I am collaborating in the organization of an event called International Pascal Congress that will be held this summer in Salamanca from 3 to 7 July and is sponsored by the University of Salamanca. This event aims to bring together the community involved in the Pascal programming language family. Surely there are many who are familiar with the Pascal programming language, and many generations of computer engineers and Pascal programmers have been trained with that language. Before explaining the event in detail, I will take this opportunity to take a look at the history of computer science, since the Pascal language is one of the key elements in the development of computer science, and even today it is still used in many companies through Delphi or Lazarus, although it does not appear in the news like other languages.
How the Pascal language influenced the history of computing
The inventor of Pascal was Niklaus Wirth, a pioneer in the field of programming languages who won the Alan Turing Award in 1984 for his pioneering work in the development of programming languages, the Pascal language being one of them. Wirth had been working on the design and development of Algol, but he personally disagreed with some of the decisions that had been made in Algol and felt that a better language could be created. He then started working on his own on a new programming language, Pascal.
This new language retained Algol’s code structures, logical integrity and support for recursion, but removed some of its complexity and added support for complex, user-defined data types. Pascal was published in 1970 and in 1971 was adopted at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich for use in programming courses. From Zurich it quickly spread to other universities. Pascal condenses all the concepts of structured programming, and its syntax is designed in such a way that it allows programs to have a lot of information about the data structures that the compiler can use to check the consistency of the program, which helps the compiler to detect errors at compile time, preventing these errors from appearing during the execution of the program.
In 1978, the Institute for Information Systems at the University of California at San Diego developed the UCSD Pascal to provide students with a common operating system that could run on any of the available microcomputers, as well as on the DEC PDP-11 minicomputers on campus. UCSD Pascal was a Pascal programming language system running on the UCSD p-System, a portable, highly machine-independent operating system. James Gosling cites UCSD Pascal as a key influence on the design of the Java Virtual Machine.
In 1983 Borland International, Inc came into existence when young Anders Hejlsberg reached an agreement with Philip Khan to sell the Pascal compiler that Anders had created for personal computers, giving rise to Turbo Pascal. Turbo Pascal was a software development system that included a compiler and an integrated development environment (IDE) for the Pascal programming language. Turbo Pascal introduced the concept of “environment”, which was revolutionary at the time. The success of Turbo Pascal launched Borland as a company and allowed it to create other development environments for other languages.
It is interesting to mention that Pascal is also involved in the existence of graphical interfaces. Steve Jobs had the idea to create Lisa, a revolutionary leap from command line operating systems to graphical interfaces. To achieve this, Apple hired Larry Tesler to develop Lisa’s user interface. Tesler created an object-oriented variant of Pascal, called “Clascal” that was used for Lisa’s application programming interfaces. Later, working with Pascal creator Niklaus Wirth, Clascal would become the official Object Pascal (the version of Pascal for the object-oriented programming paradigm). Although Lisa was not successful on the market due to its high cost for the user, without Lisa there would not have been Macintosh as we know it, which in turn influenced Windows.
In 1995, Borlan created another revolutionary Pascal-related product, Delphi (later known as Delphi 1) for Windows 3.1. Delphi was the first software to bring RAD (Rapid Application Development) philosophy to the market using visual programming for software development. Delphi incorporated object pascal to perform visual programming easily. From that moment on, Delphi began an unstoppable expansion and Borlan continued to develop new and more powerful versions of Delphi. In 2001, Delphi 6 became the first integrated development environment to support web services.
In 2006 Borland adopted a new corporate policy that led it to spin off its business by creating a subsidiary company called CodeGear to which it transferred all of its application development products, which it then sold in 2008 to Embarcadero Technologies. Embarcadero Technologies continues to develop Delphi to this day, to the point that the latest commercial version, Delphi Alexandria 11.3, was released just a month ago to rave reviews from its users. In addition, there is quite a lot of expectation about the new features that Delphi 12 will bring, as there is quite a lot of secrecy around it. There are also many companies creating components that can be used from Delphi to accelerate the development of computer systems. This has given rise to a whole business ecosystem.
Perhaps, someone is wondering how it is possible that Delphi is still a product with so many users. One of the things that Delphi users value, is that all the time invested in developing libraries and applications has not been lost, but is still usable, and as we all know time in a computer project equals money. This feature is so because first Borland and now Embarcadero Technologies have always sought that updating and introducing new elements did not break compatibility or could be easily updated. Other development environments have often broken compatibility, keeping only the name. That action has a clear effect on software development companies, and is a damage to their investment in the creation of libraries or components. Large companies can withstand something like that; however, it would be a danger to small and medium sized companies, thus, many have found Delphi to be a perfect refuge, as it is still alive after 28 years and in a very good condition.
But Delphi is not the only development environment using Pascal, another important development environment that is gaining popularity is Lazarus. Lazarus was launched in 1999. It was created by Cliff Baeseman, Shane Miller and Michael A. Hess with the goal of creating their own rapid development software for Object Pascal. The name Lazarus has an interesting history and makes reference to the biblical story. We all know about Lazarus as Lazarus emerged from a project called Megido to create a development environment to use object pascal on the IBM OS/2 operating system. Megido “died” but Baeseman, Miller and Hess thought they could use their Megido experience to create a development environment for other operating systems with more users, and named it Lazarus. The first preliminary version of Lazarus appeared in 2001 but it was not until 2012 that Lazarus 1.0 was released after 35 versions. The latest version of Lazarus was released just this month, Lazarus 2.2.6 and rumor has it that they have some very ambitious plans for their GUI for the next few years (many may be unveiled at IPC 2023 this summer).
In addition to Delphi and Lazarus there are other tools that make use of languages of the Pascal family but I think this is enough to realize that in addition to the “fashionable” languages there are other large communities of programmers and one of them is clearly the Pascal family of languages.
International Pascal Congress
One of my colleagues at the University of Salamanca, Dr. Sergio Miguel Tomé had the idea of creating an event to bring together members of the Pascal community so that they can update and expand their knowledge and share project ideas to create synergies with each other. Therefore, we have designed a program with multiple types of activities featuring the elite software developers of the Pascal community. One of the activities will be plenary conferences that will touch on all topics from science, to the creation of graphics and video games, to the design of computer systems and of course the future of Delphi and Lazarus. In addition, there will be courses to update or expand knowledge. There will be courses ranging from the design of advanced client/server applications to the creation of deep neural networks, including a course on code parallelization and cloud computing with Delphi. In addition, there will be technology presentations to learn about the latest products in the Software Industry. A really interesting event to attend, even for those who are not currently using Delphi or Lazarus, as it will allow the attendee to broaden the vision of the tools that are available for creating computer systems in the software industry and not limit themselves only to the popular tools.
I encourage you to check this event out. We have set a very affordable price so that anyone who is interested can come to refresh or expand their knowledge of the software development industry with the technologies of the Pascal family of languages. In addition, we have a special offer from a 4 star hotel in Salamanca with a very affordable price per night and breakfast included. I encourage you to sign up for this fantastic event.