Pascal not considered harmful - was Re: Rich kids are into COBOL

Chuck Guzis cclist at
Fri Feb 20 14:02:00 CST 2015

On 02/20/2015 07:22 AM, Shiresoft wrote:

> When I first started at IBM because build time for our software was
> about a week, we'd fix bugs and such with patches.  Folks in the lab
> would stop looking up the instruction encodings and would just ask
> me...I could do the assembly in my head...I'm sorely out of practice
> now.  :-/

That's not an unusual skill if you spent hours day after day, poring 
over OS core dumps trying to figure out what went wrong.  I can--and 
suppose many other OS developers also--remember instruction codings for 
machines not seen in decades.

It used to be the custom that one learned to program a computer by first 
learning the instruction opcodes and format.  I recall coding forms 
labeled "IBM 1620 Absolute Programming System".  IIRC (and I'm not sure 
that I do) the flipside was an SPS coding form.

I'm not at all certain that such a skill is even marginally valuable 
today.  Who codes much in assembly, much less machine code?  C has 
firmly established itself in the once memory-constrained MCU world, so 
not even there.

It's a skill of fossils, like being able to recite great chunks of 
Caesar's commentaries on the Gallic War.  At best, most can vaguely 
misquote "Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres"--at worst, many don't 
even know who Caesar was, outside of the name for a salad made with eggs 
and anchovies.


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