The BASIC programming language was at one point the most widely spread programming language. Many home computers in the 80s came with BASIC (like the Commodore 64 and the Apple II), and in the 90s both DOS and Windows 95 included a copy of the QBasic IDE. QBasic was also the first programming language I encountered (I used it to write a couple of really horrible text adventures). Now I haven’t programmed in BASIC for almost 20 years and I thought I would revisit this (from my current perspective) really weird language. As I spend a lot of time doing Bayesian data analysis, I though it would be interesting to see what a Bayesian analysis would look like if I only used the tool that I had 20 years ago, that is, BASIC.
This post walks through the implementation of the Metropolis-Hastings algorithm, a standard Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) method that can be used to fit Bayesian models, in BASIC. I then use that to fit a Laplace distribution to the most adorable dataset that I could find: The number of wolf pups per den from a sample of 16 wold dens. Finally I summarize and plot the result, still using BASIC. So, the target audience of this post is the intersection of people that have programmed in BASIC and are into Bayesian computation. I’m sure you are out there. Let’s go!