What do I need?

What will we cover?
The character and mindset of a programmer, the programming environments used in the tutor.


In principle you don't need anything to do this course other than an internet enabled computer - which I assume you have if you are reading this in the first place! The other thing that is useful is the right mind set to program. What I mean by that is an innate curiosity about things, coupled to a logical way of thinking. These are both essential requirements for a successful programmer.

The curiosity factor comes into play in looking for answers to problems and being willing to dig around in sometimes obscure documents for ideas and information needed to complete a task.

The logical thinking comes into play because computers are intrinsically stupid. They can't really do anything except add single digits together and move bytes from one place to another. Luckily for us some talented programmers have written lots of programs to hide this basic stupidity. But of course as a programmer you may well get into a new situation where you have to face that stupidity in its raw state. At that point you have to think for the computer. You have to figure out exactly what needs to be done to your data and when.

So much for the philosophy! However if you want to get the best from the tutorial you will want to follow along, either typing in the examples by hand or cutting and pasting from the Web page into your text editor. Then you can run the programs and see the results. To do that you will need to have Python installed on your system (and maybe Tcl and QBASIC if you want to try the comparisons)


Python version 1.5.2 is the latest release at the time of writing and comes with Tcl/Tk version 8.0 thrown in for free. This is because Python's GUI programming system(Tkinter) is built on top of Tcl/Tk. For our purposes this is 'a good thing'(TM) but it does mean the Python download is very big (about 5Mb for the Windows binary version. For Linux/Unix you can get source and have to build it - see your sys admin!! It comes prebuilt in most Linux distributions these days.)

The master site for Python is:



As just mentioned the Python 1.5.2 distribution for Windows comes with Tcl/Tk so that's no problem. If you have a different Python version or are on a platform where it's not included then you can get Tcl/Tk from Scriptics:



To be honest I won't be using QBASIC very much and what I do use will apply to just about any BASIC variant around. Its possible to get BASIC for almost any platform, but QBASIC is the one I will be using. It comes on the Windows 95/98 and Windows NT4 CD Rom and I think its on Windows ME too. If anyone knows about Windows 2000 please let me know.

On my CD it was located at:


where D: is the CD Drive.

If you can't find it there, use the File Explorer to search for it and simply copy it into a directory on your PATH. It is a standard executable file running in a DOS box. It responds to mouse commands within its menu driven environment so you should find it easy to use. There is a help facility too.

The examples that we use should just paste straight into the editor pane and run from the menu.

And that's it. Bring your brain, a sense of humor and start programming....

Points to remember
  • You need logical thinking and curiosity to program
  • Python, Tcl and QBASIC (on Windows only) are all freely available
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If you have any questions or feedback on this page send me mail at: alan.gauld@btinternet.com