Thirty Years Later, Computer Scientists Who Popularized Early PC Language Return to UCSD Pascal's Birthplace
San Diego, CA, October 11, 2004 -- Dozens of alumni who worked on a ground-breaking language for what would later be called the personal computer will gather at the University of California, San Diego to mark the 30th anniversary of the computer language. The UCSD Pascal Reunion Symposium will take place on Friday, October 22, from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Price Center Ballroom on the UCSD campus in La Jolla, CA. Organized by UCSD's Jacobs School of Engineering and its Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department, the symposium will feature talks by several former researchers on the project, including the project's leader, professor emeritus Kenneth Bowles, as well as presentations by current CSE faculty. (For the full program, click here.)
"UCSD Pascal became both a programming language and an operating system for some of
Pascal was originally created by Swiss scientist Niklaus Wirth in 1969 for use on mainframe computers. Starting in 1974, Bowles - who at the time directed UCSD's computing center - began to adapt Pascal for use on so-called "microcomputers," precursors of today's PCs. His primary interest at the time was a programming language that would allow students to work individually on projects without waiting their turn to do batch processing on the mainframe. But Bowles also foresaw the value of portable software that would allow programmers to write something once and run it anywhere. His solution was pseudo-code - p-code for short - an intermediate language to run on each machine and serve as a uniform translator. (Even Sun Microsystems' Java language incorporates p-code.)
Since most of his fellow computer-science faculty members were involved in more theoretical research, Bowles turned instead to students to fulfill his dream. He recruited one graduate student, Mark Overgaard, and a handful of undergraduates. At one point or another, more than 70 students were involved in the UCSD Pascal project, doing everything from writing code to shipping floppy disks to research centers around the world (for a token $15 royalty fee). In the early 1980s, the University of California sold rights to the technology to SofTech Systems, which tried but failed to convince IBM to adopt UCSD Pascal as the core operating system of its first personal computers.(Bill Gates' MS-DOS won the IBM contract.)
The UCSD Pascal Reunion Symposium is open to the public and the news media, free of charge, and is co-sponsored by the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology [Cal-(IT)2]. Attendees are asked to register online at http://www.jacobsschool.ucsd.edu/Pascal/. For a history of the UCSD Pascal program, including recollections from speakers who will attend the symposium, read "UCSD Pascal and the PC Revolution," by Christine Foster, in the September 2004 issue of @UCSD. It is available online at http://www.alumni.ucsd.edu/magazine/vol1no3/features/pascal.htm.