Source Code Control System

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Source Code Control System
Original author(s)Marc J. Rochkind
Initial release1972; 47 years ago (1972)[discuss]
RepositoryOfficial website
Written inC
Operating systemUnix-like
TypeVersion control
Licenseproprietary licenses, Common Development and Distribution License
WebsiteThe Open Group Base Specifications Issue 7, IEEE Std 1003.1-2008, 2016 Edition

Source Code Control System (SCCS) is a version control system designed to track changes in source code and other text files during the development of a piece of software. This allows the user to retrieve any of the previous versions of the original source code and the changes which are stored. It was originally developed at Bell Labs beginning in late 1972 by Marc Rochkind for an IBM System/370 computer running OS/360.[1]

SCCS is also known for the sccsid string,[2] for example:

 static char sccsid[] = "@(#)ls.c        8.1 (Berkeley) 6/11/93";

This string contains the file name, date, and can also contain a comment. After compilation, the string can be found in binary and object files by looking for the pattern "@(#)" and can be used to determine which source code files were used during compilation. The "what" command [1] is available to automate this search for version strings.


In 1972, Marc Rochkind developed SCCS in SNOBOL4 at Bell Labs for an IBM System/370 computer running OS/360 MVT.[1] It was later rewritten by him in C for UNIX, then running on a PDP-11.

The first publicly released version was SCCS version 4 from February 18, 1977.[3] It was available with the Programmer's Workbench (PWB) edition of the operating system. Release 4 of SCCS was the first version that used a text-based history file format, earlier versions did use binary history file formats. Release 4 was no longer written or maintained by Marc Rochkind. Subsequently, SCCS was included in AT&T's commercial System III and System V distributions. It was not licensed with 32V, the ancestor to BSD.[4] The SCCS command set is now part of the Single UNIX Specification.

SCCS was the dominant version control system for Unix until later version control systems, notably the RCS and later CVS, gained more widespread adoption. Today, these early version control systems are generally considered obsolete, particularly in the open-source community, which has largely embraced distributed version control systems. However, the SCCS file format is still used internally by a few newer version control programs, including BitKeeper and TeamWare. The latter is a frontend to SCCS. Sablime has been developed from a modified version of SCCS[5] but uses a history file format that is incompatible with SCCS. The SCCS file format uses a storage technique called interleaved deltas (or the weave[6]). This storage technique is now considered by many version control system developers as foundational to advanced merging and versioning techniques,[7] such as the "Precise Codeville" ("pcdv") merge.

Apart from fixing some Year 2000 problems in 1999, there is no active development on the various UNIX vendor specific SCCS versions.[8] In 2006, Sun Microsystems (today part of Oracle) released their Solaris version of SCCS as open-source under the CDDL license as part of their efforts to open-source Solaris.[9]


The Source Code Control System (SCCS) is a system for controlling file and history changes. Software is typically upgraded to a new version by fixing bugs, optimizing algorithms and adding extra functions.[10] Changing software causes problems that require version control to solve.[1]

  • Source code takes up too much space because it is repeated in every version.
  • It is hard to acquire information about when and where changes occurred.
  • Finding the exact version which the client has problems with is difficult.

SCCS was built to solve these problems. SCCS from AT&T had five major versions for the IBM OS and five major versions for UNIX[11] Two specific implementations using SCCS are: PDP 11 under Unix and IBM 370 under the OS.[1]


SCCS consists of two parts: SCCS commands and SCCS files.[12] All basic operations (e.g., create, delete, edit) can be realized by SCCS commands.[12] SCCS files have a unique format prefix s., which is controlled by SCCS commands.[2]

SCCS files[edit]

An SCCS file is composed of three different parts:[13]

  • Delta table
  • Access and tracking flags
  • Body of the text

Delta table[edit]

In SCCS, a delta refers to a change of SCCS file. Deltas are stored in a delta table, so each SCCS file has its own record of changes.[13]

Control and tracking flags in SCCS files[edit]

Every operation of each SCCS file will be tracked by flags. Their functions are as below:[13]

  • Setting permissions for editing of every SCCS file.
  • Control each release of every SCCS file.
  • Permitting collaborative editing of every SCCS file.
  • Mutual-referencing changes of every SCCS file.

Body of the texts[edit]

There are three types of control records used to keep track of insertions and deletions applied in different deltas. They are insertion control record, deletion control record and end control record. Whenever a user changes some part of the text, a control record is inserted surrounding the change. These control records are stored in the body along with the original source code or text records.[1]

SCCS basic commands[edit]

There are lots of commands that can be used in SCCS. These commands helps users to finish what they want to achieve without understanding how they worked.[14] Also, the SCCS allows users to have access to history files. Moreover, it also provides some commands which allow them to edit, monitor and change the source files.[15]


The sccs create command uses the text of source file to create a new history file. For example:

$ sccs create program.c
87 lines

The outputs are name, version and lines.

The create command is a macro that expands to admin to create the new history file followed by a get to retrieve the file.


$ sccs edit program.c
new delta 1.2
87 lines

Edit a specific file.

The edit command is a macro that expands to get -e.


$ sccs delget program.c
comments? main function enhanced
10 inserted
0 deleted
87 unchanged
97 lines

Check in new version and get the new version from sccs.

The delget command is a macro that expands to delta to check in the new version file followed by a get to retrieve the file.


$ sccs get program.c
87 lines

The outputs are version and lines you want to get from specific file.


$ sccs prt program.c

This command produces a report of changes you made.


UNIX SCCS versions[edit]

Most UNIX versions include a version of SCCS, which, however, is often no longer actively developed.[16][better source needed]

Jörg Schilling's fork[edit]

Jörg Schilling (who requested the release of SCCS in the early days of the OpenSolaris project)[17] maintains a fork of SCCS[18] that is based on the OpenSolaris source code. It has received major feature enhancements but remains compatible with the original SCCS versions unless using the "new project" mode.[19]

Heirloom Project[edit]

The Heirloom Project includes a version of SCCS derived from the OpenSolaris source code[20] and maintained between December 2006 and April 2007.[21]

GNU conversion utility[edit]

GNU offers the SCCS compatible program GNU CSSC ("Compatibly Stupid Source Control"), which is occasionally used to convert SCCS archives to newer systems like CVS or Subversion;[22] it is not a complete[23] SCCS implementation and not recommended for use in new projects, but mostly meant for converting to a modern version control system.

Other version control systems[edit]

Since the 1990s, many new version control systems have been developed and become popular that are designed for managing projects with a large number of files and that offer advanced functionality such as multi-user operation, access control, automatic building, network support, release management and distributed version control. Bitkeeper and TeamWare use the SCCS file format internally and can be considered successors to SCCS.[24][25]

The SRC version control system can also use the SCCS file format internally (or RCS's) and aims to provide a better user interface for SCCS while still managing only single-file projects.


  1. ^ a b c d e Rochkind, Marc J. (December 1975), "The Source Code Control System" (PDF), IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, SE-1 (4), pp. 364–370, doi:10.1109/tse.1975.6312866
  2. ^ a b Oracle. "Chapter 5 SCCS Source Code Control System". Programming Utilities Guide.
  3. ^ AT&T Announcement for SCCSv4
  4. ^ SCCS what(1) manpage from 4BSD, 1980, on the website of The Unix Heritage Society Archived 2005-08-31 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Estublier, Jacky, David Leblang, André van der Hoek, Reidar Conradi, Geoffrey Clemm, Walter Tichy, and Darcy Wiborg-Weber. “Impact of software engineering research on the practice of software configuration management.” ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology (TOSEM) 14 (October 2005): 383–430.
  6. ^ Hudson, Greg (2002-10-03), Notes on keeping version histories of files, Unpublished personal notes
  7. ^ Estublier, Jacky, David Leblang, André van der Hoek, Reidar Conradi, Geoffrey Clemm, Walter Tichy, and Darcy Wiborg-Weber. “Impact of software engineering research on the practice of software configuration management.” ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology (TOSEM) 14 (October 2005): p.398.
  8. ^ What is SCCS, GNU operating System
  9. ^ Stephen Lau, Sun Microsystems (2006-12-19). "SCCS/make source available". Archived from the original on April 25, 2012. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
  10. ^ "Home Organization Selection". Retrieved 2016-09-12.
  11. ^ The evolution of a Source Code Control System. Alan L.Glasser, published in sigmetrics, Nov 1978 when SCCS on UNIX was a version 4
  12. ^ a b "SCCS". Retrieved 2016-09-12.
  13. ^ a b c IBM. "General Programming Concepts: Writing and Debugging Programs". IBM Knowledge Center.
  14. ^ An Introduction to the Source Code Control System Eric Allman, Project Ingres, University of California at Berkeley
  15. ^ Source Code Control System Programming Utilities Guide
  16. ^ Koike, Hideki, and Hui-Chu Chu. "VRCS: Integrating version control and module management using interactive three-dimensional graphics." Visual Languages, 1997. Proceedings. 1997 IEEE Symposium on. IEEE, 1997.
  17. ^ "os.solaris.opensolaris.rfe - Re: star - msg#00001 - Recent Discussion". Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  18. ^ Jörg Schilling's SCCS development website
  19. ^ Schily SCCS web site: "Will the upcoming SCCSv6 stay compatible with POSIX and with historic SCCS implementations?"
  20. ^ Gunnar Ritter (20 June 2010). "The Heirloom Development Tools". Retrieved 4 November 2011.
  21. ^ see CVS history
  22. ^ SCCS2SVN conversion utility Archived 2009-12-22 at the Wayback Machine, which works with both SCCS and CSSC
  23. ^ GNU CSSC list of limitations in its documentation
  24. ^ "revtool". BitKeeper Documentation.
  25. ^ "Introduction to Sun WorkShop TeamWare". Retrieved 10 September 2016.

Further reading[edit]