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Turbo Pascal - Quarter of a Century Later

25 Glorious Years!
Wednesday 19 November 2008.

CodeGear’s David Intersimone wrote to me today to remind me of a very important anniversary - 25 years since Turbo Pascal 1.0 shipped!

If that had never happened, I wonder what I’d be doing now? Probably not publishing Bitwise and running a software company.

Turbo Pascal really did change the course of my life. I can’t claim that I started using it right after it was released. At that time, I wouldn’t have known one end of a computer from the other. I was reasonably fresh out of University (my subject was English) and busily carving out a career as a pop music journalist. Each day I would tackle challenging tasks such as discovering Simon Le Bon’s favourite breakfast cereal or Boy George’s favourite brand of underpants. That was a lot of fun - for a while - but I couldn’t really see myself spending the next twenty-five years doing it...

Then I interviewed the cross-dressing disco diva, Divine (as explained elsewhere), and my life was changed for ever. Soon after that interview, I bought a computer (an Olivetti M-24), discovered the adventure game, Zork, and decided that I wanted to program a game of my own. I tried learning GW-Basic which came free with the M-24 and found it sorely wanting. I couldn’t afford a C compiler (Lattice C, which was the flavour of the day, cost hundreds of pounds) but then noticed that there was something called Turbo Pascal which cost about 35 and even came with a paperback book. I bought a copy (it was on version 3 by that time) and spent the next year happily programming an adventure game called The Golden Wombat Of Destiny. This was a project of considerable complexity - it had an interactive English language (sort of) parser, took place in a virtual landscape which included a multi-level ruined city set in the middle of a mangrove swamp and included dozens of complicated puzzles some of which involved a wombat which, with a bit of encouragement, would follow you around. It was the first program I ever wrote. Well, how was I to know that you are supposed to start with “Hello world” and work your way up?

Anyway, while Turbo Pascal is long gone, its successor, Delphi, is still carrying the Pascal beacon forward. And for nostalgia freaks (like me), old versions of Turbo Pascal are now available for free download. Ah, happy days...

More memories of Turbo Pascal on the CodeGear blog.

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