[TUHS] History of popularity of C

Toby Thain toby at telegraphics.com.au
Fri May 22 02:10:35 AEST 2020

On 2020-05-21 11:27 AM, Tyler Adams wrote:
> Does anybody have any good resources on the history of the popularity of
> C? I'm looking for data to resolve a claim that C is so prolific and
> influential because it's so easy to write a C compiler.
> Tyler

Based on recollections of C from mid-1980s until today, this claim
doesn't make sense for several reasons. Sorry, this is all anecdata or
recollection, not cited data:

- inexpensive compiler availability was not very good until ~1990 or
later, but C had been taking off like wildfire for 10 years before that

- developing good compilers is certainly not "easy" - and there were a
lot of mediocre vendor compilers despite (duplicated) investment

- by the time gcc was mature (by some definition, but probably before
1990) - something that happened largely as a reaction to the vendor
compiler situation - it was a large and complicated codebase even by
standards of the time

- hobby/novelty/small/educational compilers are a relatively new thing
and arrived long after the C adoption curve was complete. The earliest
well known example I can think of is lcc (1994) but most are much newer.

...and probably quite a few other points.


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