read [we tested it on a nine year old], 62 page introduction (PDF) to the language and to programming in general, is available to anyone interested in giving Small Basic a go.

BASIC has undergone many changes since its inception 40 years ago and while its growth has made it more powerful and capable, it has also become almost overwhelming for a beginner. Even though Small Basic is primarily aimed at children, it just may be the ideal way for anyone interested in programming to dip their feet in the water.