Future Tense: Turbo Redux

18

Comments

+ Add a Comment
avatar

ClarenceDonath

A point made is that you can pretty much find any logic you need by Googling for it.  While this makes our jobs easier and enables us to finish our projects faster, I miss the creativity and the fun we used to have back in the days of Turbo Pascal.

avatar

iadams

Always a pleasure to read your articles and books Mr. Gerrold.

 

Though I never programmed in Pascal or Turbo Pascal, I whole heartedly reccomend Python. Its brain dead simple to use, easy on the eyes, runs on damn near everything, and though slow, its rapidly getting faster and is plenty good enough for messing around with and non-professionals. It also for the professional or more adventurous amateur has a massive number of easy to use libraries and toos.

avatar

Rich Sadowsky

Hey David, I share your love of Turbo Pascal. Those were amazing days. I credit Turbo Pascal with driving a giant growth spurt to the software industry as hobbiests and professionals alike increased their development velocity. The point I disagree with is I feel there is just as much need for small utilities as ever. The nature of those utilities has changed. In fact the whole role of the average software development professional has evolved. The new world often involves integrating many systems into a single workflow that yields some new functionality. In the last week alone I've whipped up utilities to create a set of thumbnail images representing progression through a video, a tool to grab unique IP addresses from my web server logs and graph the geographic distribution of our visitors, and I often test new algorithms in stand alone utilities before integrating into the bigger system. None of the tools I use have that same nurturing feeling that Turbo Pascal had, but they certainly offer high productivity. These days I use Groovy, Python, Java and C++ as needed. When necessary maybe a little PHP or ActionScript 3. Heck, I've even had to code in assembly once or twice in the last year. I favor the IntelliJ IDEA development editor for bigger projects and simple-but-effective BBEdit for smaller tasks. I do all my development on Mac OS X and Linux. The Mac makes a perfect dev platform since it is Unix-based, like the servers I deploy to, and can run Windows as needed in a VM even while I continue editing in OS X. So in some ways modern systems offer productivity explosions we couldn't of conceived of. Sure there was DesqView and similar tools that gave us a sneak peak at what was to come, but they always felt a lilttle kludgy and weren't always the most stable.

My point here is that there will always be a need for tools that provide productive environments for simple and complex programs alike. For me 80% of my programming is server-side but I still spend maybe 2 out of every 10 hours on some utility that runs locally. None of today's platforms inspire the love and sense of community TP did, but that was a special place and time in the evolution of desktop programming. After all, that's when I met you, and Anders, and Neil Rubenking, and joined devtools powerhouse TurboPower Software, and went to Jeff Duntemann's TurboTechnix parties... While none inspire the love, they certainly do boost my productivity and make it possible to write more software than I ever could have in those days. Groovy and Python stand out as outstanding tools for boosting your output.

Some of the very things that made Turbo Pascal wonderful also assured its demise. In those days Borland wasn't concerned with standards or cross platform programming. That is what forced me to C++. Borland choose performance on one platform over standardization and cross platform compatibility. I understand their reasoning and that was fine for some of their customers, but it left us professional commercial software developers with little choice but to explore alternatives. Even way back then it was clear that Microsoft would not emerge as the server platform of the future. It is interesting to me that Anders went on to Microsoft where he created C#. It's a wonderful and highly nurturing environment much like TP, but also locks you in to a single platform making it not a viable tool for my needs. One can't ignore the growth of Linux-based servers and the rise of OS X's desktop presence. Why write code in a platform that makes migrating to others difficult? They made their bet that people wouldn't care, and I personally cast my vote in favor of platforms that didn't restrict me. IMHO, this is what triggered the demise of these platforms.

Last thought: I remember the day I bought my first Turbo Pascal for CP/M for about $30. My life changed that day and my career choice locked in. Now nearly 30 years later I think fondly of those days. I owe Anders and Philippe my gratitude for inspiring me to head down this rabbit hole. I hope there's a copy of TP in the Smithsonian as a true historic treasure!

Check out my latest project currently up on forbes.com. I Smiled, Did You

 

 

avatar

MattyMattMatt

Being that I do program quite a bit, I know how useful something like Turbo Pascal can be. Something relatively easy to pick up and use while still fast and versatile enough to allow you to create solutions to your own problems.

There are a few languages that in my opinion can fulfil those requirements. I used to use Java to quickly develop command line tools. Now I tend to use C# which is in turn very much inspired by Java. Ruby can also be easy and fun to hack with, despite the fact that many use it with a very strong web focus thanks to rails.

avatar

TechLarry

Turbo Pascal was simply wonderful.  A tool like it would be great to have today.  VisualBasic.Net ain't it.

The only shareware I ever let loose on the world was back in 1989 and it was written in Turbo Pascal and I utilized a wonderful set of add-on's I purchased in a kit called:

The "TechnoJock's Turbo Toolkit".  It was an amazing group of functions and procedures that made coding in TP so much easier, and expanded it greatly.

And I remember one day I had a problem getting something to work right.  I called the support number.  None other than the actual author of the Toolkit answered the phone within 3 rings, and not only helped me figure out my problem, but spent another half hour teaching me how to do a few things better.  He was a very nice Austrailian gent (I believe) and a pleasure to chat with.

His name was Bob Ainsbury and I often wonder what he's doing today :)

avatar

pastorbob

I jumped on the Turbo Pascal bandwagon the first time I read an ad in Byte magazine in the early 80's. The price was right and it served the purpose for me. I upgraded each time a new version came out through version 5.5. I even took several credit courses at UIS in the Computer Science program that were based on it. But then around 1993, I discovered a Windows based IDE called Visual BASIC and Turbo Pascal went by the wayside. Anyhow, I decided I didn't really want to be a career programmer changed my major and focused more on hardware applications in the compact disc manufacturing environment. It's been fifteen years since I have even written a program of any type.

But Turbo Pascal could be used for the quick and dirty or the complex. I once saw a fellow student write a really neat graphics based game that consisted of 20,000 lines of code in version 4.0. It took him over a year to complete it.

Though I wouldn't have any need for it, I can see where having similar tools available for today's systems would be advantageous.

avatar

Johnes

As for the opinions expressed, it all depends on why and for whom you write code - as D.G. pointed out explicitly and implicitly. Having come through the same time period as he, but with other goals, projects, and preferences, I too lament the fact that there are no longer relatively simple but powerful programming languages for individuals who write for themselves and who write for their own projects - as I often did in basic research where money was tight and ambitions grand. The latter required high-speed synchronous data acquisition and control for controlling experiments and gathering data as well as a higher level-of-abstraction language to create and manage unique data sets and test numerous hypotheses on that data quickly and efficiently. Putting a "programmer" in the loop greatly increases the difficulty of moving quickly and efficiently and, as the code was one-use only, there would be no way to recapture the investment. GUIs - for the convenience of others were a complete waste of resources. I have no gripe with programmers who make their living creating programs for others - or them expressing their opinions, but for individuals who need powerful inexpensive tools available for their own explorations, the easily obtained choices have dwindled to near zero.

avatar

dramsey

Yeah, I'll respectfully disagree here. There is no modern equivalent to Turbo Pascal's ease of use. Pascal was a simple enough language that a motivated hobbyist could pick it up easily; contrast that with C++, which has so many ways to hang yourself (quick, describe the difference between const_cast, reinterpret_cast, static_cast, and dynamic_cast) that even programmers who've been using it for years still shoot themselves in the foot regularly. 

Modern OO languages are much more powerful than Pascal ever was, but that's beside the point, which is the ability of non-professionals to easily write simple utilities and other programs. 

And David Gerrold isn't "employed" by Maximum PC; he's a well-known science fiction author who does these columns for fun (presumably). Like Pournelle back in the Byte days.

avatar

habraham

I kept my old Turbo Pascal book around for years.  It was a great reference for Delphi.

avatar

Jipstyle

How does this guy remain employed at MPC?  Fact-checking, anyone?

Yes, TP was great and it could do far more than wipe your butt .. but the world has moved on. 

Pining for TP is akin to wishing car manufacturers would go back to the good old days of carburetors .. just because you don't understand the modern technology does not mean that it is inferior.

C#, java .. even good old C++ .. are all considerably more useful than TP. 

Oh .. and, back in the 'good old days', we used C.  BASIC has always been strictly for hobbyists.

avatar

David Gerrold

Turbo Pascal hit the market in 1983, the same year as the IBM PC-XT.  

Implementations of C started showing up in the mid-to-late eighties.  Turbo C 1.0 came out in 1987 and 1.5 in 88 and 2.0 in 89.  Although the C programming language had been around since the early seventies, it wasn't until 1990 that ANSI finally ratified a standard based on the Kernighan and Richie standard, this was version C89.  I did a tech-edit on a C textbook a couple years later.  

Pascal had initially been intended as a 'learning language.'  C was always intended to be a serious production tool.  Turbo Pascal hit the personal computer market first, and at just the right moment because many personal computer users wanted something more than BASIC.  

C only came into its own a decade later and has since evolved into C++ and C#.   It's a powerful programming tool for professional programmers, but even as late as the mid-nineties, there were still a lot of programmers using Turbo Pascal in production environments.

The point of the article was not to tout Turbo Pascal as a superior programming tool, but to point out that the professional programming tools available today are not suitable for non-professionals who want something a little less intimidating.  

 

avatar

David Gerrold

Turbo Pascal hit the market in 1983, the same year as the IBM PC-XT.  

Implementations of C started showing up in the mid-to-late eighties.  Turbo C 1.0 came out in 1987 and 1.5 in 88 and 2.0 in 89.  Although the C programming language had been around since the early seventies, it wasn't until 1990 that ANSI finally ratified a standard based on the Kernighan and Richie standard, this was version C89.  I did a tech-edit on a C textbook a couple years later.  

Pascal had initially been intended as a 'learning language.'  C was always intended to be a serious production tool.  Turbo Pascal hit the personal computer market first, and at just the right moment because many personal computer users wanted something more than BASIC.  

C only came into its own a decade later and has since evolved into C++ and C#.   It's a powerful programming tool for professional programmers, but even as late as the mid-nineties, there were still a lot of programmers using Turbo Pascal in production environments.

The point of the article was not to tout Turbo Pascal as a superior programming tool, but to point out that the professional programming tools available today are not suitable for non-professionals who want something a little less intimidating.  

 

avatar

sojrner

"BASIC has always been strictly for hobbyists."

...and that was the point here. The fact that you did not see that shows that you don't see the need the article reveals either.

avatar

mario_ramalho

10 Home

20 Sweet

30 GOTO 10

avatar

arkarkwin

Program Thankyou

var int a;

var string test;

const int b = 5;

 

writeln("Thank you for a flashback");

writeln("Man, great time I had learning pascal");

writeln("My syntax is off thought");

   while a = b

{

  writeln("Thank you");

}

writeln("Type any key to exit from the program");

readln();

end;

avatar

dramsey

Ah, I remember Turbo Pascal fondly. Ran it on my Gavilan to start, and later on various desktop machines. When I started at Apple in 1986 I annoyed the MPW people by asking why we didn't have something like this.

Scripting languages like Python and PHP cannot replace Turbo Pascal since they have little if any UI facilities. Especially with later versions of TP, throwing up dialogs and writing content to windows was trivial. Anyone who could spend a few days learning the language could write their own native *.exe programs, and that was a powerful thing.

Apple gives away their current XCode development environment, but the learning curve for Objective C and the current Mac OS is very steep. I think Microsoft has cut-down, freebie versions of Visual C++, but that's not any better, really.

avatar

ragnarok628

python!!!

avatar

d3v

There's always PHP cli. You can use it to write scripts on Windows or Linux.

Log in to MaximumPC directly or log in using Facebook

Forgot your username or password?
Click here for help.

Login with Facebook
Log in using Facebook to share comments and articles easily with your Facebook feed.