So, I was watching an old "classic" gangster movie, New Jack City, the other day and while watching it I noticed some dialogue I hadn't noticed before, about 44 minutes into the movie:

This kid's been bringing us business.
I'd like to take a shot at one of those computer terminals.
Can you program Pascal?

Now, I work as a developer and even though I don't have experience with Pascal as such I was wondering two things:
First, what on earth is a drug cartel doing programming Pascal?
And second, what is a drug cartel from 1991 doing programming Pascal?

Well, perhaps they did some very drug-related CRM programming but why? And when the police storms the building, they are all rushing to remove the Floppy Disks only which would be strange if the actual data was saved on hard drives.

It just stand out to me as a really weird thing to do at a drug cartel..

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    Why not program in Pascal? Turbo Pascal was very common in 1991. Also, are you sure they had a hard drive? They were much less common in 1991.
    – Chenmunka
    Apr 8, 2015 at 12:53
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    Keep in mind that crack was created in 1984-85. Depending on where this scene lands in the movie, it may be well before the 1991 release date. Apr 8, 2015 at 13:12
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    It was actually quite common to keep data on removable media and have the programs only on the HDD. Sneakernet was A Thing in 1991
    – Yorik
    Apr 8, 2015 at 17:27
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    @Chenmunka Well, I guess the question is more concerned about "why program at all in a drug cartel business?" and not so much about Pascal in particular (at least I hope so, as otherwise it would be quite a useless question).
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Apr 8, 2015 at 17:34

3 Answers 3


I believe this activity was meant to show the "new" way of doing business. Cutting edge meant computers, so whether or not anything they were doing was actually computer-related, they were implying that they were doing business "the new way" (my quotes). This is somewhat related to the Technology Marches On trope, but also IMO related that that scene in Juraissic Park where the girl is like, "I know this! This is a UNIX system!". And we're all amazed at the (now crappy looking) 3D interactive menu as it flashes by. In both instances, we are introduced to crazy new technology that few people understood at the time, so Hollywood can take liberties with it.

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    +1 I agree it was to show that Nino and his crew were running an old business in a state of the art way. It was meant to convey that they were organized and had their stuff together. Apr 8, 2015 at 17:54

First, what on earth is a drug cartel doing programming Pascal?

I think he was working on an accounting system

what is a drug cartel from 1991 doing programming Pascal?

I went to college in the late 1990s and a lot of colleges were teaching pascal at the time... Java 1.0 was release in January 23, 1996... Other popular options would have c, basic, cobol....

Well, perhaps they did some very drug-related CRM programming but why?

You could not download it from the app store. It is not uncommon for a business(illegal or not) making that kind of cash to use computers to keep up with suppliers, customers, debate and credit....

Sad truth is people think proprietors of illegal business don't use technology to maximize profit.

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    Could you tell us that makes you think same
    – Panther
    Jan 6, 2017 at 16:41
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    Pascal was widely taught, as I recall, back in "the day" and would likely have been more recognizable to a wider audience than something like C or cobol. The tie-in to accounting is salient.
    – DukeZhou
    Jan 6, 2017 at 17:59
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    Pascal in the 80s was considered to be kind of a "Latin" for programming languages - it was a universal language that required basic core competencies that would be useful in programming other languages. At least, that's what I was told in my AP high school programming class (which was a joke because the teachers were not especially programming-competent). Jan 6, 2017 at 18:02
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    @mattiav27 Stop Claiming answers don't directly address the question WHEN THEY DO
    – cde
    Jan 6, 2017 at 19:16
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    Addressing only the last sentence, back when I was a provider of THC-infused plants in the 80's, I used a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet to help me to find out where I could make improvements to widen the profit margin. Pascal seems a bit overkill, but I supposed if you really wanted to go full-tilt you may as well include some personalized Accounting software. Jan 7, 2017 at 12:42

Others have answered the first question.

As for the second, I can tell you about my experience at that time. I took the AP Computer Science test (both the A & B parts) circa 1989 and it was entirely in Pascal. The earlier versions of MacOS (Systems 1 - 7, so 1984-1996-ish) had Pascal interfaces and all the documentation for them was in Pascal. When Windows 3.1 came out, they also used the Pascal ABI for a lot of it. I actually had Turbo Pascal on both a DOS machine and a Mac around that time. It was realistic for a developer to buy a copy of Turbo Pascal and write software in it as depicted in the movie.

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