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Author Topic: Is Pascal the right language for me ?  (Read 3240 times)

Webdrifter

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Is Pascal the right language for me ?
« on: June 25, 2020, 10:12:17 pm »
Hello,

I,m new to this forum so I hope this is the right place for my questions.

I would like to pick up programming again.
I learned programming in Assembler and Pascal (have been out that for 35 years),
and I have had some experience with HTML, PHP and SQL (about 10 years ago).

I would like to realize a project. It is however not the easiest project to program, to say it mildly.   
So I’ve been searching for the best program language(s)/frameworks  to work with.
And I prefer to learn as little languages and frameworks as possible, since it will already be demanding enough.

My needs:
  • Multi-platform
          - Mobile, tablet, desktop;
          - Android, Window7 en hoger, iOS, ipadOS, MacOS, Linux;
          - Standalone, Chrome, Safari, Firefox;
  • Good adaptivity to screen sizes;
  • Scrape information from the web;
  • Get additional information from users all over the world;
  • Prepare this information for use in a neural network;
  • Use this information in a neural network (preferably peer to peer redundantly distributed);
  • Us the results for actions on the internet (connecting to API’s running on 3rd party servers);
  • Us the results for actions on user devices;
  • Off-line first where possible (using PouchDB?);
  • Fast UI, fast reliable communication, fast response from neural net, even on mobile phones;
  • Fiercely secured against attempts to disrupt data collection, -communication and -processing;
  • Automated backup facility if so needed (Central, distributed, hybrid; Whatever would be best; It’s open for suggestions).
I know I’m setting myself up for failure. But hey, as long as I’m having fun doing it….
For instance the more info I search on the subject the less I seem to see the forest for the trees.

However, I ended up with this shortlist (for now):
  • React Native (Strong in cross platform mobile development)
  • Smalltalk (Speed of development and maintainability)
  • C# (can make use off the cross platform open source .net framework)
  • Python (Strong support from Neural Networking community)
  • Pascal (Cross platform, good run speed, good desktop UI tools, good hardware support, learned this at school in the ‘80s)
(Your welcome to come up with better ones)

I would like to know how good Pascal/Lazarus can fulfil the strength mentioned with the other languages
(If Pascal/Lazarus can do equally good on all accounts, it would make it a killer Language/IDE combo).

Question 1:
Nowadays React Native is used a lot for Cross Platform Mobile Apps.
Can Pascal use React Native or even do better itself? When yes then how?

Question 2:
The best property of Smalltalk is live coding (REPL).
Can this also be done with Pascal? When yes then how? 

Question 3:
Microsoft is open sourcing the .net framework.
Can Pascal use the open source .net framework or even do better? When yes then how?

Question 4:
The best property of Python is it’s neural network frameworks/libraries.
Which of those frameworks/libraries can Pascal use, or can it do better itself? When yes then how?

Question 5:
What role can Lazarus play in all this?
Or would VS-code be a better option for certain needs?

And off course I would be obliged to get all other info for instance on good frameworks or libraries needed to fullfill my needs.

I know that in the end it might all be a matter off taste, nonetheless I would very much like to have some good input on the subject.
So, can anybody enlighten me?

Big please! 😉 And thanks in advance.

MarkMLl

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Re: Is Pascal the right language for me ?
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2020, 11:37:44 pm »
That is such an incredibly broad set of questions that I suspect that the community won't know quite where to start, so I'd like to get a couple out of the way based on my own experience.

Question 2:
The best property of Smalltalk is live coding (REPL).
Can this also be done with Pascal? When yes then how? 

Not easily, and any solution- irrespective of language- risks running foul of things like anti-virus protection.

Seriously: if you think that Smalltalk is the best match for your requirements then stick with it: it needs as much attention and TLC as it can get :-)

Quote
Question 5:
What role can Lazarus play in all this?
Or would VS-code be a better option for certain needs?

If you decide that Pascal is worth investigating, then you will find that Lazarus is a good language-specific development environment. I can't comment on (recent) VS, but you will definitely find it more appropriate than something like Eclipse.

MarkMLl
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Pet hate: people who boast about the size and sophistication of their computer.

heejit

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Re: Is Pascal the right language for me ?
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2020, 12:34:21 am »
I don't think you will find any programming language which has all needed
library/framework for all type of programming projects.

You have to select programming language based on the project.

Leledumbo

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Re: Is Pascal the right language for me ?
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2020, 10:13:40 am »
Question 1:
Nowadays React Native is used a lot for Cross Platform Mobile Apps.
Can Pascal use React Native or even do better itself? When yes then how?
React Native does what we do: native compilation, differing only in source language (it uses JavaScript), but unlike C, it doesn't share usable interface so we can't use it as a library.
At the moment, there's no unified mobile UI library framework for both Android and iOS. Android seems to get more attention here, though iOS is stll possible. Somebody will need to unify the effort but no one seems interested to do that for now. I myself would be happier if LCL can also be implemented for those mobile OSes but apparently they have a fundamental differences than desktop style rendering that makes it a little harder to port LCL into.
Question 2:
The best property of Smalltalk is live coding (REPL).
Can this also be done with Pascal? When yes then how? 
Can be done but no existing solution available (easy to find some abandoned efforts online). REPL is more appropriate for scripting languages. I don't think it's necessary as compilation is fast or if you want instantfpc can help you execute the programs like scripts.
Question 3:
Microsoft is open sourcing the .net framework.
Can Pascal use the open source .net framework or even do better? When yes then how?
I haven't checked this, but I've made a Pascal program calling .net dll in the past, just the dll initialization must be done by a .net program as I didn't know how to call the initializer back then. Once called, it will stay in memory and you can use it for as long as the OS keeps it there. I have no idea what you expect from "do better", we already do some things better than .net framework, like not requiring .net framework to run our programs ;)
Question 4:
The best property of Python is it’s neural network frameworks/libraries.
Which of those frameworks/libraries can Pascal use, or can it do better itself? When yes then how?
TensorFlow is written in C++ and has C interface, Pascal can certainly use that. There are various neural network implementations, just search the forum, someone here is very dedicated on the topic.
Question 5:
What role can Lazarus play in all this?
Or would VS-code be a better option for certain needs?
I don't see any Lazarus specific requests from your questions, Lazarus should remain as is: an easy way to write cross platform native GUI applications for various platforms.
VS code is just an extensible text editor that you can treat like a decent enough IDE but that's it.

MarkMLl

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Re: Is Pascal the right language for me ?
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2020, 01:30:33 pm »
React Native does what we do: native compilation, differing only in source language (it uses JavaScript), but unlike C, it doesn't share usable interface so we can't use it as a library.

General comment if I may. These days, it appears that almost all languages are tending towards having some minimal set of features which include

* Type safety

* Classes and other OO basics

* Managed strings

* At least the option of reference counting or garbage collection.

A number of people feel that C++ is only kept going by inertia and by its attempt to be backward compatible with the vast corpus of programs written in C. Unfortunately, there is so much sloppiness implied by that backward compatibility that in order to at least attempt to implement type safety the complexity of the compiler results in compilation times going up exponentially: I believe it was Rob Pike who juxtaposed the fact of a big C++ build taking 45 minutes even on a server farm with the incongruity of the C++ standardisation effort adding ever more features which obviously required increased compilation time.

This will affect any language which uses C++ for its code generation, and I suggest that the same also applies to Javascript which initially was even more sloppy than C++.

I'm not saying that Pascal is the answer to a maiden's prayer, but I think the fact that it is still able to compile programs fast despite having garnered its own share of "modern" features says a lot for the language's fundamental design.

MarkMLl
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Pet hate: people who boast about the size and sophistication of their computer.

Warfley

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Re: Is Pascal the right language for me ?
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2020, 02:28:17 pm »
There is no "one fits all" language, therefore I would simply use multiple lanaguages for that project:
Frontend: if it has to run on iOS, Android, browser and Desktop, I would probably go with apache cordova here and use web technology (i.e. js, html and css, maybe webasm). Here you could also use Lazarus with pas2js.
Server backend: Here I would probably use Lazarus, C++ or Java, depending on the specific needs. I really like writing server protocols in Pascal, but if you need to use an already established protocol, chances are good that in java it will be only one maven dependency and 10 lines of code
Neural net: Defenetly python, no question, the amount of information about Torch, TensorFlow, etc. on the web is pretty good for python, and even if there are also bindings to many other languages, you don't find much information about it.

And for your specific points:
Quote
Good adaptivity to screen sizes;
Javascript and webtechnology
Quote
Scrape information from the web;
I've had good experiences with java and python in that regard. Python scripts will be shorter, but to be honest I really like Java because of it's simplicity and robustness
Quote
Get additional information from users all over the world;
Server architecture that I would write in Pascal, probably using HTTP (because it's easy) and communicating with a decentralized Mariadb backend.
Quote
Prepare this information for use in a neural network;
I would suggest that the backend server chooses a sensible intermediate format, and the processing for the NN would than be done in the language chosen for the NN (probably python) because changes in the NN should not require changes in the backend.
Quote
Use this information in a neural network (preferably peer to peer redundantly distributed);
Python with pytorch
Quote
Us the results for actions on the internet (connecting to API’s running on 3rd party servers);
Also doable with python, but also possible with any other language
Quote
Us the results for actions on user devices;
Frontend -> JS
Quote
Off-line first where possible (using PouchDB?);
If you want to use PouchDB you need JS, otherwise there is the Java version of this CouchDB. If you want to use certain tools, this often takes the language decision for you
Quote
Fast UI, fast reliable communication, fast response from neural net, even on mobile phones;
Javascript is great for UI, reliable communication is possible with every language, and fast response from the NN is dependend on your NN, if its a large network and you don't have a great GPU (like Phones) it will take long. My suggestion, do the NN stuff on the server side and not on the phone, because large networks take time, simple as that.
Quote
Fiercely secured against attempts to disrupt data collection, -communication and -processing;
Use a CDN for your backend, this is completely language independend
Quote
Automated backup facility if so needed (Central, distributed, hybrid; Whatever would be best; It’s open for suggestions).
This is also language independend

About your questions:
Quote
Question 1:
Nowadays React Native is used a lot for Cross Platform Mobile Apps.
Can Pascal use React Native or even do better itself? When yes then how?
React native is basically just a javascript interpreter that grants access to system APIs to javascript via a framework. It is built for javascript and has no interface for other languages (afaik).

Quote
Question 2:
The best property of Smalltalk is live coding (REPL).
Can this also be done with Pascal? When yes then how?
Live coding is a bit against the spirit of a compiled language, and I don't think it would work that great with pascal, where you have to write a lot of boiler plate code before anything can happen

Quote
Question 3:
Microsoft is open sourcing the .net framework.
Can Pascal use the open source .net framework or even do better? When yes then how?
.Not uses a bytecode language that runs in a sort of VM. It is not compatible with assembly. While on windows there are possibilities to use .Not DLLs with native code, I don't know if it is portable at all. So the conservative answer is a "maybe but probably not"

Quote
Question 5:
What role can Lazarus play in all this?
Or would VS-code be a better option for certain needs?
Lazarus is great for Fpc-Pascal, simple as that. If you want to use any other language or any other compiler (like Delphi) it's probably better to use a different environment. For example, for Pyhton and C++ I really like Emacs, for JS or C# VS-Code is really great, for Java I'd go with Intellij.

So to summarize, I would use different languages for different needs, simple as as that. Every language has it's pros and cons and to do everything with only one language will only make your life harder

PS: Whenever I write JS I personally would use Typescipt, because I'm not an insane person. But it's compatibility is bascially the same
« Last Edit: June 26, 2020, 02:32:36 pm by Warfley »

PascalDragon

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Re: Is Pascal the right language for me ?
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2020, 04:13:39 pm »
PS: Whenever I write JS I personally would use Typescipt, because I'm not an insane person. But it's compatibility is bascially the same

Or pas2js? ;)

Curt Carpenter

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Re: Is Pascal the right language for me ?
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2020, 11:51:24 pm »
I've been a "casual programmer" for (remarkably) fifty years now, doing it mostly for fun and for small projects.  I'd offer this advice.

1)  Your goal is very demanding and there will be a lot to learn to reach it.  I'd suggest that you break it into some smaller "sub goals" as a first step.  It will help you hold onto your enthusiasm as you climb your (long but fun!) learning curve.

2)  Because you have experience with Pascal, your learning curve will be a little less steep if you adopt it as your language.  You probably remember more than you think you do, and the investment you make in it will carry you a long way (if not 100% of the way) forward toward reaching your ultimate goal.

3)  I'd also suggest that Pascal is the most "literate" and readable language I've encountered over the years, and I'm guessing from your comment that you're someone that will value and appreciate that.  It's very painful to write a program and try to revise it after a few months -- only to discover that it's painful to try and read your own code.

4) Lazarus has good debugging support.  Crucial for people like me.

5)  Lazarus is cross-platform, but to take advantage of it, you're going to have to have some pretty well-developed understanding of each of the operating systems you want to program for.  Android in particular poses some hard challenges, in my opinion.   I haven't tried to cross from linux (my preferred OS) to android, but have use other systems to do Android phone apps. It was painful.

6) For the casual programmer, I don't think you can beat Lazarus (supported by this forum and a wealth of help from other places on the internet) for an enjoyable programming experience.  So if you have some fun overcoming the usual challenges/frustrations of getting a program to do what you want it to, I'd recommend it hands-down.

Hope some of that helps!

Webdrifter

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Re: Is Pascal the right language for me ?
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2020, 11:28:06 pm »
I would like to thank you guys for your answers above. As you can imagine it didn't make my choice fully clear yet. To put it mildly  :D But it did give me new insight that will help me tough. If anybody else is willing to also give me his thoughts, please don't hesitate. I really appreciate the effort. And maybe it will also help others clear up some question they have on the matter.   

Handoko

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Re: Is Pascal the right language for me ?
« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2020, 04:22:07 am »
As this is the forum for Lazarus/FPC/Pascal, I'm sure you already got what are the advantages of using Lazarus/FPC/Pascal. But I'm the less biased so I will tell you no, don't use Lazarus, Free Pascal, nor Pascal.

Lazarus and Free Pascal are not commercial supported.
You should consider the other paid alternatives first. Lazarus/FPC is free, you can use it and start making money without spending a dollar. That is not as great as you thought, that also means no one is 'really' responsible for fixing the bug you may have someday when you use it. Here we have bugtracker, but as open source project, Lazarus and Free Pascal rely on volunteers and we currently are lack of volunteers.

Lazarus and Free Pascal are general purpose development tools.
You can use them to build anything you can imagine, if you know how. Games, image processing software, database/inventory/accounting/ERP applications, audio/video players, web servers and even operating systems. But as a general purpose tool, they have disadvantage too. I can use Lazarus to build games for days, but I can achieve the same result in less than half hour if I use game specialized development tools.

Pascal's golden era has passed.
Pascal was so popular in the 80s. Nowadays, Pascal is still alive but not many people are using it. Which are the industry standard are not important if you are a hobbyist. But if you're planning to start a career or business in the software development field, you really need to pay attention about it.

440bx

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Re: Is Pascal the right language for me ?
« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2020, 09:52:41 am »
@Handoko,

You made a number of good points in your post.

I'd say that if a programmer intends to develop commercial applications with Free Pascal, it would be good for that programmer to pick a stable version of the compiler, usually the latest one but, it doesn't have to be and, not upgrade unless there is really a very significant gain to be obtained from upgrading.  That way, the programmer gets to know the bugs and "peculiarities" of the compiler and figures out ways to avoid them.  Upgrading is basically a new set of bugs and peculiarities that have to be dealt with as they come up.  That's often time consuming.

One thing about the Golden Age of Pascal I vividly remember, Turbo Pascal made reasonably small executables that were also reasonably fast and, the development cycle was the fastest in town.  In many cases, it was reasonable to use Turbo Pascal as a replacement for Assembler.  The price paid in size and execution speed was acceptable and,  there really were few, if any, limits to what you could do with it, including replacing interrupt handlers, programming the hardware on the motherboard and, just about anything a programmer wanted to do.  Attempting those things with Pascal today, when doable (which is not often), the result is so-so at best.

To the OP, whether using Pascal, Free Pascal in this case, is a good solution for you, depends on the project.  For some things it will be great, for others, "not so great".   

There is no tool/language that does everything well.  For whatever a language does well, there is a "price" to pay in whatever areas it doesn't do so well and, those are always present in one way or another.

You presented a long wish list.  I cannot think of one language that is really good at all of those things.
FPC v3.0.4 and Lazarus 1.8.2 on Windows 7 64bit.

marcov

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Re: Is Pascal the right language for me ?
« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2020, 10:46:49 am »
As this is the forum for Lazarus/FPC/Pascal, I'm sure you already got what are the advantages of using Lazarus/FPC/Pascal. But I'm the less biased so I will tell you no, don't use Lazarus, Free Pascal, nor Pascal.

Lazarus and Free Pascal are not commercial supported.
You should consider the other paid alternatives first. Lazarus/FPC is free, you can use it and start making money without spending a dollar. That is not as great as you thought, that also means no one is 'really' responsible for fixing the bug you may have someday when you use it. Here we have bugtracker, but as open source project, Lazarus and Free Pascal rely on volunteers and we currently are lack of volunteers.

Commercial support was often stated as any reason to not use open source, it is an old, year 2000 argument.
How many bugs have you gotten fixed from big commercial vendors on personal title? Rare if not never.
Most commercial support is beginner hand holding, but as soon as it gets difficult and real skills are needed, it dries up, or gets crazy expensive(we have "services" for that). Specially if the product is not the focus of corporate policy anymore.  It might be easier to actually pay a fpc/lazarus devel to fix something than to get a big corporation to do something.

Small, specialized vendors might be different, but they are again not as rock steady (might not survive even the current crisis, or change business directly completely), and thus fail the "surety" argument.

And that was before everybody wants to start using some javascript derivate in free VS Code. No support...

Quote
I can use Lazarus to build games for days, but I can achieve the same result in less than half hour if I use game specialized development tools.

But that kind of games are the domain of dozen+ large teams with a multimillion budget anyway. It is not just a specialized tool, but also a specialized market.

Quote
Pascal's golden era has passed.
Pascal was so popular in the 80s. Nowadays, Pascal is still alive but not many people are using it. Which are the industry standard are not important if you are a hobbyist. But if you're planning to start a career or business in the software development field, you really need to pay attention about it.

It depends very much on what you do. I think this is a bit overly black and white. And one of the problem is that currently the popular choices are changing so often they might not even be there any more if you quit your current job. 

If you are really in hardcore IT work-for-hire, as in a new project every 4 months, then you probably go whatever the majority of your team goes with. Even if you have the power to force them to use your choice, it will just make you responsible for every little problem ad infinitum.   

If you are self employed or work in a situation where IT is part of a product or service, it is less important, and your long term maintainability becomes important. And nowadays Lazarus' continuity is actually a plus there.

If you are hobby, that long term view is even more important, since your development will go slower, and you want to be able to maintain for a while to reap the rewards of your effort.

Despite Delphi's current crazy pricing throwing a spanner in the old switcheroo trick, it is also still possible: start with lazarus, and continue with Delphi if necessary if it hits off.   

« Last Edit: June 30, 2020, 11:13:07 am by marcov »

MarkMLl

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Re: Is Pascal the right language for me ?
« Reply #12 on: June 30, 2020, 10:50:49 am »
[...] as open source project, Lazarus and Free Pascal rely on volunteers and we currently are lack of volunteers.

Which I suppose could be translated as "there are more people who like what we have produced than are able (i.e. have both the time and the capability) to contribute to the project". That might actually be a healthy situation, but as has already been said it does suggest that it's wise to keep away from the "bleeding edge" (currently 3.2.0) and instead to use a version which has accumulated bugfixes (e.g. 3.0.0, with fixes to 3.0.4).

And if you're avoiding the latest compiler, you also need to be aware that you will need to peg your version of Lazarus down, since eventually the current/stable version will start using recently-introduced features of the compiler.

Quote
Pascal's golden era has passed.
Pascal was so popular in the 80s. Nowadays, Pascal is still alive but not many people are using it. Which are the industry standard are not important if you are a hobbyist. But if you're planning to start a career or business in the software development field, you really need to pay attention about it.

I think that a lot of people would agree with that, but it's difficult to know what to recommend as an alternative /particularly/ when considered in conjunction with Lazarus as a RAD/IDE.

MarkMLl
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Pet hate: people who boast about the size and sophistication of their computer.

Handoko

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Re: Is Pascal the right language for me ?
« Reply #13 on: June 30, 2020, 12:18:48 pm »
Pascal's golden era has passed.
Pascal was so popular in the 80s. Nowadays, Pascal is still alive but not many people are using it. Which are the industry standard are not important if you are a hobbyist. But if you're planning to start a career or business in the software development field, you really need to pay attention about it.

For example, if you're a boss who own a software development business. You want to hire new employees, you will get more candidates if your use C/C++, Java, Python, PHP, etc.

[...] as open source project, Lazarus and Free Pascal rely on volunteers and we currently are lack of volunteers.

Which I suppose could be translated as "there are more people who like what we have produced than are able (i.e. have both the time and the capability) to contribute to the project". That might actually be a healthy situation ...

You're very smart.  :)

Warfley

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Re: Is Pascal the right language for me ?
« Reply #14 on: June 30, 2020, 01:25:35 pm »
Lazarus and Free Pascal are not commercial supported.
You should consider the other paid alternatives first. Lazarus/FPC is free, you can use it and start making money without spending a dollar.

This is a very weak argument especially regarding programming languages. Most programming languages and tools are FOSS, and even those who have a company behind them are often OpenSource (like C#) or have OpenSource alternatives (like Java). Most prevalent of the most used languages mainly utilize a fully FOSS infrastructure. C/C++, the most important tools are gcc, gdb and clang, all FOSS. Javascript: node, chrome (v8), Firefox FOSS. Python, CPython: FOSS. Java OpenJDK: FOSS, PHP: FOSS, C# Mono: FOSS, hell even Swift, the apple language is released under a FOSS license.

For all of these languages you have the problem that
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no one is 'really' responsible for fixing the bug
but they still get that job done

The problem is not that Lazarus and FPC are free and open source, but the lack of volunteers. That said, it's pretty rarely that you run into a breaking bug. With rather advanced generic stuff this occurs rather oftern (how i loathe the error message: "an internal exception occured during compilation" or "fpc internal error ...", which occurs nearly every time generics projects start to get big), but aside from this, if you don't do anything fancy, fpc is pretty stable.

Quote
Lazarus and Free Pascal are general purpose development tools.
You can use them to build anything you can imagine, if you know how. Games, image processing software, database/inventory/accounting/ERP applications, audio/video players, web servers and even operating systems. But as a general purpose tool, they have disadvantage too. I can use Lazarus to build games for days, but I can achieve the same result in less than half hour if I use game specialized development tools.
Most languages and tools used today are general purpose tools, none of the languages listed above are specialized for anything. Python got the defacto ML language, but not because Python is built for ML, but because it is used by many in that area over others. Torch or Tensorflow bindings exist for any language.
Similarly, while many Game Engines use C++ or C# and scripting languages like JavaScript or LUA, you could very easily just convert the Godot C headers to Pascal and use it to program your games in Pascal using a specialized game engine (which btw. is also FOSS under MIT license).

But as I said in an earlier post, no one shoe fits all, and I personally decide for which language to use based on the specific task. I personally really like Pascal for two things: 1. Desktop application 2. Server applications. I wouldn't use it for mobile development (maybe with Pas2JS and cordova, but haven't tried this rn) or for developing a neural network. But I don't see much of a reason in the cases where pascal works great, to not use it.

 

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