Some old Operating Systems I hear have only BASIC Programming Language. Are there any active and old operating systems which includes only BASIC Programming Language?

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    "Nowadays active" is tricky. It's very hard to know who has some old computer running somewhere. Maybe just for fun but also maybe doing something useful.
    – badjohn
    Jan 20, 2019 at 10:15
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    The answer to this is "no", since they almost all had machine code available too. Do you mean "high-level language"? But I'm not sure that this would be answerable anyway, unless you clarify what you mean. Sorry! You might want to check out the tour and then some other programming, basic and operating-system questions.
    – wizzwizz4
    Jan 20, 2019 at 10:33
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    @TomAnderson Oh, you mean operating systems for the IBM PC? Please edit your question to clarify.
    – wizzwizz4
    Jan 20, 2019 at 10:33
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    Given the inclusion of some "programming language" (or better, a compiler or interpreter for some language) in an OS isn't really necessary, this question seems a bit unclear. You probably mean old systems that used some BASIC interpreter as their user-interface. Well, no modern OS does that (they have shells and graphical UIs), and if by active you mean under active development, I guess the answer is "no". Jan 21, 2019 at 16:23
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    If your question is extended to "Has there ever been an OS that only supported BASIC as a programming language", the answer is probably still "no".
    – tofro
    Jan 25, 2019 at 16:06

11 Answers 11


(Preface, as I understand from comments, the OP wants to install some OS on a modern machine that has BASIC as main user interface)

Simple Answer: Then there is none.

All OS for modern (PC-class or other) machines are stand alone Systems with some kind of UI (graphics or text). Here, if at all, BASIC is only a language to be loaded via the builtin UI.

As Maury Markowitz already explained well, ye old days software stack differed quite a lot from what we have today. Back then, there where only marginally separated layers and making BASIC language and OS in one was kind of a shortcut to get it working (and within the limits of back then (affordable) hardware).

Having said that, you may of course assign some console based BASIC as shell (*1). Even a classic emulation like Sinclair BASIC might work well. But you also will soon notice that most features of the fine new computer will be inaccessible, and maybe only 48 KiB of the 8 GiB installed are at your fingertip ... but boy they will be fast :))

Essentially this is no difference from just invoking the BASIC/emulation from a regular Linux shell. So no real gain at all - except maybe for fooling friends when logging on ... then again, how many remote users are there on your PC anyway.

Now, if, instead, your intention is to work with BASIC on today's operating systems (as application), then you want for sure take a look at BBC BASIC. Yes, the fine 1980s BASIC is not only still alive and actively maintained by Mr Russell, but has been widely enhanced and ported to many (*2) modern OSes. Up to an extension that would allow to control most features of modern OS again.

Most definitely worth to invest time. So go and install it on top of whatever OS you prefer or there is and enjoy it as single frontend.

*1 - Some heavy configuration fiddling required on modern Linux to bypass login.

*2 - Personally I would even say all 'relevant', but that's subjective, even as the list of maintained ports includes Windows(Vista, 7, 8, 10), Linux, MacOS(OSX), iOS and Android for the SDL branch, as well as MS-DOS, Windows 3.1 ... 10, CP/M, RISC OS, *BSD, Amiga OS** and many others in other branches. Them being widely compatible and fast (depending on the machine) it may even be more of a cross platform deal than C :))

  • What criteria are used to determine whether a command interpreter is part of "BASIC" on not? On DTSS (the original BASIC implementation), the READY prompt, OLD/NEW, SAVE, LIST, etc., were part of the command interpreter (SIMON) which I believe ran on the front end, as opposed to the BASIC compiler running on the back end. Even if people thought all that was "BASIC". On RSTS-11 you might be able to make a case that the BASIC interpreter and keyboard monitor were one and the same.
    – dave
    Aug 15, 2019 at 12:18
  • @another-dave Well, you already made the point: BASIC on the DTSS was a compiler.
    – Raffzahn
    Aug 16, 2019 at 14:08

Some old Operating Systems I hear have only BASIC Programming Language

It was more the case that BASIC was the operating system. Various commands for working with devices like floppy disks and printers were added to the dialect of BASIC running on that machine. Turning it on would result in the BASIC READY prompt where you could type in a program, or begin operating the devices.

Perhaps the best example of this was the Commodore line, which had a fair variety of device operating commands in the OS. Other machines, like the Atari, used a combination of commands in the language as well as a separate program (called DOS) for doing less common things like copying files or formatting disks. Most machines of the early 80s varied between these extremes.

  • In both Ataris and Commodores, there is an underlying OS separate from BASIC. Jan 20, 2019 at 13:19
  • In the manner of a device driver, yes. I am referring to the user presentation of that code. On the C64, for instance, one could display a directory of the files on the drive by LOADing "$". On the Atari, one had to exit BASIC entirely and use the menu-driven application to do the same. Jan 20, 2019 at 13:25
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    @StephenKitt While I agree in case of the Atari, it's really far fetched to call the Commodore's Kernal an OS. Borderline at best.
    – Raffzahn
    Jan 20, 2019 at 13:27
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    Hmm, the Apple II is maybe an interesting case here, as the monitor was a self sufficient environment, including a command line - in fact, before the II+, BASIC had to be started as an application.
    – Raffzahn
    Jan 20, 2019 at 13:29
  • Props also to Acorn for MOS, which exposed a hardware abstraction layer, completely distinct from the language ROM. It's a byte-for-byte identical copy of BASIC on the Electron and BBC, with the OS handling the different hardware. At a cost though: machines had a minimum 32kb of ROM, even though the original BBC is from 1981 when 8kb or 16kb was more normal. Also, I guess, any CP/M machine.
    – Tommy
    Jan 20, 2019 at 16:16

RISC OS Pico on the Raspberry Pi boots to BASIC. See https://www.riscosopen.org/content/downloads/raspberry-pi

The "full fat" RISC OS could also be made to boot to BASIC using *CONFIGURE commands like you can with the Archimedes and RISC PC.

Note that riscosopen.org do not list the RasPi4 as being compatible (and RISC OS Pico has a smaller compatibility list than the "full fat" version).


The question is rather unclear, and this answer is beyond retrocomputing. Well...

The ESP32 microcontroller is a current (built in ROM claims 2016) chip that has no operating system as we understand the term. You are supposed to program it on bare hardware (but it has wifi and TCP/IP stack). But, it comes with BASIC included, even though undocumented.

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    Not more off topic than the question itself. Nice reminder though.
    – Raffzahn
    Jan 20, 2019 at 14:37

There is SpecBas, which is a hybrid between an emulator and an enhanced version of Sinclair Spectrum BASIC.


It does require a host OS to run, though, so it does not entirely fit your bill.

Acorn's original RISC OS for the Archimedes is still alive, maintained, and runs on a variety of modern ARM hardware such as the Raspberry Pi and BeagleBoard range. It includes a lightning-fast BBC BASIC V interpreter as its primary programming language, although it is not written in BBC BASIC itself. (Although parts of it, and the ARM processor, were prototyped in BBC BASIC!)


It only runs on ARM hardware, though. To run it on an x86 machine, you need an emulator, such as RPCEmu (FOSS) http://www.marutan.net/rpcemu/index.php or Virtual Acorn (commercial) http://www.virtualacorn.co.uk/

If you cast your net slightly wider, for instance to the Pascal family, then there is Native Oberon, which is a native PC operating system written entirely in the Oberon programming language. Not a trace of C or anything else. It's tiny, fast, efficient and designed to be easy to learn, understand and modify. http://ignorethecode.net/blog/2009/04/22/oberon/

** UPDATE **

I've found out about 2 new contenders that I did not know about when I posted my previous answer back in January.

The BASIC Engine fits your a bill: a very inexpensive, DIY 32-bit computer with a rich, powerful BASIC: https://basicengine.org/

And the MaxiMite: http://geoffg.net/Maximite_Story.html


The Parallax Basic Stamp is a system-on-board (wide DIP form-factor) used for education. The only programming language that it supports is BASIC. Code is entered in an IDE on a PC then tokenized and loaded onto the board. An interpreter there runs the bytecode. This is pretty similar to how many micros from the '80s did things. The CPUs used on the Basic Stamp boards are all PICs IIRC but there is no way to run native code on them; the only means of programming is through BASIC (there are no tokenizers for other languages).


The Pick operating system is mostly accessed through its dialect of BASIC, which was adopted in 1973. Nowadays you can run it as a guest OS on Windows.

The Pick operating system consists of a database, dictionary, query language, procedural language (PROC), peripheral management, multi-user management and a compiled BASIC Programming language


RSTS-11 on PDP-11, though itself written in MACRO-11, only supported user programming in BASIC-PLUS, which was a compatible extension to Dartmouth BASIC.

(RSTS-11 became RSTS/E with support for other programming languages and with runtime systems providing partial compatibility with other PDP-11 operating systems, but originally it was BASIC-only)

To the best of my knowledge, a single "program" (actually the resident runtime system) provided command interpreter and BASIC-PLUS compilation. But my experience is with RSTS/E, not RSTS-11.


I read the question as asking if any modern computer operating system uses an interactive BASIC as its user interface. The Spectrum Next is a modern computer that is backwards compatible with the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, but is not a clone of it. It includes ROM BASIC in its OS as the primary interactive shell.


If you do not count the command line interpreter, the pre-PowerShell versions of Windows supported only Visual Basic Script and Java Script out of the box, starting with Windows 98.


Amplifying Liam Proven's answer regarding the Maximite: it's more generally known as MMBasic now, and runs on a variety of hardware, including:

The OS is a basic shell for file management inside the BASIC REPL. A large number of touch screens and LCD displays are supported, along with a library of GUI elements for building touch applications. The MMBasic dialect is somewhere between QBasic and BBC BASIC: no line numbers, structured.

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