[TUHS] Etymology of bc(1)

Dave Horsfall dave at horsfall.org
Fri Sep 12 11:03:03 AEST 2014

On Thu, 11 Sep 2014, John Cowan wrote:

> > I've heard "binary" because it used binary arithmetic (and limited 
> > precision), and "basic" because it was a lot simpler than "dc" (which 
> > I've always thought was "decimal" calculator due to it using arbitrary 
> > precision decimal arithmetic).
> That can't be right.  Bc was just an overlay to dc that parsed bc 
> language, compiled it into dc language, and fed dc from a pipe (all the 
> output was direct from dc).  So the arithmetic capabilities were exactly 
> the same.

Hey, I never made any claim as to its veracity, and I lost my old manuals 
in a house move.

On the *nix systems to which I have access, bc(1) is a standalone
program on FreeBSD and OSX, but pipes to dc(1) on OpenBSD.  I cannot
check my Penguin box (Ubuntu) because its keyboard died, and I didn't
set up remote access to it.

All boxen say "arbitrary-precision arithmetic language and calculator" or 
variants thereof.

-- Dave

More information about the TUHS mailing list