Commercial products are often a source of ideas and inspiration for open source projects. There are free and open source implementations of almost every programming language ever devised, and a lot of them are very good.

For non-work related personal programming projects, have you ever bought an expensive commerical implementation of a programming language and found it well worth the investment? If so, which one and why?

+3  A: 

Yeah, I bought RealBasic for a hobby purpose.


It probably barely qualifies as a programming language, but I bought Flash 3 (Actionscript) when I graduated from college. It wasn't for professional use. I just wanted to learn it. I'm glad I bought it and it was fun.

+2  A: 

Yep, $60 for a c compiler for a TRS80. It let me do my homework, without a 30 mile one way drive.

Same here, back in the day for my TRS80 4P. Came on 3 floppies, one for each compilation stage, IIRC: compilation, linking, generating executable.Since the keyboard didn't have "redundant" keys like curly braces you had to use the horrible "??<" equivalents, which I now know are called "trigraphs"
Ed Griebel
+6  A: 

No, not for a while. I bought Turbo Pacal, Borland C, TopSpeed Modula2/C/etc all in the old days for personal projects but there's really no point nowadays - the free tools are more than up to the task.

+1  A: 

I spent hundreds of dollars on versions & upgrades of Prograph. It was worth it at the time, and I developed a number of cool Macintosh programs without drowning in the Macintosh Toolbox. These days, Mac OS X and the Cocoa frameworks are much more compelling.

But Prograph did have some killer features. You could add a call to a method that didn't exist, and when execution hit it, you could add the implementation on the fly. It also supported restarting execution at any arbitrary point in your code. Cool.

+11  A: 

No, never.

+2  A: 

Way, way back in the day I bought QuickBasic 4.5. It cost about a zillion dollars, but it let me compile my QBasic programs into EXE files. Sweet!


Many years ago I bought both AMOS and Blitz Basic so I could write games on my Amiga.

Andrew Kennan
+2  A: 

Not recently, but back in the early 90s, I bought a C compiler with support for the (then new) ISO Standard C.

Jonathan Leffler
+1  A: 

In the very early 90s or very late 80s I bought TurboC from Borland. It was worth it. I was in college and working on a scheduling program for a friend's father. (turned out I was trying to solve an NP complete thingy, but all we needed was one solution that fit, not the optimal.)

+2  A: 

Within the bounds of what's financially possible, I feel that programmers should own their own tools, work with tools they enjoy, learn as much as they can about the tools they work with, and support other programmers.

So yes. With the exception of hyper-expensive enterprise stuff like TFS, I purchase copies of all the software (such as Visual Studio) that I use professionally so I can use it for hobby projects as well. I also purchase copies of software (such as Flash) that I currently use only for hobby projects. And several times I have purchased software for hobby use, enjoyed it and found it useful, and later convinced a manager that the company should buy copies for other developers as well.

I totally agree with you, and programmers are relatively well paid. But sometimes there are open source tools are almost as good as their commercial counterparts. Cases where the commerical implementation is far superior to the open source versions are cases that particularly interest me.
+3  A: 

I just bought CodeGear RAD Studio 2009.

Angus Glashier
+2  A: 

In high school, I bought a copy of Turbo C 2.0. It was very expensive by high school student standards, even with the student discount (probably about $50 at the time). But I consider it one of the best investments I've ever made.

It introduced me to C, helped get me into MIT, and put me on my career path.

+2  A: 

Yes several borland products:

  • C++
  • Delphi
  • JBuilder
  • Even good old Borland Pascal

And even more old stuff:

  • I thought we had clipper/dbase
  • Some ms stuff but I can't recall

I think it is essential to have a complete development environment on your own pc. So you try cool (and usefull) things at home. Luckily my employer agrees and he supplies us with the newest versions.

Yes, Delphi was worth the money. With it you reached a level of productivy, which is not yet available in every modern IDE. To bad that Borland decided to concentrate on lifecycle management tools...

Like many other replies: not for a while. I have bought (and quite heavily used) PowerBasic at one time though. Nice time: writing small applications for a "flagazine"(magazine on floppy disk) written in PB. Damn, I'm getting old! ;-)

+1  A: 

Yes, I for my Amiga I bought JForth and Matt Dillon's DICE C-compiler.

In recent years I've been thinking of buying LispWorks, but the price is just too high to be justified by my hobby coding.

After being in love with JetBrain's Resharper at work, I've been thinking of perhaps buying IntelliJ.

Also bought TextMate for my Mac.

+2  A: 

A programming language per se, no, never. Tools for programming yes, TextMate being one of the most productive software I've ever bought.

+1 for TextMate, I agree. It's worth notice, however, that Ukelele has been a really great into improving my coding experience too.
  • 1990 DevPack-Assembler for the Amiga.
  • 1994 (?) Watcom C/C++ 10.0
  • 1996 (?) Visual C++ 4 Student Edition (it also contained VC1.5 and some VB-Version)
+1  A: 

Long, long ago:

  • Turbo Pascal
  • Turbo C
  • Lattice C (Amiga)
  • SAS C (Amiga)
  • ARexx

More recently:

  • Visual Studio 2008 (as part of MSDN Professional)
+1  A: 

It's not really an implementation of a language, but I bought IntelliJ IDEA for personal usage, after I've used it in a company and I loved it.

Joachim Sauer

For developing and porting software on the Commodore Amiga, I purchased the Lattice C compiler, which was later updated to SAS/C and SAS/C++. Editing was done in the commercial Cygnus Ed. Although there were several -- even free -- alternatives, I sticked to the Lattice/SAS product for its reliability and the good documentation. Only when C++ grew its mid-90s features (STL, templates, etc.), both the Amiga and the commerical compiler were abandoned for GNU/Linux and g++ (egcs at that time).

Andreas Scherer
+2  A: 

As the person who asked the question, I bought various HiSoft products for my 520ST in the 90s including PowerBASIC, FORTH, Highspeed Pascal, DevPac3 and Lattice C.

When I asked the question, I was also hoping that a few would rave about more recent and expensive products, and compare them to the more spartan open source implementations. Very few people have the time to evaluate everything.

Lispworks, Visual Prolog, Dolphin Smalltalk, ... anyone? :)


Many, many years ago, before most people had the internet at home...

I bought:

Turbo Pascal (for DOS!) - fairly easy to pick up, easy to use and deploy

Visual C++ (Windows) - the number of different things you have to learn to be productive (MFC, Windows low-level API, ...) meant it wasn't useful in the short term.


I bought MIX Software's Power-C back in the DOS days. It was about the cheapest C compiler I could come up with for DOS (I don't know if gcc was available for DOS back then. If it was I just never knew about it).

I also own a copy of Visual C++ 6, but that was given to me when a company I worked for went under, and I don't think I've ever used it.

Michael Kohne

My Dad bought me a copy of Turbo Pascal 3 in 1983 (I was 16 back then). I don't think it would be necessary to buy an development environment for personal projects today but if one was worth it and reasonably priced, I wouldn't hesitate.

Serge - appTranslator

Others have mentioned Turbo Pascal, but I cannot say enough good things about it. It was so much nicer than my other options for Pascal at the time.

The other commercial product I bought for my own development pleasure (purely hobbyist) was Metrowerks Codewarrior for the Palm Pilot platform. I wrote a personal database and grocery program for my main project, but lots of little, jick jack projects besides.

Don Wakefield

For the TRS-80, I bought an assembler (which I used), Turbo Pascal (ditto) and Microsoft FORTRAN, which I never did. For the Mac, I bought Lightspeed C and later Metrowerks Codewarrior and Macintosh Common Lisp (student edition, but still a bit pricey by my standards), and used both of them fairly extensively.

Currently, I do my at-home development work on Linux, usually using Eclipse or just multiple windows with vi and the compiler and a window to run in. I'm happy with this setup.

In my opinion, an IDE is primarily of value for a single-tasking computer. The big advantage of Turbo Pascal when I was a kid is that it allowed me to edit, compile, and run without exiting one program and starting another, over and over and over again. (There was a C compiler I bought for CP/M, don't remember the name, in which I had to switch between editor, compiler, assembler, and running the program, all explicit commands.)

David Thornley

Early on I bought FutureBASIC, but the documentation was very lacking and I never made more than few simple games and extensions. When Mac OS versions 8 and 9 were popular, I bought REALBasic, and I made a lot of cute little internet utility apps for my friends and I, like IRC bots.

These were all fun little experiments and I probably learned a bit, but I wish I had spent these early years learning C instead.

a paid nerd
+1  A: 

Hell yes, how did we ever get anything accomplished back in the day without it?

  • BASIC-XL for the Atari (very nice)
  • MAC/65 for the Atari (very nicer)
  • ValForth for the Atari (verier nicer, that was a sweet system)
  • ACTION! for the Atari (veriest nicest)

Those were, what, $50, $100 each? ValForth was $199 I think...can't remember.

  • Aztec C for the Mac (with unixy clone-ish stuff like fake sh and vi), $499 I think at the time. (Thank god for having 2 400K drives...)
  • LightSpeed Pascal and LightSpeed C for the Mac, they weren't that pricey -- definitely cheaper than Aztec, $200 each I think -- very nice systems.

  • Turbo Pascal for C/PM, and PC ($29 bucks, big deal)

  • Smalltalk V/286 ($199? I think?)

  • Visual C++ 1.0 (Forget what it ran, $99? $199?)

The NeXTStation came with a compiler, so, no money there, save, for you know, the actual computer cough.

  • Harlequin Lispworks, Professional ($499 at the time I think)

I think that was the last time I personally paid for a dev kit, though I plopped down the $99 for a signing key for the iPhone.

Does the $20 Fig Forth listing for the PDP-11 that we typed in count?

Sheesh -- kids today.

Will Hartung

Back when I actually used Windows, I bought Visual Studio for personal purposes, if that counts. Now that I'm on OS X, I've bought all kinds of licenses for smaller somewhat programming-related applications. Some of that was for personal projects exclusively, some for freelance work that sees double-duty for personal stuff. But I haven't purchased a full development environment in about 7 years, for the simple reason that most of the stuff I work on is open source.

Bob Aman

Back in the 80's some Atari languages:

  • Kyan Pascal (college homework, personal learning and projects)
  • Atari Macro Assembler (personal learning and projects)
  • figForth (personal learning and projects)
  • Deep Blue C Compiler (wrote a game in that one)

In the early 90's, for my Amiga:

  • Lattice C, upgraded to SAS/C, SAS/C++ (some freeware, mostly personal stuff)
  • AREXX (mostly glue routines for other purchased products, distributed for free)

In late 90's I moved to Windows and Linux with the gcc tool chain and other free compilers.

+1  A: 

Dolphin Smalltalk.

The Squeak dialect of Smalltalk is free, but looks like it was designed by toddlers on drugs. VisualWorks Smalltalks is free for personal use, but looks like a leftover from Windows 3.1.

Dolphin is very slick and worth paying money for - though unfortunately a Windows only program.

In earlier days, Borland Turbo-C.

Not a language but an IDE - I'm thinking of buying Intellij Idea. We'll see...