[TUHS] Software written in B

Clem Cole clemc at ccc.com
Thu Jun 8 01:57:30 AEST 2023

I recall a couple of editors and some tools were kicking around written in
B.  I would check the GCOS archives, as I believe that for a long time, B
was a popular systems programming language for that OS target.  B might
have been moved to Multics, but I have no memory of seeing it.   IIRC, most
system programming there was on in its powerful PL/1 dialect or a
Fortran/often with a preprocessor like MORTRAN or RatFor, which I did see.

Interestingly, I also have no memory of a B implementation for the PDP-10,
which like GE/Honeywell systems, was 36-bit, word addressed. I used BLISS
and SAIL on those, if not the assembler.

FWIW: Besides C, B also begat two other languages Eh and Zed, both at
Waterloo,  Eh I believe, was what the original Thoth system was written,
although it might have had some utilities in B; you have to ask someone
like Mike Malcom.  Since many/most of the 1970s mini's and later micro's,
ISAs were byte addressed, the word nature of B (and the fact that the
source to Ritchie C compiler came with UNIX), is probably what caused it to
have a more limited life.

On Wed, Jun 7, 2023 at 6:14 AM Sebastien F4GRX <f4grx at f4grx.net> wrote:

> Hello everyone,
> this is my first post on this list.
> After looking at the archives for this mailing list, I have seen that
> the B language has been discussed several times already.
> After viewing Ken Thompson's interview by Brian Kernighan at VCF East
> 2019, I became interested in the B language, as it seemed full-featured
> for system programming, close to C, and simple enough to write a parser
> for it without a code generation tool.
> So for fun and self-education, I am now writing a (or yet another) B
> compiler, in C, after reading Jack Crenshaw's "Let's build a compiler"
> documentation ( https://compilers.iecc.com/crenshaw/ )
> Here it is: https://git.sr.ht/~f4grx/bpars
> It is now starting to generate code for the 68hc11 8-bit platform. It
> can also generate C code.
> I have written some test programs, found some B examples, but I thought
> it would be great to use my compiler with actual B software.
> Of course, B was a "transition" language, that did not have a continued
> use as soon as it evolved into C. so if any software remains, it will be
> quite hard to find.
> And here is my question, is any of you aware of original B source code
> archives? or are in touch with people that would know?
> In particular, I read on this document written by Dennis Ritchie:
> https://www.bell-labs.com/usr/dmr/www/chist.html
>  > After the TMG version of B was working, Thompson rewrote B in itself
> (a bootstrapping step).
> I have also read that the YACC tool was initially written in B.
> There might be other historical B sources that I am not aware of.
> Do you know if any of this code has survived to this day? Where could I
> find more information about this?
> Thank you very much,
> Sebastien Lorquet (F4GRX)
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