Pascal is 50 years old

Hard to believe it’s 50 years. Suppose C will be hitting the big 50 soon too.

50 Years of Pascal

In the early 1960s, the languages Fortran (John Backus, IBM) for scientific, and Cobol (Jean Sammet, IBM, and DoD) for commercial applications dominated. Programs were written on paper, then punched on cards, and one waited a day for the results.

In 1960, an international committee published the language Algol 60.

Algol W was not perfectly satisfactory. It still contained too many compromises, having emerged from a committee.

After my return to Switzerland, I designed a language after my own preferences: Pascal. Together with a few assistants, we wrote a user manual and constructed a compiler.

Pascal was easy to teach, and it covered a wide spectrum of applications, which was a significant advantage over Algol, Fortran, and Cobol. The Pascal System was efficient, compact, and easy to use. The language was strongly influenced by the new discipline of structured programming.

Pascal was published in 1970.

Soon Pascal became noticed at several universities, and interest rose for its use in classes.

Several years later the first microcomputers appeared on the market. These were small computers with a processor integrated on a single chip and with 8-bit data paths, affordable by private persons. It was recognized that Pascal was suitable for these processors, due to its compact compiler that would fit into the small memory (64K).

Borland Inc. in Santa Cruz surrounded our compiler with a simple operating system, a text editor, and routines for error discovery and diagnostics. They sold this package for $50 on floppy disks (Turbo Pascal). Thereby Pascal spread immediately, particularly in schools.


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