Memories of Turbo Pascal version 1.0 - Michael Davis, United States

Posted by on in Blogs
From: Michael Davis
Sent: Friday, November 07, 2008 10:10 PM
Subject: My Turbo Pascal Story

I was reading on Jeff Duntemann's blog that you were looking for some stories about being introduced to Turbo Pascal for the 25th anniversary. I have included mine below. It strays off a bit from v1.0 and I don't know if folks would be interested in it, but I thought I would pass it along. Thanks for considering it.

My introduction and later love affair with Turbo Pascal v1.0 is slightly different than that of everyone else that has submitted a story thus far. At the time, I was an 18 year old high school dropout that had recently been incarcerated in the Lebanon Correctional Institute outside of Cincinnati, OH. The one saving grace of this facility was that the Quaker originated Wilmington College had a branch located within the walls of the prison.

Facing the possibility of a long sentence, I made probably the best decision of my life to that point. That decision was to get my GED and quickly get enrolled in college. It only took a few days of incarceration to realize that something in my life needed to change and getting an education seemed to be the best way to do it. In addition to the Burroughs B1990 system, there was a lab of several Apple II computers that were capable of running Turbo Pascal. After taking the prerequisite courses, my introduction to computer programming was Turbo Pascal.

It didn't take long for me to figure out that i has some skill in programming and that this was probably the first thing in my life that I "got" and excelled at. It was shortly after this that I was given a staff position within the fledgling computer lab and spent, literally, 15 hours a day either attending class, writing code or reading about writing code. Albeit it a bit behind the rest of the world, we made the migration to an IBM PC and began using the newer versions of Turbo Pascal as they were released.

There is one interesting story in particular that concerns someone that I think played a key role in the success of Turbo Pascal as a whole that I would like to share...assuming that my story is published on David's blog. It concerns Jeff Duntemann. At the time, he was the editor of Turbo Technix Magazine that was put out by Borland.

Of course, I had one of Jeff's first books on Turbo Pascal. I was working on a particular problem using inline assembly code that had been sparked by a section of Jeff's book. I just could not get what I was trying to do to work. So, I sent a letter to Jeff using the magazine address. I explained my situation to him and what I was trying to do. Several weeks after sending my letter off, I was called into the Captain's office.

Let me put it in simple terms and say that this is not a good thing. Waiting there with the Captain was the head of the school system in the prison. It seems that Jeff had written back and his response had created a bit of a stir and the "powers that be" were a little confused over how to handle it. Not only had Jeff responded to the problem that I was having with the inline code, but he had sent along a brand new copy of the latest version of Turbo Pascal (v4.0 I believe), a copy of the Turbo Database Toolbox, Turbo C and Turbo Assembler!

The rules of the institution in this case were bent slightly and as long as I agreed to donate the software to the college, we would be allowed to keep it instead of sending it back with a letter to Jeff telling him thanks, but no thanks. Here is where things get really interesting. At the time, all that was available from Wilmington College (the prison branch) in Computer Science was an Associates Degree. It was because of the "donation" that Jeff made that more advanced programming classes in Pascal could be offered as well as C programming, assembly programming and database programming. That assisted with the college in being able to expand the computer science classes and department and eventually led to a Bachelors degree program being offered.

I ended up graduating from Wilmington with a BS in Computer Science (Magna Cum Laude) with a minor in Business Administration. After my release, I was able to finally get work doing Turbo Pascal programming. That led to other positions. I then got into computer networking. From there, I added telephony to the mix. I eventually ended up founding and owning a small Internet Service Provider. After that, I migrated into cellular telecommunications and wireless networking. I now work as a project/program manager within, primarily, the telecommunications industry.

I think I may be one of the few people that can say Turbo Pascal literally helped to save my life. And one act of kindness by Jeff Duntemann help to save and change the lives of many others. That's my story...and I am sticking to it. Thanks for having a look.

[ David I. note - if you have Turbo Pascal version 1.0 stories to share, send them to [email protected] and I will post some of them during this 25th anniversary month. Native code compiler Turbo Pascal lives on in Delphi 2009 - if you haven't tried it yet, get the trial download at http://www.codegear.com/downloads ]


About
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David Intersimone (known to many as David I.) is a passionate and innovative software industry veteran-often referred to as a developer icon-who extols and educates the world on Embarcadero developer tools. He shares his visions as an active member of the industry speaking circuit and is tapped as an expert source by the media. He is a long-standing champion of architects, developers and database professionals and works to ensure that their needs are folded into Embarcadero's strategic product plans. David holds a bachelor's degree in computer science from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, California.

Comments

  • Guest
    Literal Police Sunday, 9 November 2008

    So, after reading this post, which is very nice I might add... where exactly did TP 1.0 "LITERALLY" save your life?

  • Guest
    John G Sunday, 9 November 2008

    Wow!

    Simply amazing, interesting and inspiring story!

    I salute both of you, Jeff and Davis!

  • Guest
    davidi Sunday, 9 November 2008

    "where exactly did TP 1.0 "LITERALLY" save your life?" - I can easily see how Michael's life was changed for the better. I can also extrapolate a possibile path to destruction if he had continued down a bad path. "Literal Police" - in my opinion, you comment is asking for "too literal" a story.

  • Guest
    Rick Lincoln Monday, 10 November 2008

    what a heartwarming story. Programming is such a useful skill that it is a shame that schools are not focusing on programming. A base in programming can reflect directly on computer skills as a whole and help understand many complex things in the world through a easily referenced linear thought process. So many things are run by computers that it is no joke that people are completely ignorant of most aspects and functions of programming because they integrate so easily into our society.

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