I first met Philippe Kahn and Turbo Pascal 40 years ago this month

In 1983, I was working for Softsel Computer Products (Softsel) in the product evaluation, support and training group. Softsel had a booth at the Fall 1983 COMDEX (Computer Dealer Expo) conference (November 28 to December 2) in the Las Vegas Convention Center. I sat at a pod in the booth to answer questions about Softsel, products we distributed and to talk with software and device manufacturers that might be looking to have their products distributed to computer stores.

During the convention Philippe Kahn (PK) walked by the Softsel booth and stopped for a moment. I said hello to him (not knowing anything about him nor his company). During the conversation, we talked about programming and developer tools. PK mentioned that he had a Pascal compiler that he was selling but that he was not looking to have it distributed (he was selling it direct to programmers using direct mail and an ad in Byte Magazine). Before he left the booth, he gave me two floppy disks containing copies of Turbo Pascal 1.0 (8″ CPM-80 and 5.25 PC-DOS).

2021 11 11 david i in my home office

On one of my breaks, I took the floppy disks into a booth “office” that we had for meetings that also had an IBM PC. I was very excited to see what PK had since I had learned Pascal in 1972 while I was a Computer Science major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I put in the 5.25 floppy disk and started the Turbo.com executable and up popped a menu with a few options. I selected the editor and typed in a short command line “Hello World” program and tried to run it. Amazingly it compiled blazingly fast and the app started up.

I had to tell my co-worker and friend Spencer Leyton about this Pascal compiler and how important it was for the CPM and PC programming world. From that day on, Spencer talked with PK to try to convince him to allow Softsel to distribute Turbo Pascal to its network of computer store accounts. While it took awhile to convince PK, Spencer eventually got PK to agree to a distribution contract. Spencer went on to get a job at Borland. I continued working at Softsel for awhile and eventually Spencer convinced PK to interview me for a job. My job interview was on PK’s racing sailboat in Monterey Bay. We had dinner afterwards at the Crow’s Nest restaurant at the Santa Cruz harbor. I went back to Los Angeles and was given a job offer. I accepted the offer and started in June of 1985 (a little less that 2 years after I first met PK). I enjoyed the privilege of working with Anders Hejlsberg and a talented global team of dedicated employees for more than three decades (and about 4 million air miles).

I seems unreal that its been almost 40 years since I first met PK and first tried Turbo Pascal. It’s also been more than 50 years since I first tried the Pascal language while I was in college. Back then you could build programs for two platforms: PC-DOS and CPM-80. Most amazingly, you can still create “textbook” Pascal applications with every release of Turbo, Borland, Kylix and Delphi Pascal compilers. And, with Delphi, you can create modern applications that can run on desktops, web servers, clouds and mobile devices including Win32, Win64, macOS, iOS, Android, and Linux.


I still enjoy writing programs most every day using RAD Studio, Delphi and C++Builder in my semi-retired software engineer activities. Programming keeps my brain alive and my spirits soaring.

Happy 40th Birthday Turbo Pascal v1.0!

Marco Cantu, Delphi and RAD Studio Product Manager, recently posted on X (formerly known as Twitter) a hint about an upcoming Delphi release’s Easter egg.

My hugs and love go out to Philippe Kahn, Spencer Leyton, Anders Hejlsberg and the thousands and thousands of Borland/Embarcadero family and community members ????


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