Classic programming

Paul Koning paulkoning at
Fri Aug 7 14:22:18 CDT 2015

> On Aug 7, 2015, at 3:08 PM, Eric Christopherson <echristopherson at> wrote:
> On Fri, Aug 7, 2015 at 1:16 PM, Rich Alderson
> <RichA at> wrote:
>> From: Eric Christopherson
>> Sent: Friday, August 07, 2015 9:18 AM
>>> Is there a subset of this group for people who like to program in
>>> languages or language implementations or libraries that are no longer
>>> in common mainstream use? Or other groups for such a thing?
>> ...
> I think maybe the scope of this question probably depends a lot on the
> scope of the person asking it. I've only worked with microcomputers,
> so things like COBOL and RPG (while I'm sure they are available on
> micros in some form) are completely out of my ken. 

Those are still fairly mainstream; my sister makes her living programming in those languages.

> ...
> I don't like Forth as much as PS (doesn't seem as elegant), but it
> does have its charms, and slowly I'm digesting it and learning its
> conventions. It's nice that it's easily implemented on a small system.

Yes, which is why it is used in some boot ROMs to this day.  A basic implementation is only a few hundred lines of assembly language, plus however much Forth code you want for the not-so-primitive operations.

PostScript is a Forth derivative with different name binding rules.  It doesn’t seem any more elegant to me, but it does have a few more data types.  It also requires vastly more memory, which is quite ok given its intended purpose.

>> ...I do a lot of my daily programming in PDP-10 assemblers, usually Macro-20
>> but when working on WAITS it's FAIL and on ITS it's MIDAS.  In addition,
>> I occasionally program in MIT TECO, to keep my hand in as the maintainer
>> of the original EMACS (RMS said so).
> Ah... text editors are another big interest of mine. That's very cool.
> I should check TECO out some day.

While TECO is certainly a text editor, it also qualifies as a programming language.  For one thing, the first Emacs was implemented in TECO.  For another, you can find famous programs like the two-like program that prints pi to hundreds of digits, one digit at a time.  (That’s an amazing accomplishment: a “spigot algorithm”.  Look for the paper by the program’s author, Stanley Rabinowitz; it can be found on-line.)


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