For years, the lingua franca for desktop computers was the Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, a.k.a. Basic. Essentially every PC had it, and just about anyone could learn to program with it, even in a rudimentary way.
Those days are gone -- Microsoft stopped including Basic with its operating system after Windows 95, a corporate spokesperson confirms. Consequently, today's desktop computers have no built-in general-purpose programming language to entice the curious.
True, Windows 7 includes PowerShell, a scripting language, and Mac OS X comes equipped with AppleScript and command-line access to Unix (on which OS X is based). But there's no one lingua franca across the entire community of personal computer users to serve as a default starter language (although you can still acquire a few forms of Basic, some of which are listed in the sidebar "Free Starter Languages," at right).
Some mourn Basic's passing, others are pleased that it is gone, and still others are nominating replacements. Read more...