Re: Languages from the 1950s (Robert Thau)
Sun, 10 May 2020 00:46:22 +0000 (UTC)

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[2 earlier articles]
Re: Languages from the 1950s (Derek M. Jones) (2020-03-31)
Re: Languages from the 1950s (2020-03-31)
Re: Languages from the 1950s (Robin Vowels) (2020-04-01)
Re: Languages from the 1950s (Philipp Klaus Krause) (2020-04-01)
Re: Languages from the 1950s (Derek M. Jones) (2020-04-01)
Re: Languages from the 1950s (Robin Vowels) (2020-04-02)
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Re: Languages from the 1950s (Martin Ward) (2020-05-13)
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From: (Robert Thau)
Newsgroups: comp.compilers
Date: Sun, 10 May 2020 00:46:22 +0000 (UTC)
Organization: Public Access Networks Corp.
References: 20-03-030
Injection-Info:; posting-host=""; logging-data="69402"; mail-complaints-to=""
Keywords: history, comment
Posted-Date: 10 May 2020 17:41:42 EDT

In article 20-03-030,
Derek M. Jones <> wrote:
>I looking for manuals for languages from the 1950s,
>the earlier the better.
>There were lots of languages around (we just don't know much
>about them today):

It's worth noting that the whole nomenclature of "assembler",
"compiler" and "interpreter" was not really established at the time --
the Laning-Zierler algebraic language for the Whirlwind (which is at
least one of the Whirlwind entries, and possibly all three) was a
compiler according to modern definitions of the word -- it generated
machine code from an input language that was mostly algebraic
expressions -- but its own documentation, here:

calls it "interpretive". There are other systems on the list which
were implemented as what we'd call interpreters nowadays. Mauchly's
Short Code for the Univac may be the first; it was running by 1950.
I believe Backus's Speedcoding for the 701 is also in this category.

With that in mind, I can identify quite a few entries in that list as
being what we'd call assemblers nowadays, including at least SOAP I and
II for the IBM 650, the X-1 assembler for the Univac (I and II), SAP for
the 704 (also available for the 709; see below), and at least a few of
the several "AUTOCODER"s.

There are a few other things on the list that are at least arguably
double-counting -- the IBM 709 was a mostly upward-compatible extension
of the 704 with better I/O hardware, and the FORTRAN compilers for
the two machines shared just about all of their code outside of the I/O

(As a sidelight, the sheer number of FORTRAN compilers is interesting,
particularly as this happened without any formal standardization effort.
This also suggests there may be a little back-dating going on in some
of these cases. The first of these to be released was 704 FORTRAN, and
it wasn't released until early 1957 itself; all the others must have
come later, and a compiler in those days was not a small project.)

Robert Thau
[SOAP II was definitely an assembler. I have the manual. It was an
"optimizing" assembler in that it tried to place instructions in
locations on the 650's drum to minimize the rotational delay. -John]

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