When first developed in the 1970s by Niklaus Wirth, Pascal programming language's primary use was teaching structured programming. However, the programming language evolved into a powerful language for business and commercial applications.
Over forty years later, Pascal is still relevant and is an important part of the procedural programming language family, with applications ranging from scientific and engineering projects to desktop publishing. It is still widely used in academia and has been the language of choice for many computer science programs. Moreover, many popular applications use Pascal as the foundation for their designs. While this might surprise some, it highlights the versatility of Pascal. Understanding where and when to use Pascal is essential for any programmer.
This article will explore Pascal and its uses, its benefits to developers, and potential pitfalls when working with Pascal. You'll also learn how Pascal compares to other languages and what the Pascal language looks like today.
What Is Pascal Programming?
Named after Blaise Pascal, a 17th-century French mathematician and philosopher, Pascal is a procedural programming language emphasizing readability and structure. It is a procedural language that relies heavily on subprograms organized into procedures and functions. Pascal was the dominant computer programming language for several years, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, but the Pascal system was eventually overtaken by newer languages that either improved the language or introduced new programming concepts. It's often compared to the C programming language and is considered a great language for learning the basics of programming.
Pascal is an ALGOL-based language, which includes features such as the ability to define data types and structures, its linear-type structure, and its imperative syntax. Nonetheless, it provides several features designed to make programming easier and more structured than its predecessors. These features include Pascal's strong type-checking system, which helps reduce errors during development. Pascal also includes features such as procedures and functions; a Pascal program typically has many subprograms that can be reused in other Pascal programs, saving the programmer time.
Advantages of Pascal Programming Language
Pascal stands out from other procedural programming languages for various reasons. Here are a few of the advantages Pascal programming language offers to developers in an IDE:
- Clean and easy to understand: Pascal's syntax is designed to be simple and readable, making it ideal for beginners to learn programming fundamentals without knowing too much. Object Pascal compilers, which translate Pascal source code into machine code, allow for further computer execution capability.
- Well-structured: Pascal is known for its structured programming model, which allows developers to write and compile code with fewer errors and bugs. Pascal's type-checking system also helps reduce the chances of errors.
- Platform-independent: Pascal programs are portable across different operating systems and architectures, making Pascal a great language for writing cross-platform applications.
- Uses a procedural approach: Pascal divides code into smaller procedures and functions, making Pascal code easier to read, debug and maintain.
- Object-oriented programming: It supports object-oriented programming principles in the form of Pascal Objects that allow developers to write code that can be reused and more easily shared between programs.
- Assembly language integration: Pascal integrates with assembly languages, allowing the programmer to mix assembly language and Pascal code easily. This means Pascal is great for high-tech programming, giving developers the choice of languages to work with.
Disadvantages of Pascal Programming Language
While Pascal has many advantages, there are some drawbacks to consider. Here are some of Pascal's disadvantages:
- It’s a legacy language: Pascal was first developed in the 1970s, with its predecessor ALGOL (algorithmic language) dating back to the 1950s. While it has been updated over the years, its original design still limits its potential. Using Pascal for modern applications that require more advanced features, such as web development, may be difficult.
- Control flow issues: Pascal has a limited set of control flow commands and operators, making writing complex programs with many branches of logic more difficult.
- Array issues: Pascal does not support multi-dimensional arrays, limiting its use for complex data structures.
- Not suitable for large projects: Pascal is best suited for small to mid-size programs and can become unwieldy as the program grows.
- Not suitable for multi-threaded applications: Pascal does not support the threading concept, making using multiple processor cores in a system complex.
- Less popular language: While Pascal is still an essential part of the procedural programming language family, it's less popular than many other languages, such as C and Java. This can make it harder for developers to find help and resources when working with Pascal.
Its development environment is limited. Pascal has a limited range of development tools and integrated development environments (IDEs) available, making it more difficult for Pascal developers to find the right environment for their needs.
What Is Pascal Used For?
Pascal is still relevant today due to its widespread use in applications such as the IBM Personal Computer and desktop publishing applications. It's also a language used in educational circles for teaching programming fundamentals. Below are several other popular uses of Pascal.
One of the most popular applications for Pascal is MacOS, the operating system used to run Apple computers. Apple wrote its original Aqua interface in Pascal, which remains a key part of the MacOS development environment. Today, Apple still supports Pascal and provides an official Object Pascal development environment with Xcode.
StreamOS is a virtual environment written entirely in Pascal, which provides virtualized hardware for applications. StreamOS uses virtual pascal to simulate the underlying hardware and software in the virtualized environment, allowing developers to write applications for multiple platforms. StreamOS is a popular choice for game and application developers, enabling them to develop their applications in Pascal and then deploy them on various platforms with minimal effort.
Free Pascal Operating System
The Free Pascal Operating System (FPOS) is a free and open-source operating system written entirely in Pascal. It runs on Intel x86 and ARM platforms, and its main purpose is to provide a platform for education and research into operating systems. FPOS includes many of the features found in popular operating systems such as Linux and Windows, as well as Pascal-specific tools for development.
Laksen or FP-RTOS is an open-source real-time operating system written in Pascal. It is designed to be hardware-independent and provides a platform for embedded systems development. Laksen is used by companies such as Philips, Bosch, and Nokia for embedded system development.
Pascal Programming Examples
Over the years, Pascal has been used in various applications. Here are some popular Pascal programming language examples:
- Turbo Pascal: Turbo Pascal was one of the most popular extended Pascal versions for desktop applications such as word processors, spreadsheets, and games. It was released in 1982 and has since been replaced by Borland Delphi. Turbo Pascal is still used today, mostly in educational settings, to teach programming fundamentals.
- Delphi: Delphi is a visual programming language based on Object Pascal and Borland's extended version of Turbo Pascal. Delphi was widely used in the early 2000s and is still popular for developing Windows applications. Delphi's extended features make it great for rapid application development, and it's still used by many companies today.
- UCSD Pascal: UCSD Pascal was a Pascal-based operating system developed by the University of California, San Diego, in the late 1970s. Many developers used it in the 1980s, and its extended features made it popular for developing business applications such as payroll systems and inventory management. Early computers such as the Apple II and IBM Personal Computer are some of the most popular uses of USCD Pascal.
Is Pascal Programming a High- or Low-Level Language?
First, knowing the difference between high and low-level programming languages is vital to understanding Pascal's role in programming. High-level languages are easy for humans to read and understand, such as Java or C. Low-level languages are more difficult for humans to read but are closer to the underlying hardware and offer better performance than high-level languages.
Pascal is a high-level programming language, meaning it is designed for people to easily read and understand it. It is considered a high-level language because it abstracts the outermost block of code from the hardware, making writing and debugging programs easier. Additionally, Pascal provides a choice of languages to the programmer, allowing them to write code in multiple languages and easily switch between them.
Need Pascal Programmers? Look No Further
Pascal is a high-level procedural programming language that has been updated over the years and still has applicability in modern applications. Its easy-to-read syntax, type-checking system, and procedural approach make it great for teaching and learning programming fundamentals. Additionally, Pascal's platform independence allows developers to write code to port across different operating systems and architectures.
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