[fpc-pascal] Pascal is alive!!??

Tom Verhoeff T.Verhoeff at tue.nl
Sun Feb 25 15:44:30 CET 2007

On Tue, Feb 20, 2007 at 02:00:27PM +0100, Daniƫl Mantione wrote:
> Op Tue, 20 Feb 2007, schreef Aavani at iust.ac.ir:
> > In the ACM-ICPC International Collegiate Programming Contest dropped pascal
> > for this year final competitions and for next year, the students are not
> > allowed to use pascal as their programming language. Did you know this? What
> > is your idea? Also, in TopCoder site, you can not develop your programs with
> > Pascal while as I know, Pascal has all the properties that C++ or JAVA have.
> > 
> > Any idea? Is there any technical problem with Pascal to be used in TopCoder's
> > contest?
> I saw this coming for a few years. Free Pascal has most definately been 
> able to delay this for a few years, it was the de facto standard in 
> competitions in recent years. But the trend was there. When I  
> participated myself the amount of people using Pascal was in decline, 
> usually in the end it were two teams of 50 or so who used Pascal.

I have been ICPC "Super Regional Director" for Europe for a number
of years around the year 2000 (in 1999 we hosted the World Finals in
Eindhoven).  As a member of the ICPC Steering Committee I have always
lobbied for Pascal.  (But I must say that I have never been able to
fully grasp the operation of this Steering Committee.)

> Note that only the *requirement* to offer a Pascal environment has been 
> scrapped, organisers of contests can still provide it if they want. So, 
> please lobby at the contest organisation for a Pascal environment.

This is very true.  What is also very important, practically, is having
Pascal supporters and experts on the "jury" (both of Regional Contests
and the World Finals).

> The only fix here is to strengthen our position in education. Most people 
> today participate in Java, which is silly as it puts you in a clear 
> disadvantage. ...

Again, very true.  But this will not be easy (discussion should
continue in another thread)...

> In short, Pascal still rocks in contests. One thing is very important: 
> a rock solid text mode IDE under both Windows and Linux. This makes a 
> difference in a contest. FPC has never been able to live up to the Turbo 
> Pascal level here. I'd say especially the IDE in Linux was only useable 
> for people knowledged with FPC to work around the limitations.

Once again, a sore point, indeed.  The IDE is an issue, especially
for "beginners".  Personally, I have been very happy to use vi(m) under
contest conditions.

> Perhaps we should ask Tom Verhoeff, he is very involved in the icpc's.

Tom used to be very involved.  I had to make a choice, and after the
World Finals in 1999, I decided to focus on the International Olympiad
in Informatics (IOI: for high school students).  I am no longer in
the ICPC Steering Committee, though I have been on the jury of
the North-West European Regional Contest in 2005 and 2006.

In the IOI, Pascal is still a "major" language.  Demand comes especially
from Central and Eastern Europe, and parts of Asia.  The IOI has stayed
away from Java, mainly for technical reasons, but this is creating
more and more problems.  Algorithms/programming education around the
world seems to have fallen for Java, both for high school and for the
bachelor level at university.

Good, up-to-date, teaching material for Object Pascal is lacking.

Oh, and before I forget: C++ has STL, and Java comes with numerous
packages.  These are very powerful tools in the hands of skilled
programmers.  FPC does have FCL, but (a) it is not well-known, (b)
it is not sufficiently complete.

To round this off: we are overhauling our CS curriculum, and fortunately
there is a small core of Pascal supporters.  Personally, I favor
FPC/Lazarus, some others still believe in Delphi.  Maybe we will
produce some new Pascal material that could find wider usage.  (Food
for another thread.)

To summarize the needs:

  *  Tools: contest-friendly IDE; STL-like library
  *  Teaching: Course material, tutorials (make Pascal a wanted language)
  *  People: Supportive jury members

It would be nice to have some (former) contestants contribute to FPC
to make it a compelling contest language.

E-MAIL: T.Verhoeff @ TUE.NL     | Fac. of Math. & Computing Science
PHONE:  +31 40 247 41 25        | Eindhoven University of Technology
FAX:    +31 40 247 54 04        | PO Box 513, NL-5600 MB Eindhoven
http://www.win.tue.nl/~wstomv/  | The Netherlands

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