Turbo Pascal version 1.0 - Niklaus Wirth and the road to Pascal

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The story of Turbo Pascal version 1.0 cannot be written without writing about Niklaus Wirth and the road to the Pascal programming language.

How did Pascal arrive on the scene in the computing industry?  Programming in the early computer years was dominated by a few programming languages including Fortran, COBOL, Basic, PL/I, Lisp, Assembler, and Algol languages.  As programs grew larger and more complex, research was taking place to help reduce the problems and causes of programming mistakes. 

Structured programming and strict type checking were two of the solutions proposed by programming luminaries including Edsger Dijkstra, C.A.R. ""Tony" HoareOle-Johan Dahl, Niklaus Wirth, and others.

Algol, defined by an international committee, was the first language to introduce block structured programming.  Niklaus Wirth was one of the committee members. Niklaus Wirth and Tony Hoare, as a result of discussions in IFIP WG2.1 on a successor of Algol 60, proposed Algol-W with Tony Hoare in 1965 and implemented on the IBM 360. Algol-W added pointer types and record handling.

In lectures, articles, and books, Niklaus Wirth describes the history of (and road to) Pascal.  The Pascal language was specifically highlighted at the ACM "History of Programming Languages Conference II" held in Cambridge Massachusettes April 1993.

In a lecture presented at the ACM "History of Programming Languages Conference III" in San Diego California June 2007, Niklaus Wirth talked about his work on the international Algol committee and the creation of Pascal, Modula-2, and Oberon: 

  • Pascal was “My idea of the successor of Algol 60”

  • Pascal was designed “free from the strings of a committee”

  • Pascal was strongly influenced by the new ideas of “Structured Programming” from Edsger Dijkstra and C.A.R. “Tony” Hoare.

  • Pascal was designed in 1968, implemented in 1968-1970. Published in 1970.  A compiler ready at the same time.

  • Pascal was successful in teaching Computer Science and programming due to its clear structure and ready availability at low cost.  The language was more widely used that Wirth expected.

  • The first compiler implementations were Pascal-S, Pascal-P

  • Two implementations that made Pascal popular were UCSD Pascal and Turbo Pascal.

  • Pascal invaded the schools and homes because of the $50 price points of the two compilers with their short compile/debug/fix cycles!

There are many books and articles by Wirth and about the history of Pascal including:

Thank you Niklaus Wirth, for the Pascal language!

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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.


  • Guest
    Marc SCheuner Monday, 10 November 2008

    Mr. Wirth's first name is "Niklaus" - no "ck" in there - as you could see easily from his own web site (and mentioned in one of the books listed about Pascal....)

  • Guest
    Hans-Peter Monday, 10 November 2008

    And its last name is Wirth, not Writh...

  • Guest
    David Intersimone Monday, 10 November 2008

    I think I caught all of the mistakes in Niklaus Wirth's name. If I missed any, please let me know. And thanks for pointing them out.

  • Guest
    Pawel Glowacki Monday, 10 November 2008

    I would add to the list of books a real classic by Niklaus Wirth http://www.amazon.com/Algorithms-Structures-Prentice-Hall-Automatic-Computation/dp/0130224189" rel="nofollow">Algorithms + Data Structures = Programs"

  • Guest
    Michael Covington Tuesday, 11 November 2008

    Is there anybody here besides me who actually used ALGOL 60?

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