Computer Language Standards (was Re: specifications ...)

William Clodius <>
29 Mar 1996 21:44:52 -0500

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Re: specifications (was Re: Languages: The Bigger the Uglier) (1996-03-17)
Computer Language Standards (was Re: specifications ...) (William Clodius) (1996-03-29)
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From: William Clodius <>
Newsgroups: comp.compilers
Date: 29 Mar 1996 21:44:52 -0500
Organization: Compilers Central
References: 96-03-115
Keywords: standards (Henry Baker) writes:

      <snip> The whole point of modern
      'standards' is to preserve the existing oligopoly. A few vendors band
      together to produce a 'standard' that is precisely the disjoint union
      of their existing implementations, including all their warts.
      [This is wandering into alt.flame territory. End of thread, please, unless
      someone can pull it back into compiler-land. -John]

I'm afraid that this doesn't wholely satisfy your request John, as I
have seen such comments in the past and feel that they should be
responded to if at all possible. It may partly satisfy your request
as some of the references I will cite below have relevance in other
ways to compiler writers.

While I suspect that some vendors try to manipulate the standards
process to achieve the point Henry attributes to the standards
process, they are unable to control it to the extent that Henry
attributes to it. For a more realistic view of the standards process
I suggest a visit to Brian Meeks's page,

Brian has been involved in many aspects of the standardization
process, particularly the standardization of languages, and some of
the reports available from the page are very illuminating, e.g.,

'The Fortran (not the foresight) saga: the light and the dark'


"Language standards committees and revisions"

I also recommend that any commentator on language standards also read

Computer Standards and Interfaces Vol 16 Nos 5/6, September 1994.

which was devoted to the ANSI/ISO standardization process for those
languages that attempted to become standardized in the 1983-1993
period. Languages such as C, C++, Fortran, PL/I, ALGOL 60 and 68, Z,
Cobol, Ada, APL, Pop, Lisp, Pascal, etc., are all discussed in some

The references are sufficient to show that the whole point of
modern 'standards' are not to preserve an existing oligopoly, and do
not serve to meet the needs of an oligopoly. Unfortunately, the
references also show that it is very difficult for a variety of both
political and practical reasons for standards committees to meet the
true needs of the community. Meeks's discussion of the Fortran saga
is particularly illuminating in this regard.

William B. Clodius Phone: (505)-665-9370
Los Alamos National Laboratory Email:
Los Alamos, NM 87545


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