Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

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Those were the days

As I was just bringing something down into the cellar, I came across a box labelled "Turbo Debugger and Tools", which made me reminisce… when my father bought me my first PC at the beginning of my apprenticeship (so in 1992 or early 1993), he gave me an allowance of (if I remember correctly) DM 1000 (about €/$ 500) to "buy" software with. (That is, he gave me an online software retailer's catalogue and said I could pick software I felt I needed up to that total value.)

I think the bulk of the package I asked for was programming tools: Turbo C/C++ 2.0, Turbo Pascal 5.0, and Turbo Assembler. I think I picked those because I felt that Turbo Pascal was the best Pascal compiler for the PC at the time; I'm not sure whether I thought TASM was better than MASM. I'm fairly sure I picked TC rather than, say, MSC mostly so that all the tools came from one source. I felt that having a C and a Pascal compiler would come in useful while learning programming, and I wanted an assembler for fun. The debugger came with the assembler, since TASM wasn't sold separately.

In a way, it was an auspicious time to buy the programs; I think TCC 2 (or whichever version I got) was the first to include a C++ compiler. On the other hand, TP 5.5 was the first version to be object-oriented, IIRC, so that might have been better.

Ah well. I wonder what I would have picked today if I were to start programming? Delphi? MS Visual Studio with C++ and/or C# compilers? No assembler, I presume… those days seem to be pretty firmly passé, and I'm not even sure, off-hand, where I could get hold of "name brand" assembler, though gas and nasm would be available. Possibly from Intel?

Which reminds me of another time: when I ordered some books on the x86 instruction set from Intel. I was a bit surprised that they were free—I believe I paid nothing for either the four volumes or the shipping! I suppose they consider that a form of advertising: making people feel good about a company that provides that level of support for assembler programmers.

One thing I missed, though, was the information about how many clock cycles each instruction takes—information that was present in the little booklet accompanying TASM (which only listed instructions up to the 486, since that was the newest processor available at the time). I can kind of understand why not, since modern Intel processors work differently than those back then and it's not possible to put down a simple number, but still.

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