[TUHS] Etymology of bc(1)

Warner Losh imp at bsdimp.com
Fri Sep 12 07:41:01 AEST 2014

On Sep 11, 2014, at 3:24 PM, Christian Neukirchen <chneukirchen at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hello,
> on de.comp.os.unix.shell there is a recent thread about bc(1) which
> turned into a discussion about why it is called "bc".  dc(1) is pretty
> clearly "desk calculator" as by the man page, but the etymology of bc
> seems to be unclear.
> I've heard the following plausible theories:
> - basic calculator (Wikipedia)
> - beauty calculator (some people apparently dislike RPN)
> - better calculator
> - bench calculator (Wikipedia)
> - b is the letter d mirrored (RPN vs algebraic)
> - bundle calculator (the word "bundle" appears 97 times in bc.y of V6)
> ...but nobody had a really conclusive argument.  Perhaps someone here
> remembers the real story?

I’d always heard ‘binary calculator’ but I don’t have a good reference for that.


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