Microsoft Compilers of Old


Hi everyone,

Was wondering, to all of you here who did programming back in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, what did you think of the Microsoft compilers and languages of the time versus the competition? Seemed like the two heavyweights were Microsoft and Borland, but I think there were others that were popular, like Watcom C.

As a hobbyist, I was in love with QuickBASIC at the time, but it had flaws compared to other comparable languages of its era, such as Turbo Pascal. Now that was a hit – and if I recall correctly, even Microsoft had their entry with Quick Pascal. Anybody here use that? Just didn’t eat into TP’s market share, but Windows 3.0 was on its way anyway, so…

When I went to junior college in the mid ‘90s and took C++, we used the Borland tools.

Of course, I was amazed when Microsoft finally fixed most of QuickBASIC’s problems and released the BASIC Professional Development System, but, I mean … Visual Basic, so…

(Topic posted in General Discussion because of its antiquated subject matter, as opposed to the Microsoft section.)

Comments (19)

19 responses to “Microsoft Compilers of Old”

  1. 2611

    Borland Delphi was so awesome Paul wrote a book about it.  Ruined my first job out of college where I had to use PowerBuilder.  MS was smart rescuing the Delphi guy from Borland and having him lead

  2. 6181

    I used QuickBasic when in early college as well.  Even created a menuing library and sold it via America Online.  I thought it was awesome.  In the Basic family I moved on to Visual Basic for DOS and Windows.  Its direct competitor at the time was CA Realizer, which could create applications for both Windows and OS/2.  Both products had their pluses and minuses, but VB obviously had the massive momentum.

    As far as Turbo Pascal, I used it very briefly and just went straight into Turbo C++ 3.0. That has a beautiful product for its time.

    Interesting tidbit.  The entire Turbo Pascal product which included an editor, compiler, linker, debugger and built in help is less bytes than its corresponding entry on Wikipedia!!!


    • 5501

      In reply to rgelb:

      Cool!  Yeah, my adventures with QB resulted in some crap I made, but also some good stuff.  Probably my two most useful programs were an Epson printer configuration utility whose executable was probably only around 15 KB in size because I linked it with a product called PDQ, and then I wrote a very robust scheduling program for my boss.  Oh, and PDQ also let you create terminate-and-stay-resident programs.  The first time I was able to successfully make one of those I was hopping with glee.

    • 2

      In reply to rgelb:

      Actually, yes. Turbo C++, of course. That was my start with C++, as it turns out. I can remember a Waite Group Press book about C++ as well, which I think basically assumed you were using that.


  3. 643

    I got started on Basic for the TRS-80 when I was in 6th grade (1983).  After that I spent countless amount of hours in Basic for the Commodore +4 and Basic for the Commodore 128.  Did some assembly in the +4 and 128 with the built in "monitor" and tried doing something with GEOS but the tools were just horrible and I was in college.  In the Amiga I fiddled around with Basic and when using the "Bridgeboard" I programmed in Dbase III+ and FoxPro. Then I started my first official employment where I had to use Microfocus COBOL, Visual Basic and Visual C++.

    In my spare time I used Borland Delphi.

    Ever since the "Visual" tools from Microsoft came out that is what I used the most.  There may have been other tools out there, but the MSDN Library and support for developers won me over to Microsoft Tools.

    I moved on to greener pastures  and now I only work with data centers and virtualization.  Knowing programming languages gives me a big advantage in this field though.  I can do many things in the command line, write script for repetitive admin jobs, I understand the intricacies of Ring 0 and drivers etc... which, believe it or not, helps to make it seem like I work a lot but actually don't  ha ha ha.


  4. 5501

    Two more things to add:

    1. I hated how something like "ON ERROR GOTO" could make an otherwise elegant QB program look ugly, and

    2. Visual Basic for DOS sure was the definition of bloat ... I mean, I guess it didn't matter if user-friendliness was the goal and you didn't care how big the program got because it was going to be a giant mouse-driven database front-end anyway, but, geez ... try a "Hello, world" with VB/DOS and you'll see what I mean.  :-)

  5. 5501

    Thanks for all your input guys.  Fascinating stuff as far as I'm concerned.  I could go on and on.  :-)

  6. 8834

    It wasn't my first programming language, but I spent an awful lot of time making games with AMOS Basic on the Amiga!  This would have been 1991 or so.

  7. 2

    I got my start on Microsoft BASIC for the Commodore 64, does that count? :) Also Commodore BASIC for the Amiga.

    On the PC, I recall Q Basic and Quick Basic. I had MASM, which was their assembly language environment, but never learned it. Then Visual Basic of course. And early versions of Visual C++. Oddly, I don't recall what I used for straight C ala Petzold. Hm. 

    Once I saw Borland Turbo Pascal, it was over. And then, yes, Delphi.

    • 5501

      In reply to Paul Thurrott:

      Sure it counts.  :)  Actually I was surprised once I learned that Microsoft actually wrote the floating-point BASICs for the Apple ][.  I didn't know that at the time.

      Way back in the '90s my friend was using Delphi at his job, and he showed me how nice it was.  It was doing things Visual Basic couldn't.  Had to admit, I was impressed.

      And Visual C++ ... I purchased it in the late '90s, tried to get into it, but I think it was too complex for my needs.

  8. 1377

    I don't believe anyone bothered with QuickPascal. Pascal has its problems as a language (see, and by the time MSFT released QuickPascal Borland's TurboPascal was far more complete and capable. Anyone who'd be using Pascal for anything serious would be using TurboPascal.

    QuickBASIC and QuickC were MSFT's substantial offerings.

    • 2

      In reply to hrlngrv:

      Hey, Pascal is God's Perfect Language. :) Well, Object Pascal anyway.

      • 9461

        In reply to Paul Thurrott:

        Pascal was the language du jour in my first year in Computer Science in 1981. That made sense because it was a clean structural language. It was also the last year that we students used punch cards, and then stood in line to gather the output from a bin, printed on folded slabs of computer paper. The following year we gathered in huge rooms with thin clients on CRT's and keyboards. But we still grabbed output on computer paper. It was astoundingly inefficient, but at the time it was a cutting-edge system.

        • 1377

          In reply to Donkey_Gas:

          Punch cards were inefficient, but back in the day when almost no college student had a PC, there was no alternative to paper output. Fortunately for me, the computer lab in the basement of the Physics building where I was an undergrad had HP 24xx terminals which could produce 640x480 graphs as well as thermal printers which could put those graphs onto paper. Same era, 1980-1. There was also a time-sharing system which gave all students a whopping 16KB of storage, and we used paper tape when we needed to archive anything.

    • 5501

      In reply to hrlngrv:

      Thanks for that link, looks like interesting reading.  Going to check it out when I get a chance.

  9. 533

    My first program was written for a HP calculator, where the program was stored on magnetic memory cards. I then progressed to Basic on a Casio 702p. After that I programmed in MBasic from Microsoft (1982) when in High School. I had a programming class back in those days and we were learning to write assembly language for the NORD-100 from Norsk Data, but had no machine, so I wrote an emulator for it in MBasic. Those were the days.

    After that, Turbo Pascal was the thing. Then DataFlex from Data Access Corporation, a kind of 4G Cobol inspired database environment. Visual Studio with c++ followed. These days, C# is what I use.