17

PROMAL is a procedural programming language from the 1980s. Its designer, Systems Management Associates, released compilers for the Commodore 64, Apple II, and IBM PC. The language and development tools received excellent reviews in the home computing press of the time (Ahoy!, RUN Magazine, COMPUTE!'s Gazette, Open-Apple, etc.), thanks in part to the extensive documentation, powerful IDE, fast execution speed of both the compiler and compiled code, and support for modern language features such as structured programming, I/O redirection, and a standard library. Even today's retrospective reviewers are impressed with PROMAL; retrocomputing enthusiast Glenn Holmer has called it his "favorite language to use on the Commodore 64" and has assembled an impressive online archive of PROMAL-related information and software.

Despite all this adoration, I'm not aware of any widely distributed programs written in PROMAL, other than some freeware/public domain software that was available on Quantum Link and some third-party PROMAL development tools advertised in the official PROMAL newsletter. So my question is as follows: Did anyone ever commercially release software, other than development tools, that was written in PROMAL? For example, are there any PROMAL-coded games, terminal programs, financial software packages, paint programs, word processors, databases, spreadsheets, or other end-user applications that were sold to the public, either retail or via mail-order?

6
  • 1
    Not that I know of any, but would you count shareware (not freeware), a common distribution method at the time?
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 8 at 14:08
  • Yes, shareware certainly counts as commercially released, and I'd be glad to hear of any such PROMAL-coded software, though I'd be even more interested in hearing about software that you could buy off the shelf or from a catalogue.
    – Psychonaut
    Mar 8 at 14:20
  • 2
    To further confuse the issue, apparently Promal is also "Program for Micromechanical and Macromechanical Analysis of Laminates" so separating the few grains of wheat from the newer chaff may be difficult.
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 8 at 14:39
  • I'd be interested in learning of such things. I saw a talk about PROMOL, and it seems as though with a few adaptations it could be in many ways a better version of C for embedded programming tasks, especially since the C Standards Committee refuses to standardize many of the features necessary for such purposes.
    – supercat
    Mar 8 at 15:00
  • 2
    It is my opinion (only an opinion, though) that languages like this were best suited, and most often used, to generate proprietary programs not for sale, such as for use by small businesses. Mar 8 at 22:59

1 Answer 1

16

I've just now discovered two MS-DOS games implemented in PROMAL by Jay J. Falconer of Phoenix, Arizona:

  • Video Poker Plus, a draw or stud poker game. Version 3.0 was released in July 1988 and version 2.0 was released in June 1988; the game bears a copyright date of "1987, 1988", which suggests that the first version may have been released in 1987.
    screenshots of Video Poker Plus 3.0
  • Ultima 21 Deluxe, a blackjack game. Version 2.0 was released in July 1988 and version 1.2 was released in June 1988; the game bears a copyright date of "1987, 1988", which suggests that the first version may have been released in 1987.
    screenshots of Ultima 21 Deluxe 2.0

Both games were released as shareware with a $20 registration fee, and at least Ultima 21 Deluxe was also sold (excluding the registration fee) via mail-order by third-party shareware distributors, as evidenced by advertisements in COMPUTE!.

The documentation for both games includes a notice to the following effect:

VIDEO POKER PLUS was written in "PROMAL" which is a licensed compiler from SYSTEMS MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATES, INC. RALEIGH, NC. Anyone looking for a "C" like language with a much faster learning time and with super speed, I highly recommend this little known system from SMA.

The documentation for Ultima 21 Deluxe furthermore boasts that "ULTIMA 21 and ULTIMA 21 DELUXE have received the highest possible ratings from all reviews," which implies that there may be a third game, Ultima 21, though possibly Ultima 21 is just an earlier version of Ultima 21 Deluxe.

The product catalogue that Falconer distributed with both games lists a "very flexible and easy to use" disk management system, Menu Manager 2.0, which was released in May 1988 for $20. I have not been able to locate a copy of this utility, though it is likely that it too was written in PROMAL.

I've provisionally accepted my own answer but would be happy to accept another one that presents non-shareware examples.

1
  • 3
    Nice job on the research of a pretty hard to answer question Mar 9 at 16:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.