40 years of Turbo Pascal

[German]I recently recognized that the Turbo Pascal development environment was introduced by Borland 40 years ago. But it completely passed me by. I myself only came into contact with Turbo Pascal around 1987/1988. Today, a brief look back for the somewhat older blog readers.


It was November 1983 when an unknown company called Borland, founded by Philippe Kahn, a French math teacher who had immigrated to the USA, launched a product called "Turbo Pascal". The 40th anniversary would have passed me by if I hadn't come across the following tweet on Friday, which picks up on this.

40 years Turbo Pascal

Turbo Pascal was an integrated development environment for the Pascal language. According to Wikipedia, the compiler was based on the Blue Label Software Pascal Compiler. This was originally developed by Anders Hejlsberg for the NAS-SYS cassette-based operating system of the Nascom microcomputer. This compiler was first further developed as the Compas Pascal compiler for the CP/M operating system and then as the Turbo Pascal compiler for MS-DOS and CP/M.

The actual start of Turbo Pascal completely passed me by. I was working with one of the first IBM PC/XT machines, that has been shipped with IBM-DOS 1.x to Europe. Later we got IBM-DOS 2.x, might be around 1984. There was also CP/M 86 for the machine – and a UCSD Pascal was included – but I never used it. At that time, an application had to be created in dBASE II – I had inherited it from a colleague who had resigned suddenly.

But I did end up working with Pascal and specifically Turbo Pascal. I had already touched on it in the article It's done: 30 years as a freelance writer … As a guest student at the University of Hagen in the mid-1980s, I studied mathematics and computer science alongside my work, I also took Pascal. But it was pointless, as it all had to be done as a "dry run" – we didn't have any computers.


At work, I programmed A86 assembler, FORTAN and PL/M for Intel real time microprocessor systems and dBase II for IBM PCs. In 1981, I had access to the computer lab at the University of Bremen for two hours – a former fellow student from my university of applied sciences continued to study there and gave me access – but it wasn't that great either – and in the same year I left my employer in Bremen.

By, by, Pascal? At some point, I wanted to learn Pascal properly and around 1987, that became a reality. It was an absolute rush, but it was a success. I borrowed an IBM PC from my employer over a public holiday with a long weekend and organized a Turbo Pascal compiler for it. Then I ported the 8080 disassembler, which I had written on an Amstrad ZX 81, from Basic to Pascal. It worked as part of the weekend project, and after that I was able to work with Turbo Pascal.

Later, when I had bought my own Amstrad PC with MS-DOS, I had the idea of turning the "Disassembler" project into an article and selling it to a German computer magazine. I even made some real money (about 2,000 Deutsche Mark at that time, raw about 1,000 US Dollar). And because I wanted to get rich and famous quickly, I started writing books – initially about BASIC. But there is also a Turbo Pascal 5.0 title from 1998 in my book shelf.

However, I never personally did much with Turbo Pascal and when I switched to Windows, I also stopped programming. There was only a kind of "relapse" in the 90s when I wrote a booklet on the Visual Basic .NET compiler for Microsoft's .NET environment. This was later followed by titles on Net with the VB and C# languages, but nothing more on Pascal or Turbo Pascal. Turbo Pascal probably stopped at version 7.01 in 1993 – I never got involved with Delphi. It's been a long time. Does anyone from the readership have memories of that time?

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One Response to 40 years of Turbo Pascal

  1. Michael Willers says:

    Achtung: Opa erzählt von früher.
    Mit dem Zeug hab ich Steuerungs-APIs für Industrieroboter von HITACHI gebaut.
    Und dann noch Turbo Vision mit der Bibel von den Kollegen Ertl und Machholz. Letzterer war dann Jahre später sogar mein Chef bei Microsoft ;-)
    Das waren Zeiten :-).

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