Computing - Languages -Pascal


The first more or less serious programming I did - for a task that was more time-consuming when done otherwise, which was in my case drawing and calculation of truth-tables for propositional logic - I did in GWBasic.

Like all early versions of Basic this used linenumbers (to make compilation/interpretation easier) and Gotos and it also was interpreted. The overall result was that it was slow and cumbersome, and that it was very hard to avoid writing medium or large programs that were not obscured by the many Gotos in it.

Hence when I discovered Borland's Turbo Pascal in the late eighties I was much pleased: The code was much clearer than GWBasic; the Gotos were replaced by decent references to named Procedures; it was not interpreted but compiled; and also there was a lot of source code available for it. So I gave up GWBasic and switched to Turbo Pascal, and did most of my programming in it for some years, and was pleased by its style of coding and its power and speed.

In the early nineties I switched mostly to Turbo Prolog and its follow-up PDC Prolog, mainly because this was comparable to Turbo Pascal in terms of the readability of the code and the speed of its execution when compiled, and because I had and have a strong interest in logic, and Prolog was designed for Pro(gramming in) Log(ic).

After the birth of the internet, it became much easier to get free or affordable implementations of programming languages, and I soon found out that for my ends Borland's Delphi worked best. This was an extension of Pascal that used many of the possibilities of Windows95 and later, and it also contained the first Rapid Development Environments, that allowed one to design interfaces in a programming environment mostly by dragging and clicking.

This Rapid Development Environment was a great improvement, both in the looks of the resulting programs and in programming ease, and since then the feature has been incorporated in all well-developed programming environments.

The Delphis I have used were generally freely available on the internet or on some CD that came with a journal such as PCPlus.

It is well to remark here that there was a huge difference in availability of programs and code before and after the birth of the internet, and that one of the things that - it seems to me - has become clear, in the last 12 years in which many excellent programming environments have been freely available, is that programming is fun or interesting for only a small minority, in the order of 1 to 5% of those who use computers. For the remaining 95 to 99%, however much they like what computers enable them to do, programming remains mostly an obscure, difficult, mathematical or nerdish activity.

This does not seem (to me) to be a coincidence, for it is the same with mathematics, and programming is applied mathematics, and can be profitably seen and theorized about as abstract algebra. And as has been known for at least 2500 years, mathematics is an interesting subject only for the happy few with both a good general intelligence and a facility for abstract reasoning.

For conventional programming (i.e. the coding and compiling of executables that are meant to help do something) Delphi is still one of the best environments, and Borland has produced similar environments for C, C++ and Java (for those who love many brackets in their code).

The setback of Delphi and other commercial products, even if they are made freely available, is that they have hidden sourcecode, which makes these products effectively inunderstable and unchangeable for their users.

For those who want to see or change the innards of the compiler or programming environment they use, and who like coding Pascal-style, there is an alternative or supplement to Delphi, namely FreePascal. (Note though that when I last tried this, the IDE of FreePascal was still text-based. It works quite well, but it is rather different from Delphi in appearance, which is a Windows-GUI application.)


last update: Jun 11 2007