String processing language 

StriNg Oriented symBOlic Language.

David Farber, Ralph Griswold & I. Polonsky, Bell Labs 1962-3.

String processing language for text and formula manipulation.

SNOBOL is a special purpose language developed to provide a powerful means of doing character string manipulated. Accordingly, it has a collection of powerful operations for doing string pattern matchings. The most common early application of SNOBOL was to write text editors.
Dynamically typed, has no type declarations and no restrictions on the data type of the value of any variable.


People: Hardware:
Related languages
COMIT => SNOBOL   Influence
Markov => SNOBOL   Influence
SCL => SNOBOL   Influence
SCL7 => SNOBOL   Suggested name for
SEXI => SNOBOL   Renaming
SHADOW => SNOBOL   Influence
SNOBOL => APLBOL   Augmentation of
SNOBOL => DYSTAL   Evolution of
SNOBOL => ELFBOL   Implementation
SNOBOL => LIMP   Influence
SNOBOL => SNOBOL2   Evolution of
SNOBOL => SNOFLEX   Evolution of

  • Farber, David. J.; Griswold, Ralph. E.; and Polonsky, Ivan. P. "SNOBOL: A String Manipulation Language" pp21-30 view details Abstract: SNOBOL is a programming language for the manipulation of strings of symbols. A statement in the SNOBOL language consists of a rule that operates on symbolically named strings. The basic operations are string formation, pattern matching and replacement. Facilities for integer arithmetic, indirect referencing, and input-output are included. In the design of the language, emphasis has been placed on a format that is simple and intuitive. SNOBOL has been implemented for the IBM 7090.
          in [ACM] JACM 11(01) January 1964 view details
  • Iverson, K review of Farber et al (SNOBOL) view details Abstract: This paper presents a simple language for the manipulation of strings whose basic elements are IBM 7090 characters. The elementary operations are of seven main types: catenation, pattern matching (including a match of the form XYZ, where X and Z are specified strings and Y is the name which the operation assigns to the substring found between the patterns X and Z), replacement of a substring having a specified value by any other specified string, recognition of acceptable parenthesis structure, conditional branches, simple arithmetic, and primitive input/output. An interpretive program for the IBM 7090 is available from Bell Telephone Laboratories.

    The important virtue of the language is that claimed by the

    authors: simplicity in learning and use. The main weaknesses appear to be: the absence of function and subroutine capability, the limited I/O facilities, slow (interpretive) execution, the inability to process compound statments, and the limited generality of the basic operations. The first two of these have been thoroughly remedied in a later version (SNOBOL 3). As illustrations of the limited generality, the following operations appear to be somewhat awkward in SNOBOL: set intersection and set difference, search for the last occurrence of a substring, the recognition of all occurrences of the pattern ABA in the string ABABA, and the recognition of all occurrences of a pattern of length n in a fixed- length encoding, i.e., those beginning at positions which are multiples of n.

    The exposition is clear except for the following items: the second example of string formation is in error; it actually produces the result

    The sentence "The pair of quotation marks specifies the literal contents of a string." (page 22) must be taken to mean that the characters enclosed by quotes are literals.

          in ACM Computing Reviews 5(01) January-February 1964 view details
  • Crisman, P. A. (Ed.) The time-sharing system: a programmer's guide. (2nd ed.) M.I.T. Press, Cambridge,Mass., 1966 view details Extract: LAnguages and Subsystems available
    This edition is a major revision and extension of the first, to incorporate the changes to the (CTSS) Compatible Time-Sharing System during the past two years. The manual itself is organized into sections for easy referencing and to facilitate future expansion and modification. The manual is maintained on-line within the system in an attempt to keep all system documcutation continuously up to date. A system user can keep his manual updated by periodically inspecting a table of contents and requesting an on-line printout of those sections which have been revised since he last updated his copy.

    Some features of the CTSS which are detailed in this edition are: password logic, introduction of more elaborate accounting features, inter-console message, public files, and macrocommands. A new file system was implemented to remove some previous weaknesses and to test a prototype of the file system which is proposed for the next timesharing system.

    Available languagcs and subsystems include AED (modified ALGOL), BEFAP, COGO-90, COMIT, DYNAMO, ESL DisplaySystem, LAPC, GPSS, MAD, T\IADTHN, SNOBOL, STRESS, and BLOW (BLODI Diagram Compiler). The manual presents a brief description of general subroutines and a description of commands for the creation, editing, compression, printing, and housekeeping of files, program execution and debugging.

          in ACM Computing Reviews 5(01) January-February 1964 view details
  • Goldstein, M. "Computer Languages" The American Mathematical Monthly, Vol. 72, No. 2, Part 2: Computers and Computing Feb., 1965 pp141-146 view details Extract: Languages scene
    An important step in artificial language development centered around the
    idea that i t is desirable to be able to exchange computer programs between
    different computer labs or at least between programmers on a universal level.
    In 1958, after much work, a committee representing an active European computer
    organization, GAMM, and a United States computer organization, ACNI,
    published a report (updated two years later) on an algebraic language called
    ALGOL. The language was designed to be a vehicle for expressing the processes
    of scientific and engineering calculations of numerical analysis. Equal stress was
    placed on man-to-man and man-to-machine communication. It attempts to
    specify a language which included those features of algebraic languages on
    which it was reasonable to expect a wide range of agreement, and to obtain a
    language that is technically sound. In this respect, ALGOL Set an important
    precedent in language definition by presenting a rigorous definition of its syntax.
    ALGOL compilers have also been written for many different computers.
    It is very popular among university and mathematically oriented computer
    people especially in Western Europe. For some time in the United States, it will
    remain second to FORTRAN, with FORTRAN becoming more and more like
    The largest user of data-processing equipment is the United States Government.
    Prodded in Part by a recognition of the tremendous programming investment
    and in part by the suggestion that a common language would result only
    if an active Sponsor supported it, the Defense Department brought together
    representatives of the major manufacturers and Users of data-processing equipment
    to discuss the problems associated with the lack of standard programming
    languages in the data processing area. This was the start of the conference on
    Data Systems Languages that went on to produce COBOL, the common business-
    oriented language. COBOL is a subset of normal English suitable for expressing
    the solution to business data processing problems. The language is
    now implemented in various forms on every commercial computer.
    In addition to popular languages like FORTRAN and ALGOL, we have
    some languages used perhaps by only one computing group such as FLOCO,
    IVY, MADCAP and COLASL; languages intended for student problems, a
    sophisticated one like MAD, others like BALGOL, CORC, PUFFT and various
    versions of university implemented ALGOL compilers; business languages in addition
    to COBOL like FACT, COMTRAN and UNICODE; assembly (machine)
    languages for every computer such as FAP, TAC, USE, COMPASS; languages to simplify problem solving in "artificial intelligence," such as the so-called list
    processing languages IPL V, LISP 1.5, SLIP and a more recent one NU SPEAK;
    string manipulation languages to simplify the manipulation of symbols rather
    than numeric data like COMIT, SHADOW and SNOBOL; languages for
    command and control problems like JOVIAL and NELIAC; languages to simplify
    doing symbolic algebra by computer such as ALPAK and FORMAC;
    a proposed new programming language tentatively titled NPL; and many,
    many, more. A veritable tower of BABEL!
          in ACM Computing Reviews 5(01) January-February 1964 view details
  • Sammet, Jean E. "Formula Manipulation by Computer" view details
          in Advances in Computers, Vol. 8 FL Alt and M Rubinoff (Eds.), Academic Press, New York, 1967 view details
  • Sammet, Jean E., "Roster of Programming Languages 1967" view details
          in Computers & Automation 16(6) June 1967 view details
  • Knuth, Donald E. The Art of computer programming, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company Reading, MA 1968 view details Extract: History And Bibliography
    History And Bibliography
    Linear lists and rectangular arrays of information kept in consecutive memory locations were widely used from the earliest days of stored-program computers, and the earliest treatises on programming gave the basic algorithms for traversing these structures. [ For example, see J. von Neumann, Collected Works, vol. V, 113-116 (written 1947); M. V. Wilkes, D. J. Wheeler, S. Gill, The Preparation of Programs for an Electronic Digital Computer (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1951), subroutine V-1. ] Before the days of index registers, operations on sequential linear lists were done by performing arithmetic on the machine language instructions themselves, and this type of operation was one of the early motivations for having a computer whose programs share memory space with the data they manipulate.

    Techniques which permit variable-length linear lists to share sequential locations, in such a way that they shift back and forth when necessary, as described in Section 2.2.2, were apparently a much later invention. J. Dunlap of Digitek Corporation developed these techniques in 1963 in connection with the design of a series of compiler programs; about the same time the idea independently appeared in the design of a COBOL compiler at IBM Corporation, and a collection of related subroutines called CITRUS was subsequently used at, various installations. The techniques remained unpublished until after they had been independently developed by Jan Garwick of Norway; see BIT 4 (1964), 137-140.

    The idea of having linear lists in non-sequential locations seems to have originated in connection with the design of computers with drum memories; the first such computer was developed by General Electric Corporation during 1946-1948, and the IBM 650 was the most notable later machine of this type. After executing the instruction in location n, such a computer is usually not ready to get its next instruction from location n + 1 because the drum has already rotated past this point. Depending on the instruction being performed, the most favorable position for the next instruction might be n + 7 or n + 18, etc., and the machine can operate up to six or seven times faster if its instructions are optimally located rather than consecutive. [ For a discussion of the interesting problems concerning best placement of these instructions, see the author's article in JACM 8 (1961), 119-150. ] Therefore the machine design provides an extra address field in each machine language instruction, to serve as a link to the next instruction. Such a machine is called a "one-plus-one-address computer," as distinguished from MIX which is a one-address computer." The design of one-plus-one-address computers is apparently the first appearance of the linked-list idea within computer programs, although the dynamic insertion and deletion operations which we have used so frequently in this chapter were still unknown.

    Linked memory techniques were really born when A. Newell, C. Shaw, and H. Simon began their investigations of heuristic problem-solving by machine. As an aid to writing programs that searched for proofs in mathematical logic, they designed the first " listprocessing" language IPL-II in the spring of 1956. (IPL stands for Information Processing Language.) This was a system which made use of links and included important concepts like the list of available space, but the concept of stacks was not yet well developed; IPL-III was designed a year later, and it included "push down" and "pop up" for stacks as important basic operations. (For references to IPL-II see "The Logic Theory Machine," IRE Transactions on Information Theory IT-2 (Sept. 1956), 61-70; see also Proc. Western Joint Comp. Conf. (Feb. 1957), 218-240. Material on IPL- III first appeared in course notes given at the University of Michigan in the summer of 1957.)

    The work of Newell, Shaw, and Simon inspired many other people to use linked memory (which was often at the time referred to as NSS memory), mostly for problems dealing with simulation of human thought processes. Gradually, the techniques became recognized as basic computer programming tools; the first article describing the usefulness of linked memory for "down-to-earth" problems was published by J. W. Carr, III, in CACM 2 (Feb. 1959), 4-6. Carr pointed out in this article that linked lists can readily be manipulated in ordinary programming languages, without requiring sophisticated sub-routines or interpretive systems. See also G. A. Blaauw, IBM J. Res. and Dev. 3 (1959), 288-301.

    At first, one-word nodes were used for linked tables, but about 1959 the usefulness of several consecutive words per node and "multilinked" lists was gradually being discovered by several different groups of people. The first article dealing specifically with this idea was published by D. T. Ross, CACM 4 (1961), 147-150; at that time he used the term "plex" for what has been called a "node" in this chapter, but he subsequently has used the word "plex" in a different sense to denote a class of nodes combined with associated algorithms for their traversal.

    Notations for referring to fields within nodes are generally of two kinds: the name of the field either precedes or follows the pointer designation. Thus, while we have written "INFO(P)" in this chapter, some other authors write, for example, "P.INFO ". At the time this chapter was prepared, the two notations seemed to be equally prominent. The notation adopted here has been used in the author's lectures since 1962 and it has also been independently devised by numerous other people, primarily because it is natural to use mathematical functional notation to describe attributes of a node. (For example, see the article by N. Wirth and C. A. R. Hoare, CACM 9 (1966), 413-432.) Note that "INFO(P)" is pronounced "info of P" in conventional mathematical verbalization, just as f(x) is rendered "f of x." The alternative notation P.INFO has less of a natural flavor, since it tends to put the emphasis on P, although it can be read "P's info" the reason INFO(P) seems to be more natural is apparently the fact that P is variable, but INFO has a fixed significance when the notation is employed. By analogy, we could consider a vector A = (A [ l ] , A [ 2 ] , ..., A [ l00 ] ) to be a node having 100 fields named 1, 2,..., 100. Now the second field would be referred to as "2(P)" in our notation, where P points to the vector A; but if we are referring to the jth element of the vector, we find it more natural to write A [ j ] , putting the variable quantity "j" second. Similarly it seems most appropriate to put the variable quantity "P' second in the notation INFO(P).

    Perhaps the first people to recognize that the concepts "stack" (last-in-first-out) and "queue" ( first-in-first-out) are important objects of study were cost accountants interested in reducing income tax assessments; for a discussion of the "LIFO" and "FIFO" methods of pricing inventories, see any intermediate accounting textbook, e.g., C. F. and W. J. Schlatter, Cost Accounting (New York: Wiley, 1957), Chapter 7. In 1947 A. M. Turing developed a stack, called Reversion Storage, for use in subroutine linkage (see Section 1.4.5). No doubt simple uses of stacks kept in sequential memory locations were common in computer programming from the earliest days, since a stack is such a simple and natural concept. The programming of stacks in linked form appeared first in IPL, as stated above; the name "stack" stems from IPL terminology (although "pushdown list" was the more official IPL wording), and it was also independently introduced in Europe by E. W. Dijkstra. "Deque" is a term introduced by E. J. Schweppe.

    The origin of circular and doubly linked lists is obscure; presumably these ideas occurred naturally to many people. A strong factor in the popularization of these techniques was the existence of general List-processing systems based on them [principally the Knotted List Structures, CACM 5 (1962), 161-165, and Symmetric List Processor, CACM 6 (1963), 524-544, of J. Weizenbaum ] .

    Various methods for addressing and traversing multidimensional arrays of information were developed independently by clever programmers since the earliest days of computers, and thus another part of the unpublished computer folklore came into existence. This subject was first surveyed in print by H. Hellerman, CACM 5 (1962), 205-207. See also J. C. Gower, Comp. J. 4 (1962), 280-286.

    Tree structures represented explicitly in computer memory were described for the first time in applications to algebraic formula manipulation. The A-1 compiler language, developed by G. M. Hopper in 1951, used arithmetic expressions written in a three-address code; the latter is equivalent to the INFO, LLINK, and RLINK of a binary tree representation. In 1952, H. G. Kahrimanian developed algorithms for differentiating algebraic formulas represented in the A-1 compiler language; see Symposium on automatic Programming (Washington, D.C.: Office of Naval Research, May 1954), 6-14.

    Since then, tree structures in various guises have been studied independently by many people in connection with numerous computer applications, but the basic techniques for tree manipulation (not general List manipulation) have seldom appeared in print except in detailed description of particular algorithms. The first general survey was made in connection with a more general study of all data structures by K. E. Iverson and L. R. Johnson [ IBM Corp. research reports RC-390, RC-603, 1961; see Iverson, A Programming Language (New York: Wiley, 1962), Chapter 3 ] . See also G. Salton, CACM 5 (1962), 103-114.

    The concept of threaded trees is due to A. J. Perlis and C. Thornton, CACM 3 (1960), 195-204. Their paper also introduced the important idea of traversing trees in various orders, and gave numerous examples of algebraic manipulation algorithms. Unfortunately, this important paper was hastily prepared and it contains many misprints. The threaded lists of Perlis and Thornton actually were only "right-threaded trees" in our terminology; binary trees which are threaded in both directions were independently discovered by A. W. Holt, A Mathematical and Applied Investigation of Tree Structures (Thesis, U. of Pennsylvania, 1963). Postorder and preorder for the nodes of trees were called "normal along order" and "dual along order" by Z. Pawlak, Colloquium on the Foundation of Mathematics, etc. (Tihany, 1962, published by Akademiai Kiado, Budapest, 1965), 227-238. Preorder was called "subtree order" by Iverson and Johnson in the references cited above. Graphical ways to represent the connection between tree structures and corresponding linear notations were described by A. G. Oettinger, Proc. Harvard Symp. on Digital Computers and their Applications (April, 1961), 203-224.

    The history of tree structures as mathematical entities, together with a bibliography of the subject, is reviewed in Section

    At the time this section was written, the most widespread knowledge about information structures was due to programmers' exposure to List processing systems, which have a very important part in this history. The first widely used system was IPL-V (a descendant of IPL-III, developed late in 1959); IPL-V is an interpretive system in which a programmer learns a machine-like language for List operations. At about the same time, FLPL (a set of FORTRAN sub-routines for List manipulation, also inspired by IPL but using subroutine calls instead of interpretive language) was developed by H. Gelernter and others. A third system, LISP, was designed by J. McCarthy, also in 1959. LISP is quite different from its predecessors: programs for it are expressed in mathematical functional notation combined with "conditional expressions" (see Chapter 8), then converted into a List representation. Many List processing systems have come into existence since then, of which the most prominent historically is J. Weizenbaum's SLIP; this is a set of subroutines for use in FORTRAN programs, operating on doubly linked Lists.

    An article by Bobrow and Raphael, CACM 7 (1964), 231-240, may be read as a brief introduction to IPL-V, LISP, and SLIP, and it gives a comparison of these systems. An excellent introduction to LISP has been given by P. M. Woodward and D. P. Jenkins, Comp. J. 4 (1961), 47-53. See also the authors' discussions of their own systems, which are each articles of considerable historical importance: "An introduction to IPL-V" by A. Newell and F. M. Tonge, CACM 3 (1960), 205-211; "A FORTRAN-compiled List Processing Language" by H. Gelernter, J. R. Hansen, and C. L. Gerberich, JACM 7 (1960), 87-101; "Recursive functions of symbolic expressions and their computation by machine, I" by John McCarthy, CACM 3 (1960), 184-195; "Symmetric List Processor" by J. Weizenbaum, CACM 6 (1963), 524-544. The latter article includes a complete description of all of the algorithms used in SLIP. In recent years a number of books about these systems have also been written.

    Several string manipulation systems have also appeared; these are primarily concerned with operations on variable-length strings of alphabetic information (looking for occurrences of certain substrings, etc.). Historically, the most important of these have been COMIT (V. H. Yngve, CACM 6 (1963), 83-84) and SNOBOL (D. J. Farber, R. E. Griswold, and I. P. Polonsky, JACM 11 (1964), 21-30). Although string manipulation systems have seen wide use and although they are primarily composed of algorithms such as we have seen in this chapter, they play a comparatively small role in the history of the techniques of information structure representation; users of these systems have largely been unconcerned about the details of the actual internal processes carried on by the computer. For a survey of string manipulation techniques, see S. E. Madnick, CACM 10 (1967), 420-424.

    The IPL-V and FLPL systems for List-processing did not use either a garbage collection or a reference count technique for the problem of shared Lists; instead, each List was "owned" by one List and "borrowed" by all other Lists which referred to it, and a List was erased when its "owner" allowed it to be. Hence, the programmer was enjoined to make sure no List was still borrowing any Lists that were being erased. The reference counter technique for Lists was introduced by G. E. Collins, CACM 3 (1960), 655-657; see also the important sequel to this paper, CACM 9 (1966), 578-588. Garbage collection was first described in McCarthy's article cited above; see also CACM 7 (1964), 38, and an article by Cohen and Trilling, BIT 7 (1967), 22-30.

    Unfortunately, too few people have realized that manipulation of links is not a magic, complex process that must be done by fancy List manipulation routines. There is still a widespread tendency to feel that the advantages of link manipulation can be obtained only by using a large List-processing system; actually, as we have seen in many examples throughout this chapter, it is quite easy to design linking algorithms which operate more efficiently than a general List-processing subroutine could possibly do. The author hopes that these detailed examples will help to convey a better-balanced attitude towards the use of structural links in data.

    Dynamic storage allocation algorithms were in use several years before published information about them appeared. A very readable discussion is given by W. T. Comfort, CACM 7 (1964), 357-362 (an article written in 1961). The "boundary-tag' method, introduced in Section 2.5, was designed by the author in 1962 for use in a control program for the B5000 computer. The "buddy system" was first used by H. Markowitz in connection with the SIMSCRIPT programming system in 1963, and it was independently discovered and published by K. Knowlton, CACM 8 (1965), 623-625; see also CACM 9 (1966), 616-625. For further discussion of dynamic storage allocation, see the articles by Iliffe and Jodeit, Comp. J. 5 (1962), 200-209; Bailey, Barnett, and Burleson, CACM 7 (1964), 339-346; Berztiss, CACM 8 (1965), 512-513; and D. T. Ross, CACM 10 (1967), 481-492.

    A general discussion of information structures and their relation to programming has been given by Mary d'Imperio, "Data Structures and their Representation in Storage," Annual Review of Automatic Programming 5 (Oxford: Pergamon Press), in press. This paper is also a valuable guide to the history of the topic, since it includes a detailed analysis of the structures used in connection with twelve List processing and string manipulation systems. See also the proceedings of two symposia, CACM 3 (1960), 183-234 and CACM 9 (1966), 567-643, for further historical details. (Several of the individual papers from these proceedings have already been cited above.)

    An excellent annotated bibliography, which is primarily oriented towards applications to symbol manipulation and algebraic formula manipulation but which has numerous connections with the material of this chapter, has been compiled by Jean E. Sammet, Comput. Rev. 7 (July-August 1966), B1-B31.

          in Computers & Automation 16(6) June 1967 view details
  • Sammet, Jean E. "Revised Annotated Descriptor Based Bibliography for the Use of Computers for Non-Numerical Mathematics" view details
          in Bobrow, D. G. (ed) "Symbol Manipulation Languages and Techniques", Proceedings of the IFIP Working Conference on Symbol Manipulation Languages. North-Holland Publishing Co., Amsterdam, 1968 view details
  • Russell, L. "Linear circuit analysis by symbolic algebra" pp573-586 view details
          in Proceedings of the twenty-fourth ACM national conference August 1969 view details
  • Breslau, M. Review of (ALPAK, ALTRAN, SNOBOL) view details Extract: Abstract
    SYMCIR was developed at Bell Telephone Laboratories to assist in designing complex linear circuits. Three programs (written in SNOBOL, ALPAK-A, and ALTRAN- A) apply indefinite admittance matrix analysis techniques using symbolic (not numerical) methods. This involves considerable manipulation of matrices of rational functions (ratios of polynomials), and yields results in the form of analytic expressions. This paper is directed to programmers and is concerned with implementation of SYMCIR on digital computers. It illustrates the kind of difficulties encountered in symbolic manipulation and the methods used to overcome these obstacles.

    Contained in this short paper are a brief introduction to indefinite admittance matrices, several examples, and many insights into symbolic algebra via computers. Areas requiring further investigation are noted. Significant differences between symbolic and numerical operations are highlighted. This paper should be of interest to those working in, or preparing to work in, the field of symbolic algebra via computers.

          in ACM Computing Reviews 11(01) January 1970 view details
  • Harrison, Malcolm C "Data-structures and programming" New York: Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences 1970 view details
          in ACM Computing Reviews 11(01) January 1970 view details
  • Stock, Karl F. "A listing of some programming languages and their users" in RZ-Informationen. Graz: Rechenzentrum Graz 1971 235 view details Abstract: 321 Programmiersprachen mit Angabe der Computer-Hersteller, auf deren Anlagen die entsprechenden Sprachen verwendet werden kennen. Register der 74 Computer-Firmen; Reihenfolge der Programmiersprachen nach der Anzahl der Herstellerfirmen, auf deren Anlagen die Sprache implementiert ist; Reihenfolge der Herstellerfirmen nach der Anzahl der verwendeten Programmiersprachen.

    [321 programming languages with indication of the computer manufacturers, on whose machinery the appropriate languages are used to know.  Register of the 74 computer companies;  Sequence of the programming languages after the number of manufacturing firms, on whose plants the language is implemented;  Sequence of the manufacturing firms after the number of used programming languages.]
          in ACM Computing Reviews 11(01) January 1970 view details
  • Griswold, Ralph E.: Macro implementation of SNOBOL4. A case Study of machine-independent software development. Reading,EngI and: Freeman 1972. 310 S., 117 illustr. - ISBN: 0-7167-0447-1. view details
          in ACM Computing Reviews 11(01) January 1970 view details
  • Sammet, Jean E., "Roster of Programming Languages 1972" 265 view details
          in Computers & Automation 21(6B), 30 Aug 1972 view details
  • Stock, Marylene and Stock, Karl F. "Bibliography of Programming Languages: Books, User Manuals and Articles from PLANKALKUL to PL/I" Verlag Dokumentation, Pullach/Munchen 1973 562 view details Abstract: PREFACE  AND  INTRODUCTION
    The exact number of all the programming languages still in use, and those which are no longer used, is unknown. Zemanek calls the abundance of programming languages and their many dialects a "language Babel". When a new programming language is developed, only its name is known at first and it takes a while before publications about it appear. For some languages, the only relevant literature stays inside the individual companies; some are reported on in papers and magazines; and only a few, such as ALGOL, BASIC, COBOL, FORTRAN, and PL/1, become known to a wider public through various text- and handbooks. The situation surrounding the application of these languages in many computer centers is a similar one.

    There are differing opinions on the concept "programming languages". What is called a programming language by some may be termed a program, a processor, or a generator by others. Since there are no sharp borderlines in the field of programming languages, works were considered here which deal with machine languages, assemblers, autocoders, syntax and compilers, processors and generators, as well as with general higher programming languages.

    The bibliography contains some 2,700 titles of books, magazines and essays for around 300 programming languages. However, as shown by the "Overview of Existing Programming Languages", there are more than 300 such languages. The "Overview" lists a total of 676 programming languages, but this is certainly incomplete. One author ' has already announced the "next 700 programming languages"; it is to be hoped the many users may be spared such a great variety for reasons of compatibility. The graphic representations (illustrations 1 & 2) show the development and proportion of the most widely-used programming languages, as measured by the number of publications listed here and by the number of computer manufacturers and software firms who have implemented the language in question. The illustrations show FORTRAN to be in the lead at the present time. PL/1 is advancing rapidly, although PL/1 compilers are not yet seen very often outside of IBM.

    Some experts believe PL/1 will replace even the widely-used languages such as FORTRAN, COBOL, and ALGOL.4) If this does occur, it will surely take some time - as shown by the chronological diagram (illustration 2) .

    It would be desirable from the user's point of view to reduce this language confusion down to the most advantageous languages. Those languages still maintained should incorporate the special facets and advantages of the otherwise superfluous languages. Obviously such demands are not in the interests of computer production firms, especially when one considers that a FORTRAN program can be executed on nearly all third-generation computers.

    The titles in this bibliography are organized alphabetically according to programming language, and within a language chronologically and again alphabetically within a given year. Preceding the first programming language in the alphabet, literature is listed on several languages, as are general papers on programming languages and on the theory of formal languages (AAA).
    As far as possible, the most of titles are based on autopsy. However, the bibliographical description of sone titles will not satisfy bibliography-documentation demands, since they are based on inaccurate information in various sources. Translation titles whose original titles could not be found through bibliographical research were not included. ' In view of the fact that nany libraries do not have the quoted papers, all magazine essays should have been listed with the volume, the year, issue number and the complete number of pages (e.g. pp. 721-783), so that interlibrary loans could take place with fast reader service. Unfortunately, these data were not always found.

    It is hoped that this bibliography will help the electronic data processing expert, and those who wish to select the appropriate programming language from the many available, to find a way through the language Babel.

    We wish to offer special thanks to Mr. Klaus G. Saur and the staff of Verlag Dokumentation for their publishing work.

    Graz / Austria, May, 1973
          in Computers & Automation 21(6B), 30 Aug 1972 view details
  • Tucker, Allen B., JR. Programming languages. McGraw-Hill, Inc., New York, 1977 view details
          in Computers & Automation 21(6B), 30 Aug 1972 view details
  • Griswold, Ralph E. "A history of the SNOBOL programming languages" view details Abstract: Development of the SNOBOL language began in 1962. It was followed by SNOBOL2, SNOBOL3, and SNOBOL4. Except for SNOBOL2 and SNOBOL3 (which were closely related), the others differ substantially and hence are more properly considered separate languages than versions of one language. In this paper historical emphasis is placed on the original language, SNOBOL, although important aspects of the subsequent languages are covered.
          in SIGPLAN Notices 14(04) April 1979 including The first ACM SIGPLAN conference on History of programming languages (HOPL) Los Angeles, CA, June 1-3, 1978 view details
  • Allen, F. and Schwartz, J. review of Sammet and Lee HOPL conference end banquet excerpts view details Abstract: The ACM-SIGPLAN History of Programming Languages Conference held in Los Angeles on June 1-3, 1978, was videotaped and excerpts of the presentations are available on two tapes; these and two tapes from the banquet provide brief but penetrating glimpses of the people most involved in the development of the 13 languages covered. At the conference and in the proceedings these leading formulators of the history of programming languages describe how their language was developed -- the historical setting of the work and how and why decisions were made. The videotape excerpts provide a summary of these descriptions.

    After introductory remarks, Jean Sammet, the Conference and Program Committee Chairman, introduces the keynote speaker and "the third programmer of the first large scale digital computer, Mark I," Capt. Grace Hopper of the US Navy. Capt. Hopper describes the very early history -- combining personal recollections and technical observations. It is an excellent historical talk, precisely establishing the milieu existing in the 1940s and early 50s, when the concept of using a computer to create programs was just emerging.

    The FORTRAN presentation by John Backus emphasizes the importance of object efficiency for FORTRAN acceptance. He states that language design was never considered a problem; the real problem was to consistently produce object programs as efficient as hand-coded ones. The presentation captures the clear and unwavering focus of Backus's original team on that goal: a focus and dedication which characterized the direction of one of the most significant software projects in the history of computers.

    The controversies in the committee designing ALGOL 60 are re-enacted in miniature on these tapes. Alan Perlis describes the American contributions, concluding that ALGOL has Influenced all languages since that time. "It's the mother's milk of us all." Peter Naur describes the European contributions and the origins of recursion in the language. A lively floor discussion involving John McCarthy, John Backus, and Fritz Bauer ensues. The Algol 60 committee got involved in "academic log rolling" according to McCarthy who also points out that the committee decision not to consider implementation led to a language which was not implementable as a whole. It was assumed that "everyone was a gentleman and none would propose something he didn't know how to implement. However there was no guarantee the combination was implementable."

    The excerpt on the LISP lecture by John McCarthy emphasizes the features of the language and is an excellent description of its intellectual sources. Jean Sammet in presenting COBOL also clearly defines the influences on the language and how and why the choices were made in a series of committee meetings. These choices were very much colored by the decision to take "a short range composite approach good for at least a year or two."

    The tapes show how differently some of these important languages developed. According to Douglas Ross, APT evolved out of application requirements; by contrast, the major features of JOVIAL were developed in a few minutes, relates Jules Schwartz, its sole designer. Geoffrey Gordon tells how GPSS also grew from feedback from application users. SIMULA, developed by Kristen Nygaard and Ole-Johan Dahl, didn't even start as a programming language. Charles Baker discusses the development of JOSS, and Thomas Kurtz, BASIC -- intended to make learning to program analogous to learning to drive a car: by doing it.

    PL/I was the largest language represented at the conference. According to presenter, George Radin, much of the complexity and size is due to the necessity of defining the result of all operations on mixed types and to implicit typing. The excerpts of the presentations on SNOBOL by Ralph Griswold and APL by Kenneth Iverson establish the specific motivations for those languages: in both cases conserving human resources was considered very important.

    The conference banquet tapes contain anecdotes by the conference speakers and by master of ceremonies Bernard Galler. These entertaining historical asides and footnotes sometimes give more insight into the how and why things happened than the more scholarly analyses. For example, George Radin's story about the PL/I committee's ordering pizza -- the pizza had everything anyone wanted -- says a great deal about how the committee functioned when designing the language.

    These tapes constitute an important historical record. Unfortunately, the quality of the tapes is less than desired. They were not professionally produced and the picture quality is often quite poor. Still-photos by Robert McClure and Richard Wexelblat are used where the videotape is inadequate. However, the excerpts have been well selected by J.A.N. Lee, Jean Sammet, and Henry Tropp.

    In his summary Fred Brooks says that "the best thing about this conference is the character set." He also points out that the presentations on the languages designed by a committee emphasized the process, whereas the presentations on single-author languages emphasized technical issues. These tapes capture the factors that have made the history: the personalities, the process, and the technology. They are interesting now and will be invaluable to future historians of the pioneering period of language development.
          in ACM Computing Reviews March 1982 view details
  • Holbrook, Bernard D. and Brown, W. Stanley "A History of Computing Research at Bell Laboratories (1937-1975)" Computing Science Technical Report No. 99 1982 view details Extract: History
    In the early 1960s, David J. Farber, Ralph E. Griswold, and Ivan P. Polonsky recognized the need for better facilities for manipulating strings of characters and developed the language called SNOBOL (StriNg Oriented symBOlic Language). With its novel approach to pattern matching, SNOBOL proved both useful and popular. Further work led eventually to the more sophisticated SNOBOL 4 language, which is widely used both at Bell Labs and elsewhere in fields ranging from document formatting to theorem proving.

    The general availability of SNOBOL 4 is due in large measure to the portability of its processor, which is specified in terms of a carefully chosen set of macros. In view of the wide variety of computers at Bell Labs and throughout the Bell System, and the ever-growing investment in software for those machines, there is an urgent need to achieve greater software portability without increasing programming effort or sacrificing efficiency.

          in ACM Computing Reviews March 1982 view details
  • Nance, R. E. review of Griswold 1978 view details Abstract: Having been one of the fortunate to hear the presentation of SNOBOL given at the HOPL Conference, I am pleased to see that the honesty and vitality of the presentation have not suffered in transcription. Griswold's writing on a personal level maintains the freshness of the verbal presentation. The paper is historically detailed and yet quite enjoyable to read.

    The paper is recommended for all who are interested in the history of programming languages; however, only older readers will recognize some of the early SNOBOL contemporaries (IPL- V, FAP, COMIT). Nevertheless, the anecdotes regarding the naming of a language and the issues of usability versus efficiency are timeless in their relevance.

    The section on a posteriori evaluation is especially interesting. Benefitting from my experience as a user of SNOBOL4 (unlike Griswold's opinion of most members of the computing community), I remain as enthusiastically supportive of the language as when I used it in the first introductory course in 1970. Some readers will find Grisword's defense of the lack of modern control structures in SNOBOL to be inadequate. However, I find myself in agreement with his contention that simplicity is often preferable to elegance, and I must admit that in an introductory course utilizing both SNOBOL4 and FORTRAN, I have found that students experienced more difficulty with control structures in FORTRAN. I share the author's conclusion that the Table data type is one of the most important constructs in the language. As such, it is an obvious accommodation of usability in opposition to structural congruity. But the accommodation is well worth the price.

    In summary, one who knows the SNOBOL4 language as a user derives from this paper a better understanding of the original design objectives, a more complete picture of the lasting and historical context, and a firm appreciation for the language designers' firm commitment to the original objectives of simplicity and usability.
          in ACM Computing Reviews March 1982 view details
  • Steel, T. B. review of Wexelblat 1982 view details Abstract: This compendium is a magnificent book, belongs on the shelf of every information processing professional, and should be required reading for anyone who is to be granted a degree in computer science. While the book purports to be the record of the ACM SIGPLAN Conference on the History of Programming Languages held in Los Angeles in 1978, it is rather more than just that. It is an impressionist painting of a longvanished world whose inhabitants created a structure that has a profound influence, not only today but well into the foreseeable future, on the way all our institutions, commercial, governmental, or academic, conduct their affairs. The languages used to prepare computer programs dictate in many respects the thought patterns of the programmers, the questions they ask their users, the difficulty of implementing particular algorithms, and thus to a considerable extent what actually gets done. Beyond that, while it is premature to predict detailed effects, the consequences to the next generation of being taught these languages in school are certain to be enormous. The volume under review presents an account of how this structure came to be the way it is as seen through the eyes of some of the individuals responsible.

    It is a difficult book to review adequately. One must ask if it conveys the same message to that vast majority of information processing specialists who were not in the business at the time of the events recounted as it does to those of us who played an active role in some of the developments as they happened. Judicious inquiry of younger readers of the book suggests that rather more of the informal flavor comes through than one might suspect at first. In that sense the book "tells it like it was," although some of the text makes it quite clear that programming language designers have the same kind of selective and prismatic memories that other people have.

    The plan of the book is straightforward. Thirteen specific languages were selected by the conference organizers, and the book contains, for each language: a formal paper; a transcript of the presentation; a transcript of remarks by a designated discussant; a transcript of a subsequent question and answer session; the full text of all questions submitted; a biography of the authors. In addition there is the full text of the Keynote Address presented by Captain Grace Murray Hopper, itself required reading, and a series of appendices, including summaries of each language.

    As stated in the introductory material on the organization of the conference, the criteria for selection of the languages to be included were: "that the languages 1) were created and in use by 1967; 2) remain in use in 1977; and 3) have had considerable influence on the field of computing." The 1967 cutoff was to insure at least ten years perspective. The result of applying these criteria was:

    ALGOL 60

    This general review cannot pursue the specific language chapters; that is a task for individual reviews elsewhere in CR. Some overall comments are in order, however. The formal papers are not simply personal recollections of the authors. An organized procedure was established to guide each author in preparing an account according to established historical practice, thus maximizing the archival value of the papers. It appears to have worked, for the authors systematically -- and in some cases, apparently, painfully -- searched for old records, letters, and memoranda. The vignettes that surface therefrom are fascinating.

    No one should be surprised that the accounts of the camel (designed by committee) languages, ALGOL 60 and COBOL, have a somewhat different flavor from the others. There is a gold mine for students of decision making processes in this book. The conference organizers are to be commended for providing two accounts of ALGOL 60, one from the American and one from the European point of view. The contrasting perceptions and the almost recursive discussion are both intriguing and delightful.

    This reviewer's one regret is that it was impossible to capture and document the conversations that occurred over the coffee cups and in the corridors. In summary, this is a superb book, a must for all computer professionals. It is also one of the very few records of a conference of any sort where the reader gets a feeling for what it was like to actually be there. This reviewer was there and reading this book almost four years after the conference brought back delightful memories with preternatural clarity.

          in ACM Computing Reviews March 1982 view details
  • Van Deusen, M. review of Wexelblat 1982 view details Abstract: The History of Programming Languages provides a glimpse into the language design process for thirteen important languages. Each language chosen had to have been designed before 1967, to allow historical perspective, and had to still be in use in 1977. The authors were invited because of their central positions in the language design efforts. FORTRAN is described by John Backus, ALGOL by Alan Perlis and Peter Naur, LISP by John McCarthy, COBOL by Jean Sammet, APT by Douglas Ross, JOVIAL by Jules Schwartz, GPSS by Geoffrey Gordon, SIMULA by Kristen Nygaard, JOSS by Charles Baker, BASIC by Thomas Kurtz, PL/I by George Radin, SNOBOL by Ralph Griswold, and APL by Kenneth Iverson. To provide some consistency among so many authors, language coordinators were given the responsibility of providing review and aid to the authors. The result is a work of amazingly high quality.

    The particular interests of the authors show in the variety of organization and emphasis found in the papers. John Backus describes the background of the FORTRAN project, some of the design decisions, the documentation and implementation. Alan Perlis emphasizes the many people involved in the ALGOL design, from before 1958, through the Zurich and Paris meetings, culminating in ALGOL 60. Peter Naur concentrates on the design decisions made between the Zurich and Paris meetings. The disagreements which surface in appendices to his paper make for fascinating reading. Kristen Nygaard describes the many changes which the design of SIMULA went through from 1961 through 1971, from SIMULA I to SIMULA 67.

    The book is not a dry history -- many statements seem particularly surprising in hindsight. John Backus says of FORTRAN, "As far as we were aware, we simply made up the language as we went along. We did not regard language design as a difficult problem, merely a simple prelude to the real work of designing a compiler which could produce efficient programs." Jean Sammet stresses with regard to COBOL, "We were going to recommend a short range composite approach good for at least the next year or two."

    The history of the technical decisions is particularly well researched and presented. Many ideas were taken directly from other languages, such as the separation of the data description and executable statements in COBOL, deriving from FLOW-MATIC. Some seemed to occur almost casually, such as Thomas Kurtz commenting on the design of BASIC, "Around 1960 or 1961, after a visit to the PDP-1 time-shared computer at MIT, I can clearly recall John McCarthy saying, 'Why don't you guys do time sharing?' Shortly afterward I said to Kemeny, 'I think we ought to do time sharing.' Kemeny responded, 'OK.' And that was that!" Other decisions stemmed from deadlocks, as Alan Perlis described, when a European member of the ALGOL committee declared "No! I will never use a period for a decimal point." The proposal from Joseph Wegstein for three levels of language calmed the situation. The ALGOL paper and appendices by Peter Naur present different views of the same experience. Even a project consisting of only two people can produce its share of excitement. Kristen Nygaard describes the shock of a switchboard operator at overhearing a violent argument between two men in a hallway. She was reassured that it was just Dahl and Nygaard discussing SIMULA.

    One thing which emerges from many of the papers is the deep involvement which a language design can elicit from its designers. John Backus and Jean Sammet both describe many late, long hours.

    But this book is not just a series of papers by knowledgeable authors. It is itself a history of the History of Programming Languages Conference held in Los Angeles in 1978. Jean Sammet, the General Chairman, describes how the conference was put together. There are many valuable ideas here for potential conference organizers. The Conference Historian, Henry Tropp, provides a historical perspective and suggests archiving of design papers. The keynote address is by Grace Hopper. Its transcript captures the qualities of innovation and humor which make her talks such an experience. The author talks are based on the papers, so there is much redundancy of material. The main value to be gained by the duplication is the opportunity to discover the human side of the authors, which comes out in the more informal relation to the audience. Jean Sammet brings down the house with her lament that students are not given more than a passing exposure to COBOL before they receive their degrees in computer science.

    The question and answer sessions were often as interesting as the talks. The book gives John Backus's answer to the question why the letters I through N were chosen to designate integers. The readability of these sections attest to the effort which Richard Wexelblat put into the editing of this volume. The History of Languages represents a tremendous amount of effort from a great many people, and is a book which programmers as well as language designers will find both instructive and enjoyable.
          in ACM Computing Reviews March 1982 view details
  • Library of Congress Subject Headings S6 view details
          in ACM Computing Reviews March 1982 view details