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February 16, 2006

Back from the Future

One evening sometime late in 1987 or early 1988 I stopped at a local computer store and discovered that Borland Turbo C 1.0 had finally been released. That was big news to me: I was a poor college student who had been learning C on my own, and all commercial C compilers at the time cost at least $300-500, far more than my budget would allow. "Borland", "Turbo" and the $100 price tag made it a sure bet, and I plunked down my hard-earned cash.

I spent a lot of time in Turbo C's yellow-on-blue IDE, upgrading to 1.5, 2.0, and then Borland C++ over the next few years. After college I no longer had time to program, and Turbo C still remains packed up in a box somewhere (no, I never throw anything away).

Back in those days I had the dream of becoming a self-made C programmer, but it never happened. Until this year, when I finally (18 years after learning C, 7 years after becoming a self-made IT guy) was hired to be a C programmer, anyway. The large corporation where I work provides all employees with laptops, but we aren't allowed to install any software other than the officially approved packages. That's fine, but the officially approved packages don't include any C compilers. There's no way to do C programming unless we're connected to the corporate network and its servers.

Where there's a will, there's a way: I've figured out how to do local C programming on my (company-supplied) laptop. In November I bought a 512MB USB drive, very handy for carrying my own documents and software apart from the company laptop. And several years ago Borland (or whatever it's called nowadays) released several of its "antique" (hey, I think I resent that term) software packages free to anyone who wants to download them. One of those packages is Turbo C 2.0. After a short download and installation to my USB drive, I have a working C compiler without installing anything to the company laptop. After 18 years, I'm back to the familiar 80x25 yellow-on-blue text mode IDE.

Who says that you can't go back home?

Update 10:00PM

I found some nice stuff for USB drives at portablefreeware.com, specifically MPUI, a media file player which can handle a bundle of different formats. SLAX includes MPUI, and it's very slick. It's even slicker to have it completely portable on my USB drive. Now I can watch my (DIVX-encoded) Japanese shows on the laptop without installing anything on their sacred hard drive.

For programming purposes, I'm also carrying elvis on the drive. Now I just need a nice portable version of ksh or bash for DOS/Windows, and my life will be complete.

Permalink | Posted by Joe at February 16, 2006 11:21 AM


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