[fpc-devel] Pascal Standard, and what we can do.

Mark Morgan Lloyd markMLl.fpc-devel at telemetry.co.uk
Sun Jul 19 12:55:33 CEST 2015

Jonas Maebe wrote:
> Den wrote:
>> Just like ECMAScript,
>> C++, PHP, most languages now have a 'standards' document behind it.
>> That's their *roadmap*. Their *leadership*. Design it and the
>> *community* will show *support*.
> ISO Pascal and ISO Extended Pascal were like that in the early 90s:
> 1) there was an official ISO standard and standards committee for it
> 2) there were a number commercial compilers supporting it such as HP 
> Pascal and IBM's compiler for its System/370
> 3) later on (in 1996) a GCC-based implementation arrived for it (the 
> equivalent of the LLVM of the moment)
> And still almost no one uses ISO/Extended Pascal anymore. Why? Possibly 
> because the de facto Pascal standards had already become Think Pascal on 
> the Mac and Turbo Pascal on the PC by then, and none of those 
> programmers wanted to rewrite all of their code (although Think Pascal 
> was a bit closer to ISO Pascal). Or maybe because in general, many 
> people just preferred those language dialects for one reason or another. 
> In any case, introducing one new standard to rule them all seldom (if 
> ever) works (and you can bet someone will be unable to resist to add a 
> link to the related xkcd comic).

I was selling and supporting development tools in the late 80s. From 
memory, there was one compiler (in the PC arena) that prided itself on 
robust ISO Pascal support and expressed little interest in extending 
towards any of the de-facto standards: nobody bought it. Their Wp page 
still claims "It is the only compiler in existence that fully implements 
the ISO 10206 standard for Extended Pascal."

I still have occasional problems with an "old hand" on a private 
conferencing system I use. He worked for Olivetti in the 80s, and found 
that he and his colleagues were mandated to write an operating system 
and support software in unextended ISO Pascal. In retrospect, that is 
universally recognised as being an inappropriate combination, but almost 
everybody at the time could see it as well... he still misses no 
opportunity to denigrate pascal as being grossly incomplete for "real work".

This one? https://xkcd.com/927/

> Standards do not magically make a language more popular. They only work 
> if they follow from a desire of an entire community to design one and to 
> adhere to it. "Design it and the community will show support" is exactly 
> the opposite of what happens in practice.

Which in practice means that we'd need to get all of the major 
"post-Borland" compilers pulling in the same direction, starting off 
with Gnu Pascal, and would need to get Embarcadero committing themselves 
to long-term language stability.

Formal standards only work if they have the support of a major standards 
body from day one. And informal industry standards normally take the 
form of openly-published documentation, and we've got that in abundance 
(but if Den wants to help with the indexing, I'm sure we'd all 
appreciate it).

Mark Morgan Lloyd
markMLl .AT. telemetry.co .DOT. uk

[Opinions above are the author's, not those of his employers or colleagues]

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