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Marco Cantu
Chad Z. Hower
Niklaus Wirth


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Interview with Marco Cantu

Who is Marco Cantu ?
Marco Cantu is an internationally known Delphi expert and winner of the 1999 Spirit of Delphi award, who lives in Italy. Author of six editions of the bestselling Mastering Delphi books, he teaches advanced delphi classes, speaks at conferences worldwide, and writes about Delphi programming in print and online magazines.

Name: Marco Cantu
Age: 36
Civil status: Married, with one daughter
Residence: Piacenza, Italy
Known Programming languages: C++, Java, Object Pascal, JavaScript, BASIC, Eiffel (have also worked a little in Prolog and LISP
Hobbies: Cycling (in the area I live) and mountain hiking (mainly in the alps), participating in community, environmental, and pacifist projects.
Contact: Newsgroups at http://www.marcocantu.com



SwissDelphiCenter: How did you start and how you got into programming (later Delphi). Did you learn by yourself?

Marco Cantu:
I started programming in BASIC and assembly on a Z80-powered machine, one of those early boxes shipping before the PC came to existence. It was a lot of fun and I was a teenager, with plenty of time available... so I slowly learned the basics. Later I decided to get a university degree in computer science. As for Delphi specifically, at that time I as working with C++ and the various libraries (OWL, MFC, and the like) but the beauty of the VCL (and of the Object Pascal language) hooked me when I first had a chance to study them, which was before the product shipped.


SDC: What music you listen to while you are developing?

Cantu: Most often I hear the radio, so it's a little bit of everything. My preference goes to Sting and the U2, but I also hear Jazz music, plus a few Italian bands.


SDC: Will you write another edition of your great book "Delphi Developers handbook"?

Cantu: This is hard to tell, as I'm still looking for a suitable publishing model for this type of advanced books. With the effort it takes even to update a similar book, not to mention writing brand new material, traditional publishing really doesn't pay off. I'm investigating e-books, online subscriptions, and other approaches, but still haven't found anything satisfactory.


SDC: How important is it to have pascal experience prior to learning Delphi?

Cantu: For someone fluent in a a programming language having a type system, moving to Pascal should not take long. Some problems might be there for people who never had to declare a variable before using, as they might take time to understand what's going on. A proper understanding of the OOP side of Delphi is much more difficult to obtain, and very important to use the power of Delphi, and not just type
in code within event handlers.


SDC: Do You think it is likely that Delphi becomes as popular as Java, C++, or Basic is today?

Cantu: Delphi is not as popular as those languages in computer magazines, but in everyday use it is not lagging much behind them. A lot of professional applications, shareware programs, and web sites are written in Delphi. Only, there is no incentive in pushing this, so even companies using Delphi often don't say so. In any case, certainly Delphi's got a less limited appeal because it hasn't got a large company behind it, nor a standard body. But it has a large and focused programmer's community. Will Borland leverage the use of Delphi? They seem to believe in Java more than anything else, and have mismanaged the Kylix project, but if portions of the Linux (open source) community moves to visual development, Delphi might benefit a lot. So the answer is "no, but who cares?"


SDC: What do you expect from Delphi .NET which has been announced on 02/15/02? Can Delphi survive in the .NET world?

Cantu: If Borland provides a much nicer and OOP library on top of .NET as it did on the Windows API, I see very good changes for Delphi to break into the .NET world. For programmers and software houses, having a chance of compiling the same program for different targets like Win32 (which won't die away overnight), Linux, and .NET will be a plus. Even if code won't be 100 percent portable, consider that C# and VB.NET programmers won't even have a chance to create programs for older Windows boxes, which probably won't be able to run .NET.


SDC: In your opinion, what are the advantages of Delphi in comparison with other programming languages?

Cantu: When Delphi came out it had definite advantages, like extensive RTTI, components/classes duality, and more. Nowadays if you look at languages like Java or C#, the similarities are huge. Still, there are many occasions in which I like to have this advanced OOP features along with low-level control (like freeing memory when I decide). Few of todays languages merge this high- and low-level approaches. But again, if you compare the languages of the family Delphi belongs (I'm not thinking about scripting languages, for example) feature by features, there are less and less relevant differences.
Which language feature I like best? Interfaces.


SDC: What do you say to people who say "What's Delphi? It can't be better than C++"?

Cantu: "Come and see". It is better than C++. And C++ libraries for Windows have nothing as neat as the VCL. And C++ libraries for Windows, even if much better, still don't rival the easiness and power of CLX. And it is not a matter of libraries per se: the language made those libraries possible. I haven't used C++ in almost 7 years now, and there were almost no occasions I found a project in which it would have been better than Delphi.


SDC: Looking at all the IT-job offers on the web, I was disapointed to see that Delphi related offers are still not well represented. Just as little as Interbase related. How can you explain, why the market doesn't care much more about these Borland products? Do you think the situation may soon evolved in a good way for us (the Delphi freaks) ?

Cantu: In Italy I receive much more request for Delphi jobs from companies that I can find people to fill those places. I know that in other countries around Europe it is the same. So I don't really think there is a lack of Delphi jobs. There might be in large corporations, which focus more on the market leaders (than the technology leaders!). In any case, getting back again to the topic of other questions, I don't see the situation evolving dramatically in favor of Delphi, but I don't see the opposite either, despite Java and .NET. Delphi has a rather large niche (is a one million developers' community a niche?) and I think it will continue to prosper in it. In any case, I keep seeing the adoption of Delphi by new companies, maybe after a few years pilot projects, so I have a growing number of attendees to my classes and keep selling good number of books. So I think the Delphi market is evolving (getting more mature) but not shrinking, albeit probably not growing much.


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