Turbo is Back!

If you weren’t developing software back in the late 80’s and early 90’s (otherwise known as “the last century”) then you probably can’t understand why the word “turbo” brings back such fond memories for those of us who were. I suspect I am pretty typical of the class. After graduating from various flavors of BASIC my first real programming tool was Borland’s Turbo Pascal. I soon moved on from that to Turbo C++. Borland was also the company that made debugging a joy (or at least, a lot less painful) with their Turbo Debugger. TD, as it was generally known, was the first real “graphical debugger”, despite being implemented pre-Windows in a character mode interface. It provided seperate panes where you could view local variables, the call stack, globals, and any area of memory that you liked. It also took full advantage of the new features of Intel’s processors at the time, the 286 and 386, for breakpoints and single step execution, and let you set flexible watches on the values of variables.

TD allowed you to peel the onion and peer deeply into the heart of a program to find out what was going wrong with it. Eventually it was joined by Turbo Profiler, a tool that targeted code execution speed issues at a time when that mattered for the average program. All these tools eventually made their way into Borland C++ (except for TP, which morphed into Delphi), which I used for years before switching to Microsoft’s product line. And that, ultimately, is why my excitement about the return of the Turbo product line is mostly driven by nostalgia. Microsoft’s tools firmly occupy this niche for modern Windows development, and MS already offers free versions for students and hobbyists, as Borland has stated it will do. Nevertheless, I ‘ll always have a fond regard for Phillipe Borland, his company jazz band, and his vision for the kinds of tools programmers needed back in the dark days of DOS.

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