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Copyright 1998-2024, Southern California OS/2 User Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

SCOUG, Warp Expo West, and Warpfest are trademarks of the Southern California OS/2 User Group. OS/2, Workplace Shell, and IBM are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation. All other trademarks remain the property of their respective owners.

The Southern California OS/2 User Group

SCOUG OS/2 For You - February 1997

Blake Watson Predicts The Future

"OS/2 Warp Programming For Dummies" author shows high I.Q. of Sibyl
Another in a series on the movers and shakers of OS/2

by Peter Skye

COSTA MESA -- Blake Watson, the U.S. rep for OS/2 software developer SpeedSoft, reminds me a lot of one of my math professors. No matter what Professor Frenowitz was supposed to be lecturing on, I never really did understand what the good professor was getting at. Perhaps he expected that I had read the proper part of the class text beforehand. How dare he.

SpeedSoft develops the popular Speed/Pascal For OS/2 compiler, and they've got a brand new OS/2 product which, to simplify the explanation, is the spittin' image of Borland's Delphi. Borland's product was and is a runaway hit, a knockout design and visual development application, and its tremendous sales saved Borland's financial derriere. Borland's product is also Windows-only. How dare they.

Enter SpeedSoft. Their product is named Sibyl, following some strange penchant of associating software products with mythological names such as Oracle and Delphi. Its OS/2-all-the-way design means you get full flexibility when creating apps, and SpeedSoft promises versions for other platforms (Windows/32, and maybe Linux, Java or AIX) soon. I don't mind software being available on multiple platforms, but I'm always pleased when it appears on OS/2 first because I then know it's not a dumbed-down port from, say, Windows 95. My personal congrats to SpeedSoft.

Blake sings for his supper

Blake Watson was born in Los Angeles to parents he freely calls "computer geeks." Yet Blake, an artistic sort, instead took up writing at age 10 and guitar at 11. "I wrote my first book (unpublished) at age 14," he says, and wrote for the school newspaper while some of us were out swiping hubcaps. For college, he went to UCLA, and received his B.A. in Music Composition Performance with the guitar and the lute (it's a Renaissance guitar) being his instruments of choice. Offered a UCLA fellowship to pursue a Masters in Musicology, he instead chose to join the real world, start a family and earn a paycheck.

Juggling his musical talents ("I sang semi-pro in restaurants for a while," says Blake) with the computer knowledge handed down from his parents, his writing skills turned to the latter. He was first published by PC Techniques in 1991, and became enamored of OS/2 the following year. He wrote his first published book, Programming With Turbo Vision, on spec (that means there's no advance check and no guarantee it'll ever be in print) with advice and encouragement from every computer writer's guru, Jeff Duntemann. M&T editor Brenda McLaughlin agreed to publish it in 1992, then M&T was bought out and the book was held back until mid-'94. (You can still buy it through Amazon at

Dummies don't do list boxes

Brenda McLaughlin moved to IDG and called Blake to write OS/2 Warp Programming For Dummies. He initially resisted, then began work on Feb. 1, 1995 with an 8 week deadline. Writing 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, he finished 2 weeks late on April 15. Blake's says on writing books: "It's more work than you expect." He recommends negotiating "last looks" and "final edit" (final review for technical accuracy).

Blake outlined "Dummies" first, then went back and wrote it. He was writing an example routine at 2 a.m. one morning when he ran into the infamous "OS/2 List Box bug." With the sudden and terrifying realization that his example code would never, ever work because of some other zealous programmer's oversight, Blake took the two well-known actions that all great writers take. First, he threw up his hands and went for a walk. Second, since the book was long anyway, he came back and excised the entire chapter.

Sibyl For Dummies

With Borland's Delphi already such a winner, I don't see how Sibyl can't be one too. You start out by drawing your user screen (you get every tool you need to do this), like placing buttons and text boxes, and choosing colors and display fonts. Then, once the design is done, you specify what's supposed to happen with each control. If, say, you want to display a selection list of files when you click on your "Choose A File" button, that's what you specify. Once you've completed your specifying, you're pretty much done.

Unless, of course, you like to play. Sibyl lets you put in all the extra code you want, so you can put plenty of power into Sibyl programs. The programming language is Pascal (same as Delphi), which is similar enough to C that no programmer should have any trouble with it, and you can also include lines of Assembler when and if you want. There is full documentation for Pascal-REXX, Pascal-Assembler and Pascal-C/C++ linkage to other compiled modules, and REXX programmers will be pleased to know that Sibyl will soon support all REXX functions with Pascal calls (no linkage required). And, Pascal is much less cryptic than C/C++ while offering the same power.

Blake encircles globe

Blake picked up the license on all SpeedSoft products for all areas outside Europe - U.S., Japan, the ice shelves of Antarctica - after some brief discussions with the German creators. Intriguingly, Blake's column in the German magazine Toolbox is the only one in English; everything else in the magazine is in German. ("I know every language except Greek," Professor Frenowitz would invariably say during a lecture's lighter moment, and someone would shout out something like, "Say something in Arabic!" "It's all Greek to me" was always the reply from the Professor.) Entrepreneur Watson has an impressive list of credits. He's also written for Windows Tech Journal, has also authored "Delphi By Example" (a best seller) and part of "Using Turbo C++" (the pointer chapter), and is completing the book "The Tao Of Delphi" and all the Sibyl documentation. Clearly he's more than a writer and musician.

As for database apps, Sibyl already supports SQL, DB2 and ODBC, and can handle Xbase (dBase etc.) and Paradox files with additional third-party "units" (libraries) which hopefully will be in the Sibyl box (they're working on it as I tap these keys). I went to their web site ( for a list of supported file types and didn't find one, but the beta version is available for download there (it's free and pretty clean). The best way to learn anything is to jump right in, and if you're on CompuServe you can GO CODEPORT, select LIBRARIES and then pick out Sibyl, Delphi, and Speed-Pascal for plenty of help. By the way, it's a German product. (Did you notice the ".de" in the web address?)

Two versions

Incidentally, if you're enamored of straight Pascal or have a bunch of college Pascal code still kicking around, there's a command line Pascal compiler that comes with both versions of Sibyl. The "Sibyl For OS/2" version has on-line documentation, comes with a User's Guide and a Pascal Tutorial (600 pages each), and has the lower price. The "Sibyl Pro" version comes with all that plus the Windows 32-bit (95/NT) version and the 1000-page Reference Guide, which is a hard copy of the on-line documentation. My advice: Buy the "Pro" version with the extra book. Sibyl, like Delphi, is not a toy, and you weren't planning on creating a couple of really big apps without a book you can study while in the hot tub, now, were you?

Sibyl generates .EXE files. I saw a benchmark comparison of programs written in both C and Pascal about three years ago, and the running times were pretty much the same. I haven't benchmarked Sibyl, but compiler technology these days is pretty robust and both C and Pascal should generate just about the same machine instructions. (REXX, remember, is interpreted. It runs slower.)

Blake's thoughts on the future are enlightening. He, as others do, thinks that OS/2 will eventually merge with AIX using the PowerPC kernel. And he sees web-friendly Java replacing C++ in many applications. "We're going back to dumb terminals," he says, with OS/2 attracting more and more web-enabled programs that use the Internet as an application server and for user storage at ISP sites. He sees OS/2 as a good platform for multimedia, and thinks OS/2 might even replace a healthy chunk of the Mac's desktop publishing and music (midi bus) platforms.

No competition

There's one other OS/2 Pascal Compiler, and that's Virtual Pascal For OS/2 from fprint UK Limited. But fprint doesn't give you the visual front end development tools nor does it support Delphi code. Eventually, Blake says, fprint will probably make an add-on that takes Delphi code and generates OS/2 code, but they're at least a year away from having such a product and, anyway, their prices are a lot, lot higher. (In all fairness to fprint, Blake points out that they are having to abandon a lot of code that they wrote using IBM's DAX/Open32 OS/2-to-Windows porting tool. They couldn't get it to work.)

If you were smart and picked up Speed-Pascal/2 (Sibyl's predecessor) you can upgrade to Sibyl For OS/2 for somewhere around $65 (upgrade pricing wasn't final at press time). The non-upgrade retail price will be $139, so expect a street price of about $100. The usual outlets will carry it, or you can order directly from SpeedSoft. Call for pricing; my experience is that everybody has a different price.

Oh, one last thing. Remember that in the "Pro" version box you'll get the OS/2 version and the Windows 95/NT (32-bit) version. You can develop a knockout OS/2 app and then recompile it for 32-bit Windows. You can even cross-compile; from OS/2 you can compile a Windows 95/NT version, and from Windows 95/NT you can compile an OS/2 version. As I said earlier, I have nothing against a program being available on multiple platforms so long as the OS/2 version takes advantage of all that OS/2 has to offer. Sibyl does this for you.

Careers For Dummies

Blake Watson is no "dummy." He's made a career decision to put Sibyl into the marketplace and let it succeed. He knows that OS/2 is popular (after all, he gets his OS/2 Warp Programming For Dummies royalty checks). He knows that OS/2 has a bright future.

It's a win-win situation. Blake gets to watch his prediction come true. You get to use Sibyl.


Blake Watson, SpeedSoft USA, 19528 Ventura Blvd, #133, Tarzana, CA 91356, 818/887-3034,,,, GO CODEPORT then LIBRARIES then 11 Speed-Pascal & 12 SSI Sibyl Beta

Virtual Pascal For OS/2, fprint UK Limited, Cambridge House, 100 Cambridge Grove, London W6 0LE,, GO FPRINT


The Southern California OS/2 User Group
P.O. Box 26904
Santa Ana, CA 92799-6904, USA

Copyright 1997 the Southern California OS/2 User Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

SCOUG is a trademark of the Southern California OS/2 User Group.
OS/2, Workplace Shell, and IBM are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation.
All other trademarks remain the property of their respective owners.