Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Turbo Pascal

Back in high school, the late 90s, I took the AP Computer Science course. It was taught in a long-since-defunct language called Pascal. It was old then, but for its time, Pascal was hot shit: a much more powerful and flexible language than BASIC (which I picked up one summer punching on my parents' Commodore64), but a step below more modern, object-oriented languages such as C++ and Java, which were hitting their stride then, but can be a bit more abstruse for teaching basic programming concepts.

We coded Pascal using the an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and compiler from Borland called Turbo Pascal. Version 3, the first version that became widespread, released 25 years ago. At the time, software wasn't "downloaded," and most of it wasn't "installed": it was run from these funky things called "floppies". Not them new-fangled 3-1/2" ones, mind you, that aren't even floppy, I mean the flimsy 5-1/4" ones. These floppies had a maximum capacity of 100-300 kB. One thing that made Turbo Pascal awesome was that it came on a single disk, because the entire programming language, compiler, and IDE fit into a paltry 39,731 bytes. That may have been sizable for its time, but 39 kB is minuscule today - you can't even create a Word document of a single sentence in that much space.

What else is Turbo Pascal 3 smaller than? John Hague of the blog Programming in the 21st Century puts it in perspective. Excerpted here:

  • The home page (219,583 bytes).
  • The image of the white iPhone 4S at (190,157 bytes).
  • The touch command under OS X Lion (44,016 bytes).
  • The Wikipedia page for C++ (214,251 bytes).
In truth, I actually took APCompSci twice in high school. I wasn't terribly satisfied with the 3 (out of 5) that I got on the final that first year. By the time I was a senior the AP curriculum had shifted to C++, a thoroughly modern language that drives huge amounts of software past, present, and future, and I had an open slot in my schedule. That year I got a 5. Thanks, Mr. Sutera!

1 comment:

Kate said...

Haaah I remember goofing around, using the text-to-voice feature in Mr. Sutera's class to "say" funny things (sometimes about him). He was a really nice guy and a good teacher. But clearly Computer Science was more your strength...