[TUHS] Unix stories, Stephen Bourne and IF-FI in C code

Steve Johnson scj at yaccman.com
Tue Jan 10 06:35:38 AEST 2017

I can certainly confirm that Steve Bourne not only knew Algol 68, he
was quite an evangelist for it.  When he came to the labs, he got a
number of people, including me, to plough through the Algol 68 report,
probably the worst written introduction to anything Ive ever read. 
They were firmly convinced they were breaking new ground and
consequently invented new terms for all kinds of otherwise familiar
ideas.  It was as if the report had been written in Esperanto...  
There were some very cool ideas, particularly the way the type system
worked.  After the simplicity of C, though, we mostly found the
syntax to be off-putting.  Also, as I recall, there really was no
portability strategy for the language, and I think that held it back,
since there were so many different architectures in play at that
time.  Languages like C and Pascal, that had implementations that
could be easily ported, quickly left non-portable languages like Algol
68 and Bliss in the dust...

(Lest I sound like I'm tooting my own horn here, Dennis' PDP-11 C was
based on an intermediate language somewhat like P-code, and was in
fact ported to a couple of different machines before PCC came along...
I learned from the master...)


----- Original Message -----
 "Marc Rochkind" <rochkind at basepath.com>


"The UNIX Historical Society" <tuhs at tuhs.org>
Mon, 9 Jan 2017 08:30:58 -0700
Re: [TUHS] Unix stories, Stephen Bourne and IF-FI in C code

Just a quick note about Algol vs. Algol 68: The two are used
interchangeably (it seems) in this thread, but they're very different
languages, with very different control structures. Someone mentioned
he had studied Algol in school, which is plausible. If he in fact
studied Algol 68, that's worth a story in its own right!

[Whoops... forgot to properly terminate that last sentence.]



On Sun, Jan 8, 2017 at 8:31 PM, Steve Johnson <scj at yaccman.com [1]>
I wasn't directly involved in this, but I do remember Dennis telling
me essentially the same story.  I don't recall him mentioning Ken's
name, just that "we couldn't use _od_ because that was already taken".

Steve B and I had adjacent offices, so I overheard a lot of the
discussions about the Bourne shell.  The quoting mechanisms, in
particular, got a lot of attention, I think to good end.  There was a
lot more thought there than is evident from the surface...

Steve (not Bourne)

----- Original Message -----
 "Norman Wilson" <norman at oclsc.org [2]>

<tuhs at tuhs.org [3]>

Sun, 08 Jan 2017 21:30:03 -0500
Re: [TUHS] Unix stories, Stephen Bourne and IF-FI in C code

 Doug McIlroy:

 There was some pushback which resulted in the strange compromise
 of if-fi, case-esac, do-done. Alas, the details have slipped from
 memory. Help, scj?


 do-od would have required renaming the long-tenured od(1).

 I remember a tale--possibly chat in the UNIX Room at one point in
 the latter 1980s--that Steve tried and tried and tried to convince
 Ken to rename od, in the name of symmetry and elegance. Ken simply
 said no, as many times as it took. I don't remember who I heard this
 from; anyone still in touch with Ken who can ask him?

 Norman Wilson
 Toronto ON


[1] mailto:scj at yaccman.com
[2] mailto:norman at oclsc.org
[3] mailto:tuhs at tuhs.org

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