[TUHS] DEC compilers (was Happy birthday, John Backus!)

Clem Cole clemc at ccc.com
Thu Dec 6 03:58:41 AEST 2018

I'll never forget Bill Munson's warnings at the 1980 USENIX conference.
 Munson ran 'TIG' - Telephone Industries Group, in Merrimack, NH - who job
at DEC was helping their largest customer: AT&T.    Us university types
were screaming at Bill and team "When is DEC going to 'support' UNIX?" Bill
got up an cautioned, 'Be careful what you wish/ask us to do.   If we do
support Unix, we will have to put Fortran, Cobol, and PL/1 on it -- which I
don't think you really want.'

I'm not sure which languages did eventually get supported and on which
versions of Ultrix.  But once Paul's lk was released (and you can still
find it in /bin on the base Ultrix distributions), you did indeed see a
number of the languages move to Ultrix.  I think for the Vax it was just
VAX/11C, Fortran and Pascal.  I think Ultrix11 may have gotten Fortran, but
as I said; I don't remember.  I do remember the TIG folks talking about a
PL/1 project and a proposal for Cobol and RP/G because some of the Wall
Street types wanted them, but I don't remember any of those getting
released (that said, I was also not watching things Vaxen by that time).
 By the time I came back to Ultrix to do the MIPS 4000 stuff a few years
later, tech languages offerings were different and the GEM compilers had
come on the scene.


On Wed, Dec 5, 2018 at 11:48 AM Paul Winalski <paul.winalski at gmail.com>

> Another curious compiler at DEC was VAX Ultrix Fortran.  DEC had
> gotten a lot of push-back from the research community, who wanted to
> use VAX and Ultrix but considered the f77 compiler inadequate and
> wanted to use VAX Fortran, which only ran on VAX/VMS.  There was a
> rush project to port VAX Fortran to Ultrix.  It was decided that the
> quickest way to get a quality compiler to market was to have the VAX
> Fortran compiler continue to emit VMS-format object files, and to
> modify the VAX/VMS linker to accept a.out object files and to emit
> a.out images.  Four of us worked on the linker port.  Two of us from
> the VAX/VMS languages team did the linker mods and two engineers from
> the Ultrix group wrote code to translate VMS debug information to Unix
> stabs.  The resulting linker was called lk.  The VAX Fortran RTL was
> also ported, and since we had a way to produce Unix executables from
> VMS object files, it meant we didn't have to rewrite the RTL, which
> was mainly in BLISS but also had modules in Fortran, VAX assembler,
> and Pascal.
> -Paul W.
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