What got me into programming

On Nov 20, 1983, Borland released Turbo Pascal 1.0. At a price of revolutionary 50 us$, developers received the world’s first fully integrated development environment (IDE) for the PC. It combined the compiler and code editor, and later also debugger, in a package that ran as a single program and didn’t require developers to go in and out of different applications under MS-DOS constantly, immensely increasing productivity.

We take integrated development environments for granted today, but it all had to start from somewhere.

And my personal reason to celebrate this birthday is this: Turbo Pascal was what got me into programming in 1988. I received Turbo Pascal 3.0 for CP/M and was able to run it on my Commodore 128D. I learned the basic programming concepts from developing a program together with one of the social workers at my boarding school. The rest was learned by studying an old programming handbook for Basic, and translating the knowledge to Turbo Pascal. My father then read the programming reference to me, I made a note of each operator, reserved word and available procedure/function in braille, and started developing programs myself from there.

I also got hold of the source of a scientific calculator, which taught me concepts such as reference parameters.

When i got my first MS-DOS PC in 1991 together with a Dolphin 1 synthesiser and the screen reader HAL 4.0, I also got Turbo pascal 5.0, later 6.0, and tweaked HAL to work with it as best as possible. That version accompanied me way into my computer science studies. I think the last DOS program I wrote was in 1998 or so.

In parallel, beginning in 1995, I also started experimenting with Windows software development, when I got my first version of JAWS for Windows. The programming environment was called Delphi 1.0, which was the Windows equivalent of Pascal (then called Object Pascal) by Borland. I tweaked JAWS to work better with the Delphi IDE, and shared my experiences on a Henter-Joyce CompuServe forum board. That, and some other work I did early on with JAWS scripting, eventually got me the job at the German company Omni PC, which later was integrated into Freedom Scientific in 2001.

I stuck with Delphi for years, doing all my personal programming work there. Oh I also ventured into Visual Basic and later C# and .Net with Visual Studio 2003, but I always returned to Delphi for actual real productive Windows work.

I even beta tested Delphi 2007, codenamed Spaceley, in late 2006 and early 2007, when I was sort of in-between jobs and recovering from burnout syndrome. During that time, and you can call it my last project with Delphi, I integrated MSAA support into a popular Delphi component called VirtualTreeView. The last version of Delphi I ever used was RAD Studio 2007. I still have a DVD of that sitting on a shelf somewhere, but haven’t used it in years. my current work simply takes place in a completely different realm.

But even today, I still occasionally receive questions about current Delphi versions, based on the scripts I wrote and contributed to JAWS in the mid 2000s. And sometimes I am very sorry to have to tell people that I cannot help them any further nowadays, since I totally am out of touch with this part of the software world. Yes, Delphi is still around, now under the Embarcadero umbrella, and includes a lot of different platforms besides Windows.

So today, it was time to celebrate a little. I raise a glass to all the great folks who work and worked on Turbo Pascal and Delphi. Thank you, without you, I might not have started programming at all!

Program Celebrate;

begin
  writeln('Cheers!');
end.

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Comments

4 Responses to What got me into programming

  1. Nick Hodges says:

    Great stuff, Marco. Thanks for a good trip down memory lane. ;-)

  2. Marco says:

    You’re more than welcome, Sir! :-) And thank you for bearing with all the accessibility issues I had to report back then!

  3. Sunil says:

    I want to learn C programming & have enrolled in the technical institute, but I’m very new to this envioronment (so new, that I’ve enrolled for computer science only at college level now), I installed turbo C++ for windows 7 working with JAWS 13.0, but it is not reading the windo of Turbo at all, Please help me by telling how should I proceed. Can I learn C-programming on Linux system with Orca, but I’ve never used Linux before, so command-line-interface is very new to me please share your vast experience in sorting & solving my problem.
    Optimistic for a soon & positive reply
    Yours sincerely
    Sunil Choudhary

  4. Marco says:

    Hi Sunil,

    you might have more luch using the free Visual Studio Express edition for C++ from Microsoft. The Embarcadero C++Builder stuff isn’t particularly accessible any more. And if you’ve never used Linux before, that might be quite a big challenge. So, try the free Visual Studio for C++ from Microsoft instead.

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