IFIP Working Group 2.1

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IFIP Working Group 2.1 on Algorithmic Languages and Calculi is a working group of the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP).

IFIP WG 2.1 was formed as the body responsible for the continued support and maintenance of the ALGOL 60 programming language.[1] The Modified Report on the Algorithmic Language ALGOL 60 and the ALGOL 68 programming language were produced by WG 2.1.

Its scope is now given as

  • The study of calculation of programs from specifications
  • The design of notations for such calculation.
  • The formulation of algorithm theories, using such notations.
  • The investigation of software support for program derivation.
  • Continuing responsibility for Algol 60 and Algol 68.[2]



Soon after the publication of the original ALGOL 60 Report in 1960, issues arose that needed some form of authoritative resolution. ALGOL 60 had been chosen by the Communications of the ACM, then a leading scientific journal, as the publication language for algorithms, then an important part of the items published in the Communications. Computer manufacturers and academic groups were laboring to produce implementations. There were issues that needed clarification, such as ambiguities and errors in the Report. Another urgent issue was the complete absence of even basic I/O facilities.

The authors of the ALGOL 60 Report met in Rome, Italy in April 1962 to resolve most of the ambiguities and errors known at the time, resulting in the Revised Report on the Algorithmic Language ALGOL 60. During that meeting, the authors decided to institutionalize the responsibility for the continued support and maintenance of ALGOL 60 by transferring it to the young international IFIP organization.

To this end, IFIP established a working group, to operate under its Technical Committee 2 on Programming. The initial membership of the new working group, the first of many IFIP working groups, consisted largely of most of the original authors, with the addition of several members responsible for ALGOL 60 implementations. IFIP WG 2.1 held its first meeting in August 1962 in Munich, Germany.

ALGOL 68[edit]

Main article: ALGOL 68

When ALGOL 60 was designed, its intended scope of use was similar to that of FORTRAN: largely the field of numerical computation. IFIP WG 2.1 embarked on the design of a successor, code-named ALGOL X, to the ALGOL 60 programming language with a much wider application scope, including non-numerical programming, areas better served by languages like COBOL and Lisp than by ALGOL 60. Among several competing initial designs, including a proposal by Niklaus Wirth that eventually led to ALGOL W, the Working Group chose that by Aad van Wijngaarden, ultimately leading to ALGOL 68.

IFIP WG 2.1 decided to adopt the design in December 1968 during a stormy meeting, once again held in Munich. However, there was considerable opposition among the membership, led by Edsger Dijkstra, expressed in a Minority Report[3] and later leading to a split in the group and the formation of a new working group, IFIP Working Group 2.3 on Programming Methodology.

Some notable former and current members[edit]

See also[edit]

  • R. W. Bemer (1969). "A politico-social history of ALGOL". In M. I. Halpern; C. J. Shaw. Annual Review in Automatic Programming. 5. Pergamon Press. 
  • Charles H. Lindsey (1996). "A History of ALGOL 68". In T. J. Bergin; R. G. Gibson. History of Programming Languages, Volume 2. ACM Press. ISBN 0-201-89502-1. 


  1. ^ "The IFIP Working Group on ALGOL". ALGOL Bulletin (15): 52. June 1962. 
  2. ^ http://www.cs.uu.nl/wiki/bin/view/IFIP21/ScopeEtc
  3. ^ "Minority Report". ALGOL Bulletin (31): 7. March 1970.