The people behind Pascal

Although Pascal was created by professor Niklaus Wirth, several important figures influenced the design or had direct contributions to it. In today's Internet driven world, many of them have a "face" in terms of a web site and collections of papers. This is your guide to the people behind the language Pascal.

Niklaus Wirth

Professor Wirth created several languages, including Algol W, Pascal, Modula and Oberon. Although retired, he presently works on FPGA programming.

The wikipedia page for Niklaus Wirth

Pictures from a lecture by Wirth held at the Computer Museum on 2004/10/20

An interview with Professor Wirth about teaching, programming languages and his durrent projects, from June 2012.

An extensive interview with Professor wirth, part 1.

An extensive interview with Professor wirth, part 2.

An extensive interview with Professor wirth, part 3.

Edsger Wybe Dijkstra

Dijkstra is considered by most to be the father of structured programming. In the article "A case against the GO TO statement", Dijkstra outlined the methodology of structured programming. Dijkstra spend his carreer in computer science avocating for computer programming as a discipline. He is credited with the idea of monitors, which are becoming increasingly important in todays multicore SMP world.

Perhaps Dijkstras most enduring legacy is that of being the one to state the "emperor has no clothes". So much of Dijkstras work is spirited criticisim (Dijkstra is both complementary and critical of Pascal), that it is necessary to be an experienced Dijkstra reader to catch the flow of his work.Dijkstra comes to the end of the push for an Ada standard with the comment:

"This concludes a month of most depressing work. Why does the world seem to persist so stubbornly in being such a backward place? Why do people refuse to learn from the past and why do they persist in making known and well-identified mistakes again? It is all very saddening."

It is this very feeling that Dijkstra tells you exactly what was on his mind that makes him one of my favorite authors on programming matters.

Sadly, Dijkstra is no longer with us. A biography and large collection of his work exists at:

The E. W. Dijkstra Archive

Tony Hoare

Sir Tony Hoare contributed many of the ideas and constructs of Pascal, including the idea of binding pointers to their types and variables, an idea that would later be reinvented as "managed pointers". Mr. Hoare is active in research on parallel programming issues. He continues to speak for cleanly structured programs.

The microsoft bio page for Tony Hoare

Per Brinch Hansen

Professor Hansen created the language Concurrent Pascal, and has been instrumental in advancing the idea of parallel programming as a fundamental language construct. He advanced the idea of monitors, which he credits Dijkstra with the original idea. Hansen is never afraid to put theory to practice. The concurrent Pascal implementation was done on a PDP 11/45, and he immediately created an operating system based on the language. Later he released an example compiler for the IBM-PC 8086 series machine, showing that he was more interested in the use of practical, available machines than the completion of ivory tower projects.

Until his passing in 2007, Professor Hansen was still active and publishes, and has spoken on the loss of the ideas of secure parallel process programming. Today, with multicore SMP programming growing day by day, Hansens work becomes more important, and unfortunately many are rediscovering and reinventing his work today.

The Per Brinch Hansen archive

For more information contact: Scott A. Moore