Re: Jensen's device (Wclodius)
24 Mar 1998 22:34:58 -0500

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From: (Wclodius)
Newsgroups: comp.compilers
Date: 24 Mar 1998 22:34:58 -0500
Organization: AOL
References: 98-03-204
Keywords: algol60, history

Our distinguished moderator wrote:

[By the time Jensen's discovery came to light, I believe in a letter
or article in the CACM, the Algol report had been done for a couple of
years. I don't know whether there were compilers that used
call-by-reference which had to be changed -- Algol60 was more a
publication language than a day-to-day programming language. Al
Perlis, who wrote the Algol 60 report, told me about the mistake, but
he's no longer around to fill in the details. -John]

There was recently published a two volume text on Algol like languages

that might be of interest to readers of this thread. In any event I
believe Perlis is more appropriately described as a co-author and not
the author. The closest to a primary author would be Peter Naur, who
was the editor. As to revising it, soon after the revised report was
published, work began on the long and controversial effort that
created Algol 68.

While primarilly considered and used as a publication language in the
States it was a genuine programming language for many years in Europe,
and of course Burroughs centered their computer designs on the
language, so not all of the US treated it as a publication language. I
also thought Jensen's device was actually discovered after compiler
implementors discovered "thunks", and its main purpose was to show
that call by name could be useful in spite of its complications.

How many of the authors of the report are still alive? I believe
Backus and McCarthy are still around, but don't know about the others.

William B. Clodius

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