Acronym for beginners' all-purpose symbolic instruction code. Originally a simple programming language developed in the mid-1960s for use in education in order to exploit the then novel capability of using a computer interactively from a remote terminal. The language could be learned very quickly, and the Basic system incorporated a simple program editor, so that the user was insulated from the complexities of the underlying operating system. At first only numeric variables were provided, but later Basic was extended to handle string variables, and was provided with a set of procedures for simple string manipulation that has become a de facto standard.
The simplicity of Basic made it a natural choice of programming language for the early microcomputers, and incompatible dialects proliferated, despite the production of an ISO standard. As microcomputers evolved into more powerful desktop computers, new versions of Basic appeared that incorporated modern control structures. The most important such development was the introduction of Visual Basic (1991) as a means of prototyping and developing applications for Microsoft Windows, and the adoption of Basic as the underlying language for control of Microsoft applications software, first in the form of Word Basic and later in the form of Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). The latest version is Visual Basic .NET.