Saturday, November 22, 2008

Memories of Past Geekdom

Oh, how old I feel!

A friend just pointed out that we're observing the 25th anniversary of the release of Turbo Pascal 1.0. I didn't actually buy it until it was at version 2.0 (for my CP/M system), but I used that (and succeeding versions) a lot.

Anyway, here is a blog post with reminiscences from Turbo Pascal's creator, Ander Hejlsberg. I had the good fortune to work with Anders and the Turbo Pascal team at Borland International back in the 1990s, on Turbo Pascal 6.0 onward through its migration to Windows and eventual morphing into the underpinnings of the fabulous product Delphi. As the technical writer for the TP team, I was told my job was to get inside Anders' brain and translate it for the rest of the world. That was a cool experience!

Anders may be the best programmer I've ever worked with; he's certainly the most proficient assembly-language programmer I've ever encountered. And he had a tremendous knack for knowing the right features to add to a product for the market.

Sadly, Anders went over to the dark side shortly after I left Borland (completely unrelated events!). He's done some amazing work on products there. Although his work is now in more customers' hands, he will probably never again have the same kind of influence over an entire generation of software developers that he had with Pascal and Delphi.

It's an amazing experience to be part of a team that works so well together on a product that is so important and influential. The Turbo Pascal team was tiny (about ten of us worked on TP 6, including doc, QA, and management), but always produced great stuff, usually on time, and was consistently profitable. I certainly owe most of my later success to the valuable lessons I learned while working at Borland.

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