[TUHS] History of popularity of C

Michael Kjörling michael at kjorling.se
Sun May 24 05:28:27 AEST 2020

On 23 May 2020 13:08 -0400, from clemc at ccc.com (Clem Cole):
>> I would also argue that non-Unix C compilers actually drove the adoption
>> curve of C.
> I would put a small accent on that.  I think the C compilers that targeted
> non-UNIX systems, and in particular the microprocessors were the driver.
> The micro's started with assembler in most cases.  Basic shows up and is
> small, but it's not good enough for real products like VisiCalc or later
> Lotus.   Pascal tries to be the answer, but I think it suffered from the
> fact that it makes Pascal a production quality language, you had a extend
> it and everybody's extensions were different.

There's also the issue that, even once you get into compiled BASIC
territory, those wretched vendor-unique extensions show up again. Try
porting, say, a non-trivial program written for QuickBASIC to Turbo
BASIC even on the same PC. Both Pascal and BASIC are hard to extend by
the programmer who's actually using them to try to write useful
end-user software, _particularly_ in ways that fit into the rest of
the code, so you're essentially stuck with what the compiler vendor
thought you would need, or what they thought you would be willing to
pay for, in memory or money. On the flip side, much of C's magic
really isn't in the language (which is quite, pardon me, basic), but
rather in the standard library. Yes, C('s standard library) ended up
with its share of vendor-specific extensions as well, but the language
itself actually gave the programmer the building blocks needed to, if
necessary, even implement those extensions for a different compiler;
most often without resorting to more than minimal amounts of
assembler, and often outright none. So you weren't stuck with what the
compiler vendor gave you; it was actually possible to effectively
_extend_ the language vocabulary yourself, if you felt a need to do

I didn't do serious enough programming back during those days for that
to matter to me, but now that I get paid to write software, I
definitely come across situations at times where the ability to extend
the language in such a manner (and have the code using those
extensions read idiomatically for the language) is awful nice.

Michael Kjörling • https://michael.kjorling.semichael at kjorling.se
 “Remember when, on the Internet, nobody cared that you were a dog?”

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