Kurtz, Thomas E.

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b. USA
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American mathematician who, with Kemeny developed BASIC, a high-level computer language.
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Kurtz took his first degree in mathematics at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), where he also gained experience in numerical methods as a result of working in the National Bureau of Standards Institute for Numerical Analysis located on the campus. In 1956 he obtained a PhD in statistics at Princeton, after which he took up a post as an instructor at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. There he found a considerable interest in computing was already in existence, and he was soon acting as the Dartmouth contact with the New England Regional Computer Center at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an initiative partly supported by IBM. With Kemeny, he learned the Share Assembly Language then in use, but they were concerned about the difficulty of programming computers in assembly language and of teaching it to students and colleagues at Dartmouth. In 1959 the college obtained an LGP-30 computer and Kurtz became the first Director of the Dartmouth Computer Center. However, the small memory (4 k) of this 30-bit machine precluded its use with the recently available high-level language Algol 58. Therefore, with Kemeny, he set about developing a simple language and operating system that would use simple English commands and be easy to learn and use. This they called the Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code (BASIC). At the same time they jointly supervised the design and development of a time-sharing system suitable for college use, so that by 1964, when Kurtz became an associate professor of mathematics, they had a fully operational BASIC system; by 1969 a sixth version was already in existence. In 1966 Kurtz left Dartmouth to become a Director of the Kiewit Computer Center, and then, in 1975, he became a Director of the Office of Academic Computing; in 1978 he returned to Dartmouth as Professor of Mathematics. He also served on various national committees.
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Bibliography
1964, with J.G.Kemeny, BASIC Instruction Manual : Dartmouth College (for details of the development of BASIC etc.).
1968, with J.G.Kemeny "Dartmouth time-sharing", Science 223.
Further Reading
R.L.Wexelblat, 1981, History of Programming Languages, London: Academic Press (a more general view of the development of computer languages).
KF

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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