[Haskell-cafe] Somewhat random history question - chicken and egg

Jacques Carette carette at mcmaster.ca
Tue Nov 13 20:32:58 EST 2007

jerzy.karczmarczuk at info.unicaen.fr wrote:
> But... tell me please, ANYONE, who takes part in this inspiring exchange:
> How many COBOL programs have you written in your life?
> How many programs in Cobol have you actually SEEN?

Shudder.  In '86, I had to modify a COBOL code generator, *written in 
COBOL*.  The generated program read some data from a database and 
printed out zillions of reports; the generated program took more than 24 
hours to run, so rarely ever completed successfully, as the machines 
they ran it on was not all that reliable.  So I had to modify the 
generator to generate 'check-pointing' code, so the reporting program 
could be restarted from the last checkpoint rather than from the start.  
Report generation  was something that COBOL was rather good at; code 
generation was an entirely different matter!  That first exposure to 
(untyped) code-generation probably explains why I'm such a big fan of 
metaocaml these days...

That year, I had way more fun figuring out how call-by-name worked in 
Algol 60, by starting at the generated thunks in the Burroughs 6800 
assembly.  Nice thing about that machine was that it was a pure stack 
machine - kind of like the JVM, as a matter of fact.  The other nice 
thing about that machine is that they had completely bootstrapped it, so 
that there was only an Algol compiler for it, no user-level assembler at 
all [but a disassembler for debugging].  It had been bootstrapped 
several years back, or so I was told.


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