Borland Innovated Beyond Anyone

July 25, 2013 // Posted in Languages, Programming (Tags: , ) |  No Comments

tp1In 1983 Borland changed the face of PC programming with the release of Turbo Pascal 1.0. Before that, languages were expensive, unwieldy, command-line driven affairs which ensured that programming remained the exclusive preserve of programmers. Borland provided an environment which integrated a full-screen editor with a lightning fast compiler at an unbelievably low price; suddenly programming was accessible to ordinary people.

However, programming for Windows has remained entirely within the remit of professional programmers. For a start it was much more complicated than programming for DOS , and the tools required were expensive.

But now Borland has released Turbo Pascal for Windows (TPW) which is not only cheap but makes programming for Windows much easier than it’s ever been before.

This is a big package, taking up 6.5Mb. TPW arrives on four 3 1/2-inch disks and takes about 10 minutes to install. Not surprisingly, it’ll only run under Windows, where it presents a typically attractive Windows interface. There are pop-down menus, scross bars and all the other visual extras you expect when using Windows. Your source code can appear in one window while the compiled version of it is running in another; you can have multiple source code files open (up to 32) in different windows; and you can even have multiple copies of the same (or different) compiled files running at the same time.


ObjectWindows is the heart of TPW. It’s a collection of objects for building and controlling windows, dialogue boxes and controls. Borland has essentially put all the difficult coding into a series of objects.

As long as you’re familiar with object oriented programming (OOP), you can use them — but there’s more than that.

Just as you don’t need to know how an engine works in order to drive a car, you don’t need to know how these objects work in order to drive them. This ability to wrap up functionality inside an object has always been a strong selling point of OOPs, and I can think of no better justification of their use than in Windows programming.

In Windows terminology, resources are entities like buttons, cursors and icons. To avoid having to code these each time you develop a new program, Windows allows programmers to store them in a ‘resource file’. These resources are handled and generated by the Whitewater Resource Toolkit (WRT) which is supplied with TPW. Once constructed, a resource file acts as a reservoir of useful bits which can be called by any other program that you write.

The WRT provides drawing packages for the construction of resources like cursors and simplifies the process of managing resources and moving them between resource files. Making these facilities widely available is going to generate much more variation within Windows than we’ve seen so far. The buttons used in TPW, presumably developed with the WRT, are imaginative and fun to use — and they’ll help programmers to stop Windows programs all looking the same.


The Editor is a fairly typical Windows offering. The scroll bars can be used to move around, and you can cut and paste sections of code in the expected manner.

There have been complaints in the past about the lack of a decent Undo facility in Borland’s editors, but this one seems impossible to fault. It can be set to undo every single keystroke, or to treat keystrokes as groups and undo them in logically cohesive blocks. A separate buffer is set aside to hold the edits performed in each window, and the buffers seem adequate for a very large number of changes to be recalled.

I tried everything I could think of to upset the undo system and it never failed to restore my changes.

The help system is there, as you might expect, with both the normal sort of Windows help and the language-specific help (Ctrl-F1) which I’ve found so useful in the past. Borland has also supplied a manual called the Borland Languages Help Compiler, which tells you how to write Windows help systems for your own applications. This not only details the mechanism by which help systems are constructed but is also full of helpful hints about conventions and consistency.

TPW only compiles to disk, so a fast hard disk will increase the apparent (and indeed actual) speed of the compiler. A trivial program (220 lines) on a 33MHz 386 with a fast hard disk took about a second to compile. Borland says it runs at 85,000 lines per minute on a similar machine, so it’s fast.

The debugger comes as a bit of a shock; even though it’s accessible from the IDE, it isn’t a Windows application. The debugger can only operate in text mode (although it’s mouse driven) and has the look and feel of earlier offerings from Borland. But it’s clear that this is a powerful tool.

Features that five years ago were a revelation now seem only worth mentioning in passing. Breakpoints can be set and variables watched. The code can be stepped through line by line and you can step backwards through the code. For those who need to do serious work it’s possible to debug using dual monitors, one showing the program and the other the code.

The class hierarchy browser that Borland introduced for object oriented work is here, and it’s designed to allow you to examine the objects that you’ve created.

New features especially for Windows applications include novel breakpoints which can be set based on messages received by the application during execution. These messages can be trapped or just logged. Local and global heap dumps maintained by Windows can be viewed using the Turbo Debugger.

Getting started

gsMost people who intend to use TPW will probably have some experience of using Turbo Pascal (although the manuals are written for complete beginners) and will want to know how their old programs will run. A unit called WinCrt provides support for those old favourite commands which were used in DOS to put text on to the screen: commands like ClrScr, GotoXY and KeyPressed. Including WinCrt at the start of simple text-based programs automatically creates a standard window, and these commands will behave much as they did under DOS.

Clearly, the point of Windows is that it offers much more than DOS, so simply altering text-based programs until they’ll run in a Window is rather to miss the point. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see old dogs of programs suddenly appearing in a neat, scrollable window. One of mine dates from Turbo Pascal 3.0 days and has become a Windows application with the addition of the single line Uses WinCrt.


I like TPW a lot. It’s the most attractive programming environment I’ve ever used, and the compiler is blisteringly fast. It makes programming Windows applications feel less like sticking your head in a bucket of coal and more like fun.

The editor has an unbeatable undo facility, the documentation is good, and I love the whole package. So, don’t delay. If you’ve ever fancied being a Windows programmer, go out and grap a copy.

Cross Platform Utilities And C

July 8, 2013 // Posted in Languages, Programming (Tags: , ) |  No Comments

cpsApplication developers’ heads must spin as they decide which platforms to target. Should they write for DOS, where the vast majority of users remain? Should they write for Windows, where the growth seems to be? How about OS/2, with its wealth of slick APIs and multithreading capabilities? And then there’s the Macintosh … and Windows NT … and Unix …

As these decisions grow more complicated, vendors of development tools are simplifying choices by adding cross-platform support to their utilities.

C++ is where the action is in development tools, and 1992 saw a number of important product releases, especially with respect to cross-platform support.

The market leader is still Borland International Inc., which introduced a Windows integrated development environment (IDE) as part of C++ version 3.1 in April.

Borland C++ can be used to develop both DOS and Windows 3.x programs. There were several excellent new Windows-based tools in 3.1, but Turbo Vision and ObjectWindows, Borland’s application frameworks for DOS and Windows, respectively, were not upgraded.

The best cross-platform news from Borland had to do with unreleased products: The company has promised versions of its C++ product for OS/2 and Windows NT, with accompanying releases of ObjectWindows. All the other major C++ vendors also introduced packages with facilities for cross-platform development.

Microsoft Corp., for example, in April released a major version of a C++ compiler, the company’s first. Microsoft C/C++ 7.0 was also put together mostly with Windows in mind–the Microsoft Foundation Classes, the application framework, is designed specifically for Windows. C/C++ 7.0′s development tools are generally DOS-hosted, although Microsoft has promised a Windows-hosted version of the Programmer’s Workbench, the company’s IDE.

Although a Windows-everywhere strategy suits Microsoft C/C++ well for porting to NT, it does little for developers of other environments. OS/2 development, which had its genesis in Microsoft C, is conspicuously absent in version 7.0. After much griping from customers, Microsoft released a limited-function OS/2 2.0-hosted development system for DOS and Windows, but it is missing crucial tools such as the CodeView debugger.

Other languages

The most important releases in cross-platform languages this year were on the Smalltalk and Pascal fronts, and in Microsoft’s Visual Basic products.

Smalltalk is the granddaddy of object-oriented development, and Digitalk Inc.’s products are leaders in this area.

Smalltalk environments are known for powerful support for the developer, both in terms of user interface and the richness of the object hierarchy. PC Week Labs’ testing of Digitalk’s Smalltalk/V 2.0 for OS/2, which debuted in September, found it to live up to the potential of the operating system beneath it and to provide considerable flexibility in development.

Other versions of Digitalk’s Smalltalk/V are available for DOS and Windows, and Smalltalk is available from other vendors for a variety of Unix platforms and for the Macintosh.

Borland’s Pascal products support DOS, extended DOS and Windows. The newest release, 7.0 (released last month), incorporates a fascinating innovation: binary-compatible dynamic link libraries for Windows and extended DOS. No other compiler, including Borland’s own C++ products, has accomplished this.

Microsoft’s Visual Basic became available in September for both DOS and Windows, but portability between them is not quite as seamless as it can be with a conventional high-level language. A conversion tool, which flags portions of the code that must be modified, is used to port between the two platforms.

But even Visual Basic programs frequently use facilities that are not portable. For instance, Visual Basic is frequently used as an easy front-end to Windows facilities. The new version 2.0 of Visual Basic for Windows contains controls for using Windows for Workgroups’ messaging facilities, for instance. PC Week Labs found during testing that Visual Basic is an excellent facility for stand-alone and network Dynamic Data Exchange. None of this is portable to DOS. Likewise, the graphics facilities of both operating systems are not portable.

The great vapor wars

In addition to announcements, there have also been a number of significant leaks related to cross-platform development. Microsoft’s Alar and Symantec Corp. and Apple Computer Inc.’s Bedrock are the truly significant non-products in this field. Developers would be well-advised to pay them no consideration when making strategic decisions, because their very existence is debatable.

When it is eventually deployed, Bedrock is supposed to be the ultimate cross-platform application framework. Original claims that it will make the best applications on whatever platform it is implemented have been modified, as critics pointed out the complexity of the task.

Alar is a bizarre combination of cross-compiling and a software-translation layer. The idea is for Windows developers to run a Motorola 680X0 cross-compiler on their application so it will run on a Macintosh with a software translation layer that modifies the Windows calls into Macintosh calls.

Turbo Pascal Heated Up The Jets

June 7, 2013 // Posted in Languages, Programming (Tags: , ) |  No Comments

tpAs a replacement for Turbo Pascal Professional 6.0, Borland released Borland Pascal with Objects 7.0, an integrated Pascal environment that runs under both DOS and Windows and is targeted at sophisticated developers who are bumping into the 640K-byte DOS barrier, according to Zach Urlocker, senior product manager in Borland’s Languages Business Unit in Scotts Valley, Calif.

Borland Pascal with Objects can be tapped to create DOS and Windows applications as well as programs that adhere to the DOS Protected Mode Interface (DPMI), an industry specification used to write protected-mode DOS software, Urlocker said.

Borland is providing DPMI support because 40 percent of its 2 million Pascal users are professional developers who need a tool to break through the 640K-byte barrier, according to Urlocker.

Borland Pascal with Objects 7.0 addresses their need to produce DOS, Windows and DPMI-compliant applications as well as to share code across both platforms, he said.

The professional Pascal upgrade offers both a DOS and a Windows Integrated Development Environment (IDE), allowing developers to work in either workbench and to design applications that run in both environments, Urlocker explained.

The IDE has also been boosted with higher capacities, letting developers create large applications within the workbench rather than having to shell out to other compilers, editors or programming tools at the command line, he said.

Borland Pascal with Objects 7.0′s multiplatform support is the most significant new feature of the product, said Bob Sherman, senior engineering systems software analyst with Underwriters Laboratories Inc., a non-profit organization that tests a wide variety of consumer products for conformance to safety standards.

“Borland Pascal with Objects gives us the ability to target three different environments from the IDE. … That’s going to be a tremendous time-saver,” he said.

An additional multiplatform feature of the 7.0 upgrade is the ability to create DOS dynamic link libraries (DLLs) that are binary-compatible with Windows, ensuring that DOS and Windows applications can share DLLs, according to Urlocker.

Borland Pascal with Objects 7.0 also contains a proprietary DOS extender, written by Borland, that lets developers create DPMI protected-mode applications as large as 16M bytes, he added.

For entry-level programmers who want to learn object-oriented design, Borland also recently released Turbo Pascal 7.0, which replaces Turbo Pascal 6.0.

Turbo Pascal 7.0 is a subset of Borland Pascal with Objects 7.0 that lets developers create DOS real-mode applications without support for DPMI or Windows development. The tool does not contain an improved IDE or object browsers for navigating through code.

Borland Pascal with Objects 7.0 is priced at $495. Upgrades from previous versions of the lower-end Turbo Pascal are $149.95.

Turbo Pascal 7.0 is priced at $149.95, and upgrades from previous versions cost $89.95.

Classic Programming Languages – How Many Do You Know?

May 14, 2013 // Posted in Languages, Programming (Tags: , ) |  No Comments

clpJust like the first mainframe computers, the first microcomputers had no language, either. They had too little memory to support any software, so they were programmed in machine language by setting front-panel switches. Micros that had no front panel (like the Southwest Technical Products M6800) were programmed in assembly language through the use of a monitor program contained in ROM. The monitor chip also had a mini-compiler to translate programs into machine language.

Once the thrill of having actually built a working computer wore off, the computer hobbyists wanted to do something with their machines. Soon 2K and 4K memory boards became available, and with them, the possibility of using high-level languages.

A group called People’s Computer Co. was organized by Bob Albricht, Dennis Allison, and friends in Menlo Park, Calif., to promote the private use of computers. At first they operated on DEC minis and from terminals connected to even larger computers. They also published a newspaper called People’s Computer.

In this publication, Allison, Bernard Grening, “Happy Lady,” and others published the specifications for Tiny Basic–a language designed to operate on microcomputers with as little as 3K worth of memory. Tiny Basic was soon widely implemented by many hobbyists. These same enthusiasts expanded and ported Tiny Basic to 8080, 6800, and 6502 microcomputers. To promote the use of Tiny Basic, the People’s Computer newspaper was upgraded to a new publication called Dr. Dobbs’ Journal of Tiny Basic, Computer Calisthenics & Orthodontia. The Tiny Basic portion of the title was soon omitted and the magazine became more general; you probably still know it today as Dr. Dobbs’ Journal.


No one felt the need for a robust microcomputer BASIC more than Ed Roberts, inventor of the Altair and head of MITS, the company that manufactured it. When he received a letter from a company called Traf-O-Data claiming that they had developed just such a BASIC, he called the company right away. It turned out that Traf-O-Data was a couple of Harvard students named Paul Allen and Bill Gates, and they didn’t actually have a new BASIC, but rather a cross-compiler that ran on a large computer and could simulate an 8080 micro.

They also knew DEC’s mini-based BASIC and felt it could be adapted to the smaller machines. Although Roberts immediately wanted them to come and show him their BASIC version, the two partners managed to stall him long enough to actually write it. Even though they had never run their BASIC on an actual Altair 8080, the partners visited MITS and demonstrated their language to Roberts–and it worked! The partners renamed their company Microsoft and made a deal with Roberts to sell their software as Altair BASIC.

This was a royalty arrangement with Roberts working in the sale of Altair BASIC with the purchase of MITS memory boards. If you bought the MITS memory, you could buy the BASIC at a reasonable cost. But if you wanted the BASIC alone, the price was outrageous, at least to computer hobbyists who believed in the hacker ethic that software should be free. In response, they invented multiuser software–one person bought BASIC and 10 people used it.

Gates was outraged. These hackers were robbing him, and while his BASIC was sweeping across the country, he was making hardly anything on it. He wrote a letter to Byte magazine addressed to the hobbyists. He told them that they were thieves and if this kept up, he wasn’t going to write more software. Eventually Microsoft broke loose from the contract with MITS and went out on its own. It has been said that Ed Roberts was the last one to get the best of Bill Gates in a business deal.


The Microsoft 8K and 12K BASIC languages became standards in the industry and were eventually modified for use on Tandy’s TRS-80 and many other popular microcomputers. The main rivals to Tandy and Microsoft were the Digital Group of Denver, Colo., and South West Technical Products Co. (SWTPC) of San Antonio, Texas. Both of these companies developed versions of BASIC to support their computers. The Digital Group had one of the first BASIC versions that supported a video board and a digital tape recorder.

The SWTPC 6800 had a whole series of BASIC versions designed to run with increasing amounts of memory. The owner of SWTPC, Dan Meyers, had a sense of humor and liked to joke at the expense of the S-100 bus companies (Altair, Microsoft, Tandy, et al.). He made fun of the software cost for the Altair and Imsai 8080 computers. His BASIC was excellent and written by a man named Robert Uiterwyck. He agreed to subsidize and sell it for $4 for 4K BASIC, $8 for 8K BASIC, and $12 for 12K BASIC–pennies when compared to Microsoft’s prices.

As cassettes gave way to floppy disk systems, a new layer between the computer and its language was required. This was the disk operating system, and computer languages had to be modified to work with them. The dominant 8-bit operating system for 8080 and Z-80 computers became Digital Research’s CP/M, written by Gary Kildall, who also wrote a minicomputer and microcomputer version of PL/1 called PL/M.

Microsoft quickly gave up its first version of Disk BASIC designed to directly support floppy disks and modified it to run under CP/M and Radio Shack’s TRSDOS; this soon became the standard BASIC for 8080- and Z-80-based personal computers and was the first language selected by IBM to run on its new personal computers. With floppy disk storage available, Microsoft also came out with new versions of FORTRAN, Pascal, and COBOL. However, at this time BASIC was still the language of choice.



All the early versions of BASIC were interpretive, that is, each program line was translated by the computer and executed before going on to the next line. If there was an error, the program stopped and an error message was displayed. In contrast, larger computers used compiled languages. In these, the program was written in an editor that produced source code. Then the entire source code was translated into an object-code version, which was what actually ran on the computer. Though this gave much faster performance, if one line of the program was changed, the entire thing had to be recompiled.

In 1976, a man named Gordon Eubanks wrote a compiled version of BASIC designed to run under CP/M. Because he wrote it while he was at the Micro Computer Labs of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, his language (E-Basic) was in the public domain. Later an upgraded, commercial version called C-Basic was written and Eubanks came to work at Digital Research. This became very popular for business applications–so, of course, Microsoft soon came out with its own compiled BASIC.

Other computer companies using their own BASIC included Processor Technology, Digital Group, and North Star. Eventually the first two of these went out of business, and North Star computers were designed to run CP/M and Microsoft BASIC as well as the company’s own BASIC.

The Apple II and Commodore computers were becoming popular around this time, and these machines used the 6502 microprocessors, so they each had their own versions of BASIC. Though both were equipped with strong graphic extensions not possible with the S-100 and TRS-80 computers, and had large libraries of software, they had nowhere near the number of applications running under Z-80 or 8080 computers. To make matters worse, Apple BASIC was solely supported by Apple Computer, and Commodore BASIC only ran on Commodores.

To get into the Apple II market, Microsoft sold a plug-in board for the Apple II that could run its versions of CP/M and BASIC. Eventually Microsoft wound up selling as much CP/M under license as did Digital Research.


Pascal was developed in Europe as a teaching language. It ran mainly on large computers, but at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), a project was started to port Pascal to microcomputers. What was developed was not only a language, but a complete operating system called the P-system, which supported not only Pascal but also versions of FORTRAN, COBOL, and BASIC. UCSD Pascal was given to universities at almost no cost. In addition, the UCSD Pascal project received strong support from the industry. Apple, Western Digital, and North Star all bought licenses.

Unfortunately, it was soon discovered that the university was making money on Pascal, and the trustees were warned that this might affect the school’s nonprofit status. So the project was turned over to a private company that charged such high prices that Pascal was soon priced out of the market. The new price of UCSD Pascal, however, encouraged low-cost versions and several were marketed for as little as $19. Predictably, though, most of these weren’t worth even that. Finally, Borland International came out with Turbo Pascal at a very low cost. Today’s version of this powerful language is still a popular application generator.

But with the advent of 16-bit PCs carrying larger memory banks, versions of Unix started to run on the microcomputer platform, and the principal programming language used with this system was known as C. The C language was also ported to DOS-based computers and soon supplanted BASIC and Pascal as the most widely used programming development tool. An upgraded version of this environment was developed by Bjarne Stroustrup and was given the name C++ by Rick Mascitti in 1983. Today, C++ and Visual C++ are the most popular programming environments for Windows applications.

Also with the advent of Windows, BASIC has again gained popularity in the form of Visual Basic, currently in version 3.0. Like Visual C++, this is a programming environment based upon the old BASIC language that makes use of the Windows graphical user interface to allow programmers to create applications without having to write code. It’s all aiming at a point-and-click or drag-and-drop solution. While there is still a ways to go to make that vision a reality, both Visual Basic and Visual C++ have enabled many inexperienced programmers to get a productive taste of application development.

Windows 3.1 – Don’t Miss You Much

May 10, 2013 // Posted in Languages, Programming  |  No Comments

wIs it possible for something to be very good for Windows 3.1 yet not at all good for Microsoft? You bet it is. What could that something be? That’s simple: updated Borland language products for Windows 3.1, of course.

Consider, for example, Borland’s new Turbo Pascal for Windows 1.5 that will be introduced next week. Just as surely as it opens the door to a wider range of Windows 3.1 applications, TPWin 1.5 will also be yet another blow to Microsoft’s once-thriving languages product line.

TPWin 1.5 is the latest incarnation of Turbo Pascal, the product that launched Borland into the U.S. software market nearly a decade ago. Turbo Pascal was also the first of the Borland language products that have steadily taken market share away from Microsoft’s languages.

With TPWin 1.5, Pascal programmers gain full access to the new features of Windows 3.1. TPWin 1.5 directly supports enhanced Windows 3.1 capabilities like multimedia sound, Object Linking and Embedding (OLE), TrueType fonts, the Pen Windows extensions, drag and drop, and access to the other enhancements of the Windows API.

TPWin 1.5 also adds significant new features of its own. These both build on and expand on the innovative capabilities already present in various Borland language products. The Object Windows class hierarchy uses the object-oriented capabilities of TPWin 1.5 to give the Pascal programmer control over Windows 3.1 graphical interface objects, such as windows, scroll bars, dialog boxes and so forth.

Also included are Borland’s Resource Workshop with Turbo Debugger for Windows and the Integrated Development Environment (IDE). Together, these provide the essential capabilities of the Microsoft Windows SDK and more.

The IDE, for example, uses a speed bar for commonly required actions. Even better, the IDE editor provides a clever use of color to highlight the syntax of Pascal code automatically. It “knows” Pascal reserved words and delimiters and gives programmers a choice of colors and type styles automatically to identify different syntactical constructs. That makes it much easier to understand and debug code.

Windows dynamic link libraries (DLLs) can not only be accessed with TPWin 1.5 but created with it as well. User organizations and software vendors can therefore use it to develop DLLs of their own that are shared by multiple applications. Turbo Debugger for Windows automatically detects and loads required DLLs for testing.

The entire Turbo Pascal for Windows 1.5 package will carry a suggested retail price of $149.95. That includes everything described here. The upgrade price for owners of TPWin 1.0 will be $49.95. All this makes Turbo Pascal for Windows 1.5 an even better bargain than the original Turbo Pascal.

Of course, C and C++ are equally important, if not even more important, languages for corporations and independent software vendors today. Though I was not able to obtain details prior to next week’s announcements by Borland, I have confirmed from usually reliable sources that updates to Borland’s C and C++ products to support Windows 3.1 are also forthcoming.

What’s more, word is that upgrades for owners of Borland’s C and C++ products will all be priced under $40. That will certainly make it very difficult for Microsoft to stem its steady loss of market share to Borland in these critical languages.

So the good news for Microsoft is that some very powerful, popular and aggressively priced language products that support the new capabilities of Windows 3.1 will soon be on the market. The bad news for Microsoft is that they will be from Borland and that the latter’s relentless “barbarian” attack on Microsoft’s once-dominant position in programming languages will not only continue but intensify.

Visual Pascal? If Only It Was To Be…

April 24, 2013 // Posted in Languages, Programming (Tags: , ) |  No Comments

vpBorland International Inc. has begun alpha testing an object-oriented, Pascal-based visual development tool that it plans to launch by year’s end as an alternative to Visual Basic.

The tool, code-named VBK (Visual Basic Killer), is aimed at giving corporate developers a new tool to rapidly build applications and database front ends — a market in which Microsoft Corp.’s Visual Basic has thrived, said sources familiar with the software.

The tool supports Visual Basic VBX controls and features a notebook-style interface similar to Quattro Pro. A future version will include Borland’s database engine, sources said.

VBK works in much the same way as Visual Basic: Users create event-driven programs by dragging and dropping controls onto forms, setting the properties of these controls, and writing code to run behind the controls.

Sources said, however, that the most impressive difference is the end product.

“Visual Basic can be messy, with a lot of different files,” said one tester who asked to remain anonymous. For example, Visual Basic needs an executable file, a run-time library, VBX files, and sometimes a number of other files for functions such as access to Microsoft’s Jet database engine. VBK, on the other hand, creates a single file in “very tight, very efficient” native code, one source declared.

Developers will have two ways to take advantage of the tool’s component-driven approach to building applications. They can plug in VBX custom controls, although the VBX files must be included in the final product as separate files. The better option, testers said, is to use the object components that Borland will provide with the package. These are building blocks similar to VBXs, but are object-oriented. For example, the components can easily be subclassed — a process that is very difficult to do with VB X controls. When VBK generates an application, it links these objects into the executable file.

To gain ground against Visual Basic, however, the Scotts Valley, Calif., company’s product faces a few hurdles, such as the language. Pascal is not as popular as C or C++, and while the language has a solid core of proponents, some developers may resist switching to it.

One corporate developer said, however, that this should be a minor problem.

“Pascal isn’t that much more difficult to teach than BASIC, so it shouldn’t be much of a difficulty,” said Ray Koukari, MIS director with Arctco Inc., manufacturer of Arctic Cat snowmobiles, in Thief River Falls, Minn. Koukari, a Visual Basic user, had not seen VBK.

A second, more difficult hurdle is Visual Basic‘s popularity.

“Momentum is a tough thing to fight against,” said Visual Basic user David Greenberg, director of new systems development at Orlando Health Care Group, in Florida. Greenberg, who had not seen VBK, said the tool would have to provide “some fairly large incremental benefits, and those could fall into any number of categories: greater functionality, speed of development, built-in version control.”

Koukari pointed out that, to be used in his shop, VBK would have to fit smoothly into the current work environment.

“They’d have to support VBX completely, and they’d have to support OLE,” he said.