[TUHS] History of popularity of C

John Foust jfoust at threedee.com
Fri May 22 03:22:17 AEST 2020

At 11:30 AM 5/21/2020, Larry McVoy wrote:
>This matches my memory as well.  I think I learned C in 1983 or 84,
>it just worked.  To me it felt like it was PDP-11 assembler only nicer.

One thing that stuck with me about our experience at UW-Madison
at that time was that there wasn't a course that taught C
yet some courses were taught in C.  "Here's K&R, there's
the Unix manuals, get to it."

>When gcc finally got good enough, I agree, around
>1990 or so, it was a relief.  You just used it and ignored the platform
>specific ones.  G++ took a long time to be good enough.

There's the broader history of the languages that were popular
in the IBM PC market in the 80s and 90s, too.  In that at least
numerically larger market, there were times when C was not on top
for many small-time developers.  Let's not forget Turbo Pascal 
(shipped 1983 to 1995) and Turbo C and C++ (1987-1995).

In 1986 or so on the PC, I was using the Gimpel C-terp interpreted C
and their fine PC-lint to speed development (which Clem Cole has mentioned 
here before and which is still sold (!) ) in conjunction with shipping 
code under the Lattice and Microsoft C compilers of that time.

In the mid- to late 80s, there's the rise of the flat address space
68000 machines like Amiga and Atari which could enjoy the 
cross-pollination of code ported from Unix C environments.

On the Mac, Apple's MacApp environment was their Object Pascal
and not C++ until 1991.  Think C came out in 1986.

In the late 1980s, 32-bit DOS extenders arose that let you write
DOS programs in C that had true 32-bit pointers and didn't need 
to worry about 64K segments as much, followed by Microsoft's Win32s 
in late 1992 that allowed that freedom under Windows 3.1.

- John

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