goes a bit more in-depth into the precursors of the C programming
language. The story begins with a computer scientist from a
well-connected family named Christopher Strachey (I remember the name of
his uncle Lytton as the author of a volume of short biographies in my
parents’ library called “Eminent Victorians”), who led a group to
create a language called “CPL”.
CPL proved a bit too ambitious to implement at the time. And it didn’t
help that its designers insisted on certain syntactical niceties that
might be considered more literary than practical. (Reflecting a certain
British public-school background, I suppose ...)
But a cut-down subset of this was implemented, with the aim of using it
as a “bootstrap” language for writing the compiler for the full
language. This was BCPL, and it turned out to be useful for a range of
programming projects. The group at AT&T Bell Labs got hold of this after
the Labs pulled out of the MULTICS project, and implemented an even more
cut-down version called “B”, which could run on the limited memory of
the PDP-7 which was all they had at the time. Then a later enhancement
of this was called “New B” or “NB”.
Several attempts were made to rewrite the fledgling Unix operating
system in NB, which didn’t work. After each attempt, the language was
revised to add more features. Finally, after the addition of structured
types, the result was a language sufficiently useful to write an OS,
and sufficiently different to warrant a new name. So it was dubbed “C”.
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