A Stroll down memory lane: Retrocomputing with Turbo Pascal, Part 1

I got my start writing computer programs on a Commodore 64, using ROM Basic. But several years later, my interest in programming really took off when I used my first IBM PC clone to start developing programs in Turbo Pascal.

I got my start using version 5.5, and then moved on to version 6.0 and finally 7.0.

At the time, my computer had no internet access (the internet didn’t really exist in the modern sense of the word, outside of Academia — this was in the mid 90’s afterall!) but did have a 14.4k modem.

Although some of my time was spent dialing the various bulletin board systems running in my area, for the most part, the hours and hours I spent on the computer mostly consisted of programming in Pascal, and playing video games. (Sadly, all of the Pascal programs I wrote back then have been lost in the subsequent years.)

Recently, I have started writing computer programs as a hobby again. Ironically, although I have made my living as a programmer for most of my adult life, somewhere along the way I sort of lost my passion for programming.

One day I suddenly had the inspiration to take a “back to basics” approach with computer programming; I decided that I would study various programming languages in depth. (One trend I had noticed during my recent programming endeavours was that I tended to have superficial understanding of the languages and tools that I was using. For example, I developed an IOS app using Object C without really understanding either IOS or ObjectiveC in a very meaningful way; instead, I simply “googled” my way along, learning just what I needed to as I went.)

So I decided to take a stroll down memory lane, and see if I could get my hands on a Pascal compiler. A brief perusal of the internet reveals that many different Pascal compilers and IDEs exist, but the thing I found most intriguing was that appeared to be possible to get my hands on Turbo Pascal itself!

Turbo Pascal 5.5 is available for download from the company Embarcadero, which I believe must have purchased Borland [or at least their compiler] at some point in the past. Right on their website, they have a “software museum” that features both Turbo Pascal and Turbo C++

http://edn.embarcadero.com/museum/

The next question becomes, how does one even run the compiler? As it turns out, 64 editions of Windows 10 dropped support for executing legacy DOS software all together!

There are several ways to get around this. One option would be to install some virtualization software such as VirtualBox; another would be to utilize a software emulated CPU solution such as is provided with DosBox, but the method that I found most satisfying was to utilize a software package called VBOX, which can be freely downloaded here:

https://vdos.info

One everything is up and running, it is almost like having a time machine, and Borlands’ familiar IDE is in front of our face as if by magic!

Borland Turbo Pascal 5.5, running under VDOS on a modern Windows 10 computer

So now that our environment has been set up, there is nothing to do but to dig in, and see how much Turbo Pascal syntax we can remember or learn.

And for that, we will have to wait until part two of this series.

Until next time!