magic in the history of C

Posted on: Wed, 09/12/2012 - 20:08 By: Tom Swiss

On the lighter side: from http://cm.bell-labs.com/cm/cs/who/dmr/chist.html, something I stumbled across a while back about the history of the ubiquitous and important programming language "C". It seems it may be descended from something named after Tibet's native religion/magical practice:

Challenged by McIlroy's feat in reproducing TMG, Thompson decided that Unix—possibly it had not even been named yet—needed a system programming language. After a rapidly scuttled attempt at Fortran, he created instead a language of his own, which he called B. B can be thought of as C without types; more accurately, it is BCPL squeezed into 8K bytes of memory and filtered through Thompson's brain. Its name most probably represents a contraction of BCPL, though an alternate theory holds that it derives from Bon [Thompson 69], an unrelated language created by Thompson during the Multics days. Bon in turn was named either after his wife Bonnie, or (according to an encyclopedia quotation in its manual), after a religion whose rituals involve the murmuring of magic formulas.

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