ALGOL 68C

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Algol 68 Cambridge
Developer(s) Stephen Bourne, Michael Guy, Andrew D. Birrell, Ian Walker, Chris Cheney et al.
Initial release c. 1970
Stable release 1.3039 / March 3, 2013 (2013-03-03)
Written in ALGOL 68
Operating system IBM 360/370/etc mainframes (or their emulations) running MVT or MVS
Type Compiler, Translator
Website http://algol68c.bitbucket.org/

The language was originally called Z70 and was subsequently morphed into ALGOL 68. ALGOL68C was initially built to develop and program the CAMbridge ALgebra system called CAMAL. The initial compiler was written in PSYCO (the Princeton SYntax COmpiler by Edgar T. Irons) that was implemented by J.H. Mathewman at Cambridge. The compiler and language were initially developed by Stephen Bourne and Michael Guy as a dialect of ALGOL 68.

""Algol68C"" was later used for the CHAOS OS for the CAP capability computer at Cambridge University in 1971 . Other early contributors were Andrew D. Birrell[1] and Ian Walker.

Subsequent work was done on the compiler after Bourne left Cambridge University in 1975. Garbage collection was added and the code base is still running on an emulated OS/MVT using Hercules.

The ALGOL68C compiler generated ZCODE output, that could then be either compiled into the local machine code by a ZCODE translator or run interpreted. ZCODE is a register-based intermediate language. This ability to interpret or compile ZCODE encouraged the porting of ALGOL 68C to numerous different computer platforms. Aside from the CAP capability computer the compiler was ported to systems including CMS, TOPS-10 and Z80.

Popular Culture[edit]

A very early predecessor of this compiler was used by Guy and Bourne to write the first life game programs on the PDP-7 with a DEC 340 display (see Scientific American article) "For long-lived populations such as this one Conway sometimes uses a PDP-7 computer with a screen on which he can observe the changes; The program was written by M. J. T. Guy and S. R. Bourne. Without its help some discoveries about the game would have been difficult to make." Scientific American 223 (October 1970): 120-123.

Various Liverpool Software Gazette issues detail the Z80 implementation. The compiler required about 120Kb of memory to run, hence the Z80's 64Kb memory is actually too small to run the compiler. So ALGOL 68C programs for the Z80 had to be cross compiled from ALGOL 68C running on the larger CAP capability computer or an IBM System/370 mainframe.

Algol 68C and Unix[edit]

Stephen Bourne subsequently reused ALGOL 68's if ~ then ~ else ~ fi, case ~ in ~ out ~ esac and for ~ while ~ do ~ od clauses in the common Unix Bourne shell, but with in's syntax changed, out removed, and od replaced with done (to avoid conflict with the od utility).

After Cambridge, Bourne spent nine years at Bell Labs with the Seventh Edition Unix team. As well as developing the Bourne shell, he ported ALGOL 68C to Unix on the DEC PDP-11-45 and included a special option in his Unix debugger "adb" to obtain a stack backtrace for programs written in ALGOL68C. Here is an extract from the Unix 7th edition adb manual pages:

NAME
      adb - debugger
SYNOPSIS
      adb [-w] [ objfil [ corfil ] ]
[...]
COMMANDS
[...]
       $modifier
             Miscellaneous  commands.   The  available modifiers
             are:
             [...]
             a      ALGOL 68 stack  backtrace.   If  address  is
                    given  then it is taken to be the address of
                    the current frame (instead of r4).  If count
                    is  given  then  only the first count frames
                    are printed.

ALGOL 68C extensions to Algol 68[edit]

Below is a sampling of some notable extensions:

  • Automatic op:= for any operator, e.g. *:= and +:=
  • UPTO, DOWNTO and UNTIL in loop-clauses;
  • displacement operator (:=:=)
  • ANDF, ORF and THEF syntactic elements.
  • separate compilation - ENVIRON clause and USING clause
  • scopes not checked
  • bounds in formal-declarers
  • CODE ... EDOC clause - for embedding ZCODE

The ENVIRON and USING clauses[edit]

Separate compilation in ALGOL 68C is done using the ENVIRON and USING clauses. The ENVIRON saves the complete environment at the point it appears. A separate module written starting with a USING clause is effectively inserted into the first module at the point the ENVIRON clause appears.

ENVIRON and USING are useful for a top-down style of programming, in contrast to the bottom-up style implied by traditional library mechanisms.

These clauses are kind of the inverse of the #include found in the C programming language, or import found in Python. The purpose of the ENVIRON mechanism is to allow a program source to be broken into manageable sized pieces. Note that it is only necessary to parse the shared source file once, unlike a #include found in the C programming language where the include file needs to be parsed for each source file that includes it.

Example of ENVIRON clause[edit]

A file called mylib.a68:

BEGIN
   INT dim = 3; # a constant #
   INT a number := 120; # a variable #
   ENVIRON EXAMPLE1;
   MODE MATRIX = [dim, dim]REAL; # a type definition #
   MATRIX m1;
   a number := ENVIRON EXAMPLE2;
   print((a number))
END

Example of USING clause[edit]

A file called usemylib.a68:

USING EXAMPLE2 FROM "mylib"
BEGIN
  MATRIX m2; # example only #
  print((a number)); # declared in mylib.a68 #
  print((2 UPB m1)); # also declared in mylib.a68 #
  ENVIRON EXAMPLE3;  # ENVIRONs can be nested #
  666
END

Restrictions to the language from the standard ALGOL 68[edit]

  • no algol68 FLEX and variable length arrays.
  • MODE STRING implemented without FLEX.
  • The PAR parallel clause was not implemented.
  • nonstandard transput.
  • others...

A translator/compiler for ALGOL 68C was available for the PDP-10 and System/360 as well as a number of other computers.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Andrew D Birrell (December 1977). "System Programming in a High Level Language" (PDF). Dissertation submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. University of Cambridge. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
Notes
  • S.R. Bourne, A.D. Birrell and I. Walker, Algol68C reference manual, Cambridge University Computer Laboratory, 1975

External links[edit]