Compiling And Running Turbo Pascal In The Browser

When a friend of [Lawrence Kesteloot] found a stack of 3.5″ floppy disks, they found that it contained Turbo Pascal code which the two of them had worked on back in the Summer of 1989. Amidst reminiscing about the High School days and watching movies on VHS, [Lawrence] sought a way to bring these graphical applications once more back to life. Not finding an easy way to compile Turbo Pascal code on Mac even back in 2013 when he started the project, he ended up writing a Turbo Pascal compiler in JavaScript, as any reasonable person would do in this situation.

SPIDER.PAS in its full glory. (Credit: Lawrence Kesteloot)
SPIDER.PAS in its full glory. (Credit: Lawrence Kesteloot)

As noted by [Lawrence], the compiler doesn’t implement the full Turbo Pascal 5.5 language, but only the subset that was required to compile and run these applications which they had found on the floppy disks. These include ROSE.PAS and SPIDER.PAS along with three others, and can also be found in the GitHub repository. As can be seen in the online version of the compiler, it captures the feel of programming Pascal in 1989 on the command line.

Naturally, the software situation has changed somewhat over the last decade. We’ve recently seen some promising multi-platform Pascal compilers, and of course you could even run Turbo Pascal in DOSBox or similar. That might make this project seem irrelevant, but being able to write and run Pascal applications in more ways and on more platforms is never a bad thing.

Developing In Pascal On The Commodore 64 With Abacus Super Pascal 64

Abacus Super Pascal 64 for the Commodore 64.

Most people associate the Commodore 64 with Commodore BASIC and precompiled applications, but it also had a number of alternative development environments produced for it. One of these was Super Pascal 64 by Abacus. A solid introduction to this software package is provided in a video tutorial by [My Developer Thoughts] on YouTube. This uses the Abacus Super Pascal 64 software and manual from the [Lyon Labs] website, which incidentally has a lot more development environments and operating systems for the C64 listed for your perusal.

Abacus’ Super Pascal supports the official Pascal language, requiring nothing more than a Commodore 64 and two Commodore 1541 floppy disk drives to get started. One FDD is for the Super Pascal software, which boots into the development environment, the other FDD and the disks in it are the target for the current project’s source code and compiled binary. Although the lack of support for FDDs other than the 1541 is somewhat odd, this comes presumably from the operating system nature of the development environment and the 1541 being by far the most common FDD for the C64.

Continue reading “Developing In Pascal On The Commodore 64 With Abacus Super Pascal 64”

Niklaus Wirth with Personal Computer Lilith that he developed in the 1970ies. (Photo: ETH Zurich)

Remembering Niklaus Wirth: Father Of Pascal And Inspiration To Many

Although perhaps not as much of a household name as other pioneers of last century’s rapid evolution of computer hardware and the software running on them, Niklaus Wirth’s contributions puts him right along with other giants. Being a very familiar face both in his native Switzerland at the ETH Zurich university – as well as at Stanford and other locations around the world where computer history was written – Niklaus not only gave us Pascal and Modula-2, but also inspired countless other languages as well as their developers.

Sadly, Niklaus Wirth passed away on January 1st, 2024, at the age of 89. Until his death, he continued to work on the Oberon programming language, as well as its associated operating system: Oberon System and the multi-process, SMP-capable A2 (Bluebottle) operating system that runs natively on x86, X86_64 and ARM hardware. Leaving behind a legacy that stretches from the 1960s to today, it’s hard to think of any aspect of modern computing that wasn’t in some way influenced or directly improved by Niklaus.

Continue reading “Remembering Niklaus Wirth: Father Of Pascal And Inspiration To Many”

Turbo Rascal Is The Retro Pascal Compiler We Always Wanted

Pascal is not one of the biggest programming languages these days; it’s fallen into the background as the world moved on to newfangled things like C#, Python and Java. However, the language has its fans, one of whom put together a new compiler which targets retro platforms – and it goes by the name Turbo Rascal.

The list of supported platforms is extensive, with Turbo Rascal able to compile highly-optimized binaries for the C64, Amiga 500, BBC Micro, IBM PC, Atari ST, Game Boy, Amstrad, NES, ZX Spectrum, and more. There’s a usable IDE and even an included graphics editor for getting projects put together quickly. Also known by its full name of Turbo Rascal Syntax Error, or TRSE, it’s the work of one [Nicolaas Groeneboom].

The compiler runs on 64-bit Windows, Linux, and OS X, and there are extensive tutorial videos available on YouTube, too. Thus, there’s no excuse not to start developing a new retro game immediately. Check out the demo video below, and remember – as long as we keep using it, Pascal isn’t dead!

Continue reading “Turbo Rascal Is The Retro Pascal Compiler We Always Wanted”

No Pascal, Not A SNOBOL’s Chance. Go Forth!

My article on Fortran, This is Not Your Father’s FORTRAN, brought back a lot of memories about the language. It also reminded me of other languages from my time at college and shortly thereafter, say pre-1978.

At that time there were the three original languages – FORTRAN, LISP, and COBOL. These originals are still used although none make the lists of popular languages. I never did any COBOL but did some work with Pascal, Forth, and SNOBOL which are from that era. Of those, SNOBOL quickly faded but the others are still around. SNOBOL was a text processing language that basically lost out to AWK, PERL, and regular expressions. Given how cryptic regular expressions are it’s amazing another language from that time, APL – A Programming Language, didn’t survive. APL was referred to as a ‘write only language’ because it was often easier to simply rewrite a piece of code than to debug it.

Another language deserving mention is Algol, if only because Pascal is a descendant, along with many modern languages. Algol was always more popular outside the US, probably because everyone there stuck with FORTRAN.

Back then certain books held iconic status, much like [McCracken’s] black FORTRAN IV. In the early 70s, mentioning [Nicolas Wirth] or the yellow book brought to mind Pascal. Similarly, [Griswold, (R. E.)] was SNOBOL and a green book. For some reason, [Griswold’s] two co-authors never were mentioned, unlike the later duo of [Kernighan] & [Ritchie] with their white “The C Programming Language”. Seeing that book years later on an Italian coworker’s bookshelf translated to Italian gave my mind a minor boggling. Join me for a walk down the memory lane that got our programming world to where it is today.

Continue reading “No Pascal, Not A SNOBOL’s Chance. Go Forth!”

Retrotechtacular: Pascal Got Frustrated At Tax Time, Too

While necessity is frequently the mother of invention, annoyance often comes into play as well. This was the case with [Blaise Pascal], who as a teenager was tasked with helping his father calculate the taxes owed by the citizens of Rouen, France. [Pascal] tired of moving the beads back and forth on his abacus and was sure that there was some easier way of counting all those livres, sols, and deniers. In the early 1640s, he devised a mechanical calculator that would come to be known by various names: Pascal’s calculator, arithmetic machine, and eventually, Pascaline.

The instrument is made up of input dials that are connected to output drums through a series of gears. Each digit of a number is entered on its own input dial. This is done by inserting a stylus between two spokes and turning the dial clockwise toward a metal stop, a bit like dialing on a rotary phone. The output is shown in a row of small windows across the top of the machine. Pascal made some fifty different prototypes of the Pascaline before he turned his focus toward philosophy. Some have more dials and corresponding output wheels than others, but the operation and mechanics are largely the same throughout the variations.

Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Pascal Got Frustrated At Tax Time, Too”