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Turbo Pascal Four and a Funeral

by Eric Knipp  |  May 8, 2009  |  3 Comments

Earlier this week, Micro Focus announced its planned acquisition of Borland for $75m.

This is probably pretty meaningless for most folks in Web development, but it carries special meaning for me. I learned how to program on Turbo Pascal 4, way back in the late 80’s when I first worked on some marginally popular forum-hack BBS software (my contributions were marginal as well). Then I took a couple of years of computer science in high school, where Turbo Pascal was also the tool of choice. I had some great times back in those days (I was also fortunate to have an excellent teacher, Mike Coe, who, in dealing with me, must have discovered reserves of patience he never knew existed).

Turbo Pascal was a groundbreaking language for a number of reasons. I did not know it at the time, but the concept of an IDE was basically new. Earlier programmers did everything (code, compile, link) manually in separate steps. Not only would TP let us write code, compile and run it from one place, we could even debug it in the slick TP IDE. I can’t imagine learning your first “real” (ie non-BASIC) programming language in another environment. Obviously, many people did, but those are the same people that walked to school barefoot in the driving snow on shards of broken glass uphill both ways every day, so their suffering is somewhat meaningless to me.

So, here we are. Anders Hejlsberg, the original programmer of TP, who I have to thank for making my introduction to computer programming so easy, moved on to bigger things long ago. He’s currently the architect of Microsoft C#, and before that, he designed the Delphi platform (also for Borland). Borland has been suffering for years, and actually divested itself of its languages business some time ago. So perhaps the funeral is a bit late in coming.

A generation of programmers owes a lot to Hejlsberg and Borland. It’s a bit early to have a drink today, but this evening I will be breaking out my well-worn Turbo Pascal 6 manuals, and flip through them with a glass of wine. Pour one out for my homies, because this is finally the end of the line.

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Eric Knipp
Managing Vice President
3 years at Gartner
15 years IT industry

Eric Knipp is a Managing Vice President in Gartner Research, where he focuses on Web and cloud application development methodologies and trends. Mr. Knipp is based in Dallas, Texas. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Turbo Pascal Four and a Funeral


  1. Stefan says:

    this was my first real programming language – I have produced a program to help with enthalpy-entropy (H-S) calculations … amazing memories – thank you!

  2. Igor says:

    My first Turbo Pascal compiler in early 80s ran on a CP/M machine. And I still have the original box of the Turbo Pascal 6. In fact, Turbo Pascal changed my life. Some time ago I also wrote a Turbo Pascal compiler in Turbo Pascal (available at http://turbo51.com/compiler-design/tpc16-turbo-pascal-compiler-written-in-turbo-pascal )
    I am still a big fun of Pascal programming language. It is easy to write and easy to read.



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