Who Invented the Pascal Program? [In Case You Were Wondering]

inventedpascal   Who Invented the Pascal Program? [In Case You Were Wondering]The Pascal programming language, which was based on the ALGOL computer language, was developed in the late 1960’s and was named after Blaise Pascal — a French mathematician, responsible for a series of discoveries and who also invented the first calculator (called Pascaline) in 1645.

Considering that Pascal died in 1662 and that the Pascal language was invented almost 300 years later, he can’t possibly have created the language. Then who invented the Pascal programming language?

Pascal was developed by Niklaus Wirth, who was born on February 15, 1934 in Winterthur, Switzerland to Walter, a geography professor, and Hedwig (Keller) Wirth. Niklaus developed the Algol-W which was implemented on one of the first IBM 360 (which was as large as a room) and used it as a base for the development of the Pascal language a few years later.

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“Whereas Europeans generally pronounce my name the right way (‘Nick-louse Veert’), Americans invariably mangle it into ‘Nickel’s Worth.’ This is to say that Europeans call me by name, but Americans call me by value.”
~ Niklaus Wirth

Pascal was created by Wirth as a language that could be used for teaching fundamental concepts that would work reliably and efficiently on the computers available in the 1970’s. Pascal ended up being used for computer games, embedded systems and research projects, and was also used for the development of the Lisa, one of the early Apple (Macintosh) computers and one of its derivatives, Object Pascal, is still used today, in applications such as Skype.

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Niklaus Wirth is the author of highly recognized books, such as “Algorithms + Data Structures = Programs” (1976) and has received ten honorary doctorates and was awarded the IEEE Emmanuel Piore Prize and the Turing Prize in 1984 among many others, but Wirth’s main contribution has always been the concept of creating productive software designed in an organized fashion and free of unnecessary clutter.

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In his article named “A Plea for Lean Software” [PDF] which was written by Wirth in 1995, he explains some of the issues with software development and why it’s important to create clean, organized code by quoting two “laws” that he believes reflect the business:

  • Software expands to fill the available memory. (Parkinson)
  • Software is getting slower more rapidly than hardware becomes faster. (Reiser)

Interesting ideas, considering the number of lines of code of some of the most used software today, seems to be growing larger even as the hardware grows smaller each day.  For example:

  • Basic had 4,000 lines of code in 1975, now it has over 2 million.
  • The first version of Word had 27,000 lines of code. The current version of Office has over 30 million.
  • Mac OS X is made of about 90 million lines of code.
  • Windows 95 was made of 15 million lines of code, Windows 7 is made of over 50 million lines of code.
  • A single game application for the iPhone, such as the “Unreal” game app has over 2 million lines of code.

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He has stated that the only reason software has become large is because software vendors add features customers think they want, but never use. He was also a proponent of the idea that software should be completely understood by at least one person, and that having teams developing programs without any of them fully understanding its entirety caused a lot of unnecessary complexity and useless code.

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His development of Pascal was a testament to those beliefs. Pascal is still considered one of the most mathematical of computer languages. Its core is designed around focus on essentials, object oriented programming and keeping a simple core that is lightweight and easily understood.

Did you know about Pascal?

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I took some computer programming language classes in the early 80’s. I remember the Pascal programming language. And yes, I agree with your comments regarding software programming.

Nat Jay

I remember studying Pascal during my pre-Engineering years almost 15 years ago. It’s great to rewind and recollect where our OOP systems originated from.


Nice to see this article, I used to program in Turbo Pascal, and write programs for my BBS


Guys, Pascal isn’t Object Oriented. Is the paradigm’s core of Strucutured Progamming.

Saikat Basu

Basic and Pascal were the first two that were taught to me by my father. Great post, Taty, esp. the mentions on the lines of code.


Thank you Saikat :)


Thank you for the comments. Nice to see that people still pay respect to those who paved the way for the technology we use today.