In Search of the Original Fortran Compiler

“In Search of the Original Fortran Compiler” appears in the April-June 2017 issue of IEEE Annals of the History of Computing. If that link doesn’t work, you can read my final submitted version here.

I wrote the article to chronicle the search I began in late 2003 to find the source code for the original FORTRAN compiler for the IBM 704. Much of the search was documented right here on this Dusty Decks blog, which I created in July 2004 as a sort of advertisement.

I’d like to thank Burt Grad for encouraging me to write the article. Burt is a friend who began working on computer software in 1954 and hasn’t stopped — for example, see here and here and here and here.

Miscellaneous Lisp updates

Recently I made some long-delayed updates to History of LISP.  In the Lisp I/1.5 for IBM 704, 709, 7090 section, I added links to the excellent work by Andru Livisi (here) and Dave Pitts (here) for running LISP on emulators.

In the Other Lisp 1.5 implementations, I added a mention of LISP 1.5 for IBM M44. The M44 was an experimental machine that served as a testbed for some of the earliest virtual machine research.

In the Other Lisps section I added Lisp 1.6 for IBM 1130 (Boston Latin School), which was the first Lisp of Guy L. Steele Jr., who went on to work on MacLispSchemeNILCommon Lisp, and Connection Machine Lisp.  I also added PDP-11 LISP (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), which was the first Lisp of Richard M. Stallman, who went on to work on MacLispLisp Machine Lisp, and Emacs Lisp.

In the Embedded Lisps section I added XLISP.

I made various additions in other sections including Scheme and Common Lisp.

New Japanese edition of Elements of Programming

Second Japanese edition of Elements of Programming
Elements of Programming, second Japanese edition
The original Japanese translation of Elements of Programming went out of print. But Yoshiki Shibata, the translator, proposed to Tokyo Denki University Press that they publish a new edition, and they agreed. It is available via, and joins the English, Russian, Chinese, and Korean editions.

We wrote a special preface for this edition:

To our Japanese readers:

We are very grateful to our publisher and our translator Yoshiki Shibata for this opportunity to address our Japanese readers.

This book is in the spirit of Japanese esthetics: it tries to say as much as possible in as few words as necessary. We could not reduce it to 17 sounds like a traditional haiku, but we were inspired with its minimalist approach. The book does not have much fat. We actually hope that it does not have any fat at all. We tried to make every word to matter.

We grew up when Japanese engineering was beginning to revolutionize the world with cars that did not break and television sets that never needed repairs. Our hope is that our approach to software will enable programmers to produce artifacts as solid as those products. Japanese engineers changed the experience of consumers from needing to know about cars, or, at least, knowing a good mechanic, to assuming that the vehicle always runs. We hope that the software industry will become as predictable as the automotive industry and software will be produced by competent engineers and not by inspired artist-programmers.

Our book is just a starting point; most work to industrialize software development is in the future. We hope that readers of this book will bring this future closer to reality.

We would like to thank Yoshiki Shibata not only for his very careful translation, but also for finding several mistakes in the original.

Harold V. McIntosh, 1929-2015

Update 1/1/2016: For more on McIntosh’s professional career, see this obituary.

Harold V. McIntosh, 1929-2015Harold V. McIntosh died November 30, 2015 in Puebla, Mexico. He was an American mathematician who became interested in what is now known as computer algebra to solve problems in physics, leading to his early adoption of the programming language LISP and to his design of the languages CONVERT (in collaboration with Adolfo Guzmán) and REC. His early education and employment was in the United States, but he spent the last 50+ years in Mexico, and received a Ph.D. in Quantum Chemistry at the University of Uppsala in 1972.

McIntosh was born in Colorado in 1929, the oldest of four sons of Charles Roy and Lillian (Martin) McIntosh. He attended Brighton High School in Brighton, near Denver. In 1949 he received a Bachelor of Science in physics from the Colorado Agricultural and Mechanical College, and in 1952 he received a Master of Science in mathematics from Cornell University. He did further graduate studies at Cornell and Brandeis, but stopped before receiving a Ph.D. to take a job at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. Two years later, he moved to RIAS (Research Institute for Advanced Studies), a division of the Glenn L. Martin Company. Around 1962 he accepted a position in the Physics and Astronomy department and the Quantum Theory Project at the University of Florida. After two years at the University of Florida, McIntosh accepted an offer at CENAC (Centro Nacional de Calculo, Instituto Politecnico Nacional) in Mexico. Over the next years, McIntosh worked in various positions in Mexico at Instituto Politecnico Nacional, Instituto Nacional de Energía Nuclear, and, from 1975 on, Universidad Autónoma de Puebla.

McIntosh was widely regarded for his research, writing and teaching; for details, see Gerardo Cisneros-S.: “La computación en México y la influencia de H. V. McIntosh en su desarrollo” (PDF). He organized several special summer programs in the early 1960s that introduced a number of students to higher mathematics and computer programming (see here for example). He also had a lifelong interest in flexagons, which he shared with his students. A symposium in his honor was held a month before he died.

Other resources

Harold V. McIntosh: CELLULAR AUTOMATA MISCELLANEA. web site at

1961 Annual report of RIAS. PDF at

Paul McJones. The First International LISP Conference (1963). Dusty Decks blog, April 23, 2012

Paul McJones. Harold V. McIntosh and his students: Lisp escapes MIT. Dusty Decks blog, July 6, 2012

Paul McJones, editor. History of Lisp : Other Lisp 1.5 implementations : MBLISP. online at


José Manuel Gómez Soto for notifying me of McIntosh’s death and supplying the link to this obituary; Robert Yates, Lowell Hawkinson, and Adolfo Guzmán Arenas for their contributions to “Harold V. McIntosh and his students: Lisp escapes MIT”.

L. Peter Deutsch’s PIVOT program verification system

L. Peter Deutsch in his office at Xerox PARC, around 1972.PIVOT, the program verification system written in BBN-Lisp by L. Peter Deutsch and described in his PhD thesis, “An interactive program verifier” is a recent addition to the Software Preservation Group web site.

Deutsch is a computer scientist who made important contributions to interactive implementations of Lisp and Smalltalk. While he was in high school, he implemented the first interactive Lisp interpreter, running on a DEC PDP-1 computer. While still in high school, he worked with Calvin Mooers on the design of TRAC, and implemented the language on a PDP-1 at BBN. Then Deutsch enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley, where he soon joined Project Genie, one of the earliest timesharing systems. Meanwhile, at BBN, Deutsch’s original PDP-1 Lisp became the “conceptual predecessor” of BBN-Lisp, running first on the PDP-1, then the SDS-940 (running the Project Genie timesharing system), and finally the PDP-10 running BBN’s own TENEX. After several of the BBN-Lisp creators, including Deutsch, moved to Xerox PARC, BBN-Lisp became INTERLISP. By this time, Deutsch had received his bachelor’s degree at Berkeley, and with other Project Genie alumni had co-founded Berkeley Computer Corporation, which built a large timeshared computer (the BCC-500) but then went bankrupt. While working at PARC, Deutsch also attended graduate school at Berkeley, carrying out the research on program verification that produced the PIVOT system.

Deutsch was kind enough to donate his only source listing of PIVOT to the Computer History Museum (Lot number X7485.2015), and to allow scans of the listing and his thesis to be posted on the SPG web site.

Oral history of Bjarne Stroustrup

Update 5/14/2015: Here is a short video that was made for the Fellow Award Ceremony.

Update 4/9/2015: A video of the interview is now available. It’s searchable via the synchronized transcript.

In February I had the honor of conducting an oral history of Bjarne Stroustrup for the Computer History Museum, on the occasion of his being one of three 2015 Fellow Awards Honorees (the other two being Evelyn Berezin and Charles Bachman).

Programming languages have emerged over the last fifty or so years as one of the most important tools allowing humans to convert computers from theoretical curiosities to the foundation of a new era. By inventing C++ and working tirelessly to evolve, implement, standardize, and propagate it, Bjarne has provided a foundation for software development across the gamut from systems to applications, embedded to desktop to server, commercial to scientific, across CPUs and operating systems.

C was the first systems programming language to successfully abstract the machine model of modern computers. It contained a simple but expressive set of built-in types and structuring methods (structs, arrays, and pointers) allowing efficient access to both the processor and the memory. C++ preserves C’s core model, but adds abstraction mechanisms allowing programmers to maintain efficiency and control while extending the set of types and structures.

While several of the individual ideas in C++ occurred in earlier research or programming languages, Bjarne has synthesized them into an industrial-strength language, making them available to production programmers in an coherent language. These ideas include type safety, abstract data types, inheritance, parametric polymorphism, exception handling, and more.

In addition to its synthesis of earlier paradigms, C++ pioneered a thorough and robust implementation of templates and overloading. This has enabled the field of generic programming to advance from early research to sufficient maturity for inclusion in the C++ standard library in the form of STL. Additional generic libraries for graphs, matrix algebra, image processing, and other areas are available from other sources such as Boost.

By combining efficiency and powerful abstraction mechanisms in a single language, and by achieving ubiquity across machines and operating systems, C++ has replaced a variety of more specialized languages such as C, Ada, Smalltalk, and even Fortran. Programmers need to learn fewer languages; platform providers need to invest in fewer compilers. Even newer languages such as Java and C# are clearly influenced by the design of C++.

C++ has been the major focus of Bjarne’s career, and he has had unprecedented success at incremental development of C++, keeping it stable enough for use by real programmers while gradually evolving the language to serve the broadest possible audience. As he evolved the language, Bjarne took on many additional roles in order to make C++ successful: author (books, papers, articles, lectures, and more), teacher, standardization leader, and marketing person.

Bjarne started working on C with Classes, a C++ precursor, in 1979; the first commercial release of C++ was in 1985; the first standard was in 1998, and a major revision was completed in 2011. C++ was mature enough by 1993 to be included in the second History of Programming Languages conference, and a follow-on paper focusing on standardization appeared in the third HOPL conference in 2007.

I hope you enjoy reading the oral history as much as I did interviewing Bjarne.

See also: C++ Historical Sources Archive, Dusty Decks, 11 June 2007.

Update 1/30/2016: Updated URL for C from to

Xerox Alto file server archive

In 1980, Paul McJones used this Alto to develop portions of the Xerox Star operating system.

It’s been almost a year since I posted to this blog, but I haven’t been completely inactive. This week, as part of its Software Gems: The Computer History Museum Historical Source Code Series, the Computer History Museum released a set of files archived in the 1970s and early 1980s from the Xerox Alto file servers at Xerox PARC. The files include source code, executables, documents, fonts, and other files.

This release has been a long time in the making. The files were originally archived to 9-track magnetic tape, but around 1991 they were transferred to 8mm tape cartridges. Around 2003, before he joined the Computer History Museum, Al Kossow, working under a Nondisclosure Agreement with PARC, transferred the 8mm tapes to DVDs, and sifted through the entire archive looking for files specifically related to the Alto — the archive had included files from many other projects over several decades. After many years of discussion, and the involvement of a number of people inside and outside of PARC, an agreement with CHM was finally signed in February 2011, and a CD with the Alto files that Al had located was given to CHM.

In August of 2013, I asked Len Shustek what had become of the files, and he suggested I write a blog post about them. So I talked to Al (now CHM software curator), who gave me a copy of the files. It turns out they were images of the tape records written by a Cedar Mesa program called the Archivist. Luckily, when the 9-track tapes were transferred to 8mm tapes, a file called rosetta.tar containing the Archivist source code plus some documentation was included on each tape. Once I obtained a copy of rosetta.tar I was able to write a program that “dearchived” the tape records, recreating a set of file directories. To make the files easier to view over the web, I added code to create a static web site allowing the files to be browsed, including translations from Bravo format to HTML and Press format to PDF. (Bravo was the first WYSIWYG word processor, and Press was a device-independent print-file format.)

There are 14680 files in all, of which 8598 are distinct. They include the Alto operating system; BCPL, Mesa, and (portions of the) Smalltalk programming environments; applications such as Bravo, Draw, and the Laurel email client; fonts and printing software (PARC had the first laser printers); and server software (including the IFS file server and the Grapevine distributed mail and name server).

Although not many people ever used an Alto, it had a huge influence on the hardware and software we use today, so I am very pleased that this software is now available for study.

The blog post Len invited me to write is here. The archive itself is here, but I recommend starting with this walk-through of the archive describing what is there and who wrote the various programs. More detail about the archive (provenance, naming conventions, file types, etc.) is available here.

Dr. John E. L. Peck, 1918-2013

Dr. John E. L. Peck (1918-2013)
Dr. John E. L. Peck (1918-2013)
Dr. John E. L. Peck, whose work on ALGOL 68 was described in a recent post, passed away on November 6, 2013. His family has provided this obituary:

John, born August 14, 1918 in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, passed away peacefully with his family by his side on November 6, 2013. He is predeceased by his wife Dornacilla of 61 years, and lovingly remembered by his sons, Edward (Phyllis) and Nigel (Susan); his twin daughters Lenny (George) and Gwenda; his sister Gwenyth; grandchildren Justin (Kristina), Linstead (Randi), Shannon, Tanya and Vernon; great-grandson Isaac; nieces and nephews, Elizabeth, Brian, Richard, Louise, Deborah, Sheryl, Ross, Janene, Randa, Dahl and Fraser; relatives, good friends and colleagues from around the world. John was the first Head of the University of Calgary Mathematics Dept. and founded UBC’s Department of Computer Science – his contributions to computer science were significant internationally. He was a key member of the international community that pioneered the field of Computer Science beginning in the early 60s. He was an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed alpine climbing, skiing and cycle touring. He also had a strong love of music playing pipe organ, piano and classical recorder. He enjoyed a full and rich life and will be greatly missed. A Celebration of his Life will be held Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 10:00am at Victory Memorial Park Funeral Centre, 14831 28th Avenue, Surrey, BC. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the charity of your choice.

Condolences may be offered at

ALGOL 68: Implementation and more

John E. L. Peck joined the ALGOL 68 design project in 1966, was a coauthor of the report, edited the proceedings of the 1970 Munich implementation conference, hosted meetings that laid the foundations for the revised report, and chaired IFIP Working Group 2.1 from 1975 to 1978. Recently his son Edward Peck contacted me to say that he had come across a set of ALGOL 68-related documents in his father’s papers, and wondered if they would be appropriate for the ALGOL 68 section of the History of ALGOL web site. That led to some valuable additions:

I’d like to thank Edward Peck very much for making these documents available and for careful work scanning them.

Korean edition of Elements of Programming

In addition to the English, Korean edition of Elements of Programming Japanese, Russian, and Chinese editions, Elements of Programming is now available in a Korean edition published by Pearson Education Korea and available from Kyobo Book Centre. Five editions, five scripts.

P.S. I can’t find a listing for the book at; I will update this post and our book website if I hear of one.

Algol 68: Informal Introduction and more

Cover of Informal Introduction to Algol 68Several years ago I began an archival collection for the Algol family of programming languages: Algol 58 (originally known as the International Algorithmic Language), Algol 60, and Algol 68. I began looking for implementations of Algol 58 and Algol 60. Since then I’ve also found information (including, in some cases, source code), for many Algol 68 implementations.

I’d like to announce the return of a very useful Algol 68 resource: a scanned copy of Informal Introduction to Algol 68, posted by permission of coauthor Charles H. Lindsey and copyright holder IFIP. This is the revised 1980 reprint of the second (“completely revised”) edition of 1977. For convenience, I’ve also posted separate files containing the large fold-out Table of Contents and the appendix of Syntax Charts.

This book, together with Marcel van der Veer’s modern Algol 68 Genie implementation and the extensive documentation accompanying it (including a hypertext version of the Revised Report) provide an excellent way to study Algol 68.

In addition to the above-mentioned, a number of other people have contributed to the overall Algol archive project. I’d like to single out Neville Dempsey for his dedication to spreading knowledge of and appreciation for Algol 68.

50th Anniversary of LISP 1.5 Programmer’s Manual

Cover of LISP 1.5 Programmer's Manual
I just noticed that August 17 was the 50th anniversary of the LISP 1.5 Programmer’s Manual by John McCarthy, Paul W. Abrahams, Daniel J. Edwards, Timothy P. Hart, and Michael I. Levin. On that day in 1962 it was published as a bound report of the Computation Center and Research Laboratory of Electronics of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was also published by MIT Press — perhaps simultaneously — and is still in print. A second edition was released in 1965; the only difference that I see comparing tables of contents is the addition of Appendix I: LISP for SHARE distribution.

This was of course the first book on LISP. It is a reference manual rather than a textbook, but many people managed to learn LISP from it, and a number of people managed to implement LISP from it. Today ACM’s Digital Library lists 327 citations for it, and Google lists about 23,900 hits. I’m pleased to say that #1 on Google is the authorized PDF at my History of LISP archive at the Computer History Museum.

Through the generosity of several people, the History of LISP archive includes not only the book but also several versions of the underlying source code:

If you’re resourceful and you’d like to actually run the system described in this book, you don’t need an IBM 7090 or a time machine; the SIMH simulator package and the files and information here are sufficient; scroll down until you find “Running Lisp 1.5 in the SIMH IBM 7094 emulator.”

Harold V. McIntosh and his students: Lisp escapes MIT

In today’s wired world, people will start experimenting with an interesting new programming language shortly after it appears on a hosting service. But things took longer in the early days of Lisp. McCarthy’s famous paper[1] on Lisp was presented at a conference in May 1959 and published in CACM in April 1960, by which time a system with an interpreter and compiler was running on MIT’s IBM 704; the paper notes “A programmer’s manual[2] is being prepared.” Gradually copies of Lisp were requested by other IBM installations (the system was ported to the 709 and then the 7090). Modifications were often required to adapt it to a particular hardware configuration or operating environment and it was several years before Lisp was adapted to other kinds of computers. Without the internet or “social networking”, the propagation of ideas depended even more heavily on people. The physicist Harold V. McIntosh was one of the first to spread Lisp beyond MIT.

Continue reading “Harold V. McIntosh and his students: Lisp escapes MIT”

Remembering Jim Gray

Jim Gray’s professional contributions to the theory and practice of transactions, databases, and scientific applications of large databases, coupled with his teaching, mentoring, and warm friendships made a tremendous impact on the world. When he failed to return from sailing his 40-foot sloop Tenacious around the Farallon Islands on January 28, 2007, it was a devastating blow to family, friends, and colleagues alike. Despite a series of extremely thorough searches by the Coast Guard, by his friends, and by his family, no trace of him or his boat were ever found, which meant he could not be declared legally dead at that time. The ambiguous loss suffered by his wife and family meant his disappearance was especially difficult to recover from. After the legally-mandated five-year waiting period, a court recently granted a petition by his wife Donna Carnes to have Jim declared dead as of January 28, 2012. As Donna indicates in this NY Times interview, the waiting followed by the court order have led to a sense of closure for her.

I recently wrote a summary of Jim’s life and career for the updated ACM Turing Award web site; it includes links to related articles from the 2008 Tribute held for him at U.C. Berkeley and also photographs supplied by Donna.

Jim Gray with former colleagues of the CAL Timesharing project at U.C. Berkeley, Golden Gate Park, April 1974

Here I’ll note a few of my personal memories of working with Jim, who I met at the University of California in the the late 1960s, when he was a computer science graduate student, and I was an engineering undergraduate and part-time employee of the campus computer center. Jim served as an informal advisor to me on course work, and he was also my manager for a time on the CAL Timesharing System project. Jim was a knowledgeable, patient and enthusiastic advisor. There were few boundaries between Jim’s professional and social life. I will never forget going walnut picking with Jim, who stood on the roof of his VW bus to reach the walnuts, and then easily repaired the dent in the roof by pushing upward from below.

Franco Putzolu, Jim Gray, and Irv Traiger at IBM San Jose Research, circa 1977

Jim and I worked together again a few years later at IBM San Jose Research (now IBM Almaden). After working with John Backus (whom Jim had introduced me to) on functional programming for about 15 months, I joined Jim on the System R team. By then Jim was well into his work on the transaction abstraction — creating a unified approach to the interrelated problems of concurrency control and crash recovery — which led to his 1998 ACM Turing Award. I took over some of the transaction management code, designed the crash recovery component, and wrote a multiprocess debugger which we used to test and debug the lock manager. As always, Jim was an enthusiastic and generous collaborator; I’m very proud of being a coauthor with him and six of our System R colleagues of the paper “The Recovery Manager of the System R Database Manager”.

I don’t suppose I’ll ever stop encountering subjects causing me to say to myself, “If only I could talk to Jim about this.”

The First International LISP Conference (1963)

If you thought the 1980 LISP Conference was the first Lisp conference, you were wrong. The 1980 conference was organized by Ruth E. Davis and John R. Allen and was held at Stanford University, with sponsorship by Stanford, Santa Clara University, and The LISP Company. It led to the biennial ACM-sponsored Lisp and Functional Programming Conference. But more than 16 years earlier, the First International LISP Conference was held at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in Mexico City, from December 30 to January 4, 1964. No proceedings was published for the conference, but I have been able to assemble some information about it.

Continue reading “The First International LISP Conference (1963)”

More ALGOL history papers

As the ALGOL programming language enters its sixth decade, its interest to historians seems to be increasing. I’ve recently added additional citations to the “Papers on the history of ALGOL” section of the History of ALGOL web site:

  • Edgar G. Daylight. From Mathematical Logic to Programming-Language Semantics — a Discussion with Tony Hoare. Journal of Logic and Computation (to appear).

    Section 2.3 covers Hoare’s Algol work at Elliot.

  • Edgar G. Daylight. Pluralism in Software Engineering: Turing Award Winner Peter Naur Explains. CONVERSATIONS. Issue 1, Volume 2011, Lonely Scholar, 2011.

    Part I of this wide-ranging interview covers Naur’s work on Algol 60, including the DASK and GIER implementations. He also makes a few remarks about Algol 68.

  • Pierre Mounier-Kuhn. From universal project to sunken culture : Algol in France. SHOT / SIGCIS Workshop 2011, Cultures and Communities in the History of Computing, Cleveland (OH), 6th November 2011. PDF

Herbert Stoyan Collection finding aid and catalog online at CHM

In July 2010 I wrote about the collection of Lisp and artificial intelligence documents that Herbert Stoyan donated to the Computer History Museum. Today I’m glad to be able to announce that the finding aid is online at CHM and the Online Archive of California. Additionally, more detailed descriptions about the items in the collection has been added to CHM’s online catalog, which can be searched here. (For example, try searching for MACLISP.) I’ve added scanned copies of many items from the collection to the History of LISP web site (which is also hosted by the CHM). I’m open to suggestions for scanning additional items from this collection. Also, if you have historical Lisp items that are not in the Stoyan collection, please consider donating them to CHM.

Edgar Daylight on Dijkstra

The latest addition to the “Papers on the history of ALGOL” section of the History of ALGOL web site is this paper about Dijkstra’s involvement in proposing and implementing the recursive procedure as an ALGOL 60 language construct:

  • Edgar G. Daylight. Dijkstra’s Rallying Cry for Generalization: The Advent of the Recursive Procedure, Late 1950s–Early 1960s.

In a section on Future Work near the end of the paper, Daylight notes, “Research contributions of Gödel, Carnap, Turing and Tarski have been studied and documented over and over again by logicians and philosophers themselves. Computer scientists, by contrast, have yet to commence with similar work concerning the ideas of their fathers: Dijkstra, McCarthy, Hoare and others. This, in turn, explains my motivation to write this paper.” Daylight, who is a post-doctorate researcher in the history of computing, has set up the blog-style web site Dijkstra’s Rallying Cry for Generalization as a way to report on his ongoing research into Dijkstra’s writings, including the E. W. Dijkstra Archive at the University of Texas and additional materials Dijkstra’s family donated. Daylight is off to a good start. He welcomes suggestions for improving his blog, and notes he’ll be adding photographs of Dijkstra soon.

In that spirit, I offer the following photograph, taken at the 1973 Marktoberdorf Summer School, of instructor Dijkstra and student McJones. Dijkstra’s subsequent trip report (EWD385) mentions my friend Dave Redell (who took the photograph) and me because we served as “intelligent terminals” in an “interactive programming session”.

E. W. Dijkstra and Paul McJones at Marktoberdorf Summer School, 1973