Retrocomputing Museum Progress Report (Eric Raymond)
Wed, 21 Sep 1994 23:21:01 GMT

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Newsgroups: comp.compilers,comp.lang.misc,alt.folklore.computers
From: (Eric Raymond)
Keywords: history, comment
Organization: Netaxs Internet BBS and Shell Accounts
Date: Wed, 21 Sep 1994 23:21:01 GMT

This is followup on my "Languages From Hell" offer (which is the contents of
the file CHARTER referred to below):

(manifest and progress report #1, September 20th 1994)

The Retrocomputing Museum is dedicated to programs that induce sensations that
hover somewhere between nostalgia and nausea. Many are emulations of languages
that were once important, but are now merely antiques. A few are games and
curiosities that recall bygone ages, nice if you want to be able to demonstrate
to the younger set what life was like back when programmers were real men and
sheep were nervous.

The Museum site is

The curators of the Museum are:
Eric S. Raymond <>
John Cowan <>

Summary list of packages in the Museum:
algol-60, cfoogol, focal, intercal, jcl, mixal, oisc, pilot, teco,
trac, wumpus

Following the package descriptions is a "COMING SOON..." section describing
current Museum projects, and a want list of specifications and implementations
we'd like to add to the Museum. See also the file CHARTER.


An interpreter for Algol-60, the common ancestor of C, Pascal,
Algol-68, Modula, and most other conventional languages that
aren't BASIC, FORTRAN, or COBOL. Correctly described by Edsger
Dijkstra (one of its co-designers) as "a great improvement on
many of its successors". This distribution includes TeX source
for the Algol 60 Report.

A compiler for a very, very tiny subset of Algol (no procedures,
even). More a demonstration on how to write a recursive descent
parser than anything else. Generates stupid but portable C code.

A very archaic educational language, ancestral to MUMPS.
This implementation is due to be replaced shortly by a better one.

A computer language designed by Don Woods and James Lyons in 1972.
INTERCAL is purposely different from all other computer languages
in all ways but one; it is purely a written language, being totally
unspeakable. Said by the authors to stand for "Computer Language
With No Pronounceable Acronym".

The JCL shell. If you ever wondered what programming an IBM/360
was like, here's your chance to find out. No man page, but there
is an included sample `Hello, World' JCL deck that it will run.

An implementation of the MIX pseudoassembler used for algorithm
description in Donald E. Knuth's "The Art Of Computer Programming",
vol I. This preliminary release doesn't do floating point and has
little documentation as yet, but it works well enough to be used
in conjunction with the book.

You've heard of RISC, Reduced Instruction Set Computers? Well, here
is the concept taken to its logical extreme -- an emulator for a
computer with just one (1) instruction! Sample programs in the
OISC machine language are included.

The reference implementation for IEEE standard PILOT, a horrible
language designed in 1962 on IBM mainframes that a group of
ancient academics was still insane enough to be using in 1990 ---
and not only using but *standardizing*. I (esr) wrote this
implementation as a weekend hack.

Yes, it's the Editor From Hell...the infamous TECO, bane of lusers
and tricky, unforgiving tool of master hackers. Build this to find
out (a) what we lived with before Emacs, and (b) how expressive line
noise can be. I have POSIXified the code. Note: this is 1986 TECO,
there's a newer 1993 version that doesn't POSIXify cleanly.

An extremely funky computer language based entirely on macro
processing. There is an interpreter written in Perl, and a
text file documenting the language and the implementation. This
implementation is by John Cowan <>.


A faithful clone of the classic Hunt The Wumpus game, exactly as it
appeared in 1972 on the Dartmouth Time-Sharing System. Also includes
an original but strangely similar game, superhack.


dibol (John Cowan)
Digital's Business Oriented Language, born on the PDP-8 and later
moved to the PDP-11. Compiler in Perl, but generates Standard C.
Comes with a Posix-compliant library that does almost all of the
real work. DIBOL is like COBOL, dumbed down as far as possible....

algol-60c (John Cowan)
The real Algol-60 compiler. Will generate GNU (non-Standard) C.
This is the big project, and won't be available for a while yet.

Magnus Olson is working on a BCPL-to-C compiler.

Jonathan Chandross <> is building a better FOCAL.

Richard Wendland <> is working on an Algol-68-to-C
compiler, to be available in mid-1995.


plankalkul (Eric S. Raymond)
An implementation of the very first high-level computer language
ever, Zuse's Plankalkul for the Z-3. I'll write this if I get
enough docs on the language to do it, and Matthias Neeracher is
working on that.

plmtoc (?)
There is a PLM/386 parser and symbol-table manager available,
plm-parse, at This ought to
be turned into a PL/M-to-C compiler.

bliss (?)
The Museum has an incomplete BLISS-to-C compiler. We're looking
for someone to finish it who has BLISS and/or VMS experience.


Implementations, or softcopy specifications, for the following languages:
Plankalkul, IPL-V, RPG, JOVIAL, CORAL, JOSS, POP-2 or POP-10,
1401 Autocoder, MAD, PL/M.
Sample programs to add to the distributions for the following languages:

Eric S. Raymond <>
[Nitpick: I believe that Focal and MUMPS were unrelated, despite some
syntactic similarity. Focal was basically as much of JOSS as the author
could squeeze into a 4K PDP-8. -John]

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