[TUHS] History of popularity of C

Dan Cross crossd at gmail.com
Wed May 27 05:55:39 AEST 2020

Cc: to COFF, as this isn't so Unix-y anymore.

On Tue, May 26, 2020 at 12:22 PM Christopher Browne <cbbrowne at gmail.com>

> [snip]
> The Modula family seemed like the better direction; those were still
> Pascal-ish, but had nice intentional extensions so that they were not
> nearly so "impotent."  I recall it being quite popular, once upon a time,
> to write code in Modula-2, and run it through a translator to mechanically
> transform it into a compatible subset of Ada for those that needed DOD
> compatibility.  The Modula-2 compilers were wildly smaller and faster for
> getting the code working, you'd only run the M2A part once in a while
> (probably overnight!)

Wirth's languages (and books!!) are quite nice, and it always surprised and
kind of saddened me that Oberon didn't catch on more.

Of course Pascal was designed specifically for teaching. I learned it in
high school (at the time, it was the language used for the US "AP Computer
Science" course), but I was coming from C (with a little FORTRAN sprinkled
in) and found it generally annoying; I missed Modula-2, but I thought
Oberon was really slick. The default interface (which inspired Plan 9's
'acme') had this neat graphical sorting simulation: one could select
different algorithms and vertical bars of varying height were sorted into
ascending order to form a rough triangle; one could clearly see the
inefficiency of e.g. Bubble sort vs Heapsort. I seem to recall there was a
way to set up the (ordinarily randomized) initial conditions to trigger
worst-case behavior for quick.

I have a vague memory of showing it off in my high school CS class.

        - Dan C.
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