On Programming: First SPITBOL LinkedIn Discussion From Galen Tackett

I started a new group for SPITBOL on LinkedIN a few days back, and today brought news that one of the members, Galen Tacket had started the first discussion:

It’s been a long, long time…

I last used Spitbol when I was still in college in the late 1970’s. I can’t claim to remember a great deal about it except that I thought it was a lot of fun to learn and use.

At one point I attempted to write, as part of a project for some course or another, an interpreter that would execute a subset of 6502 assembly language. Not machine language, mind you–I didn’t want to also write an assembler as well! It would have read a text file of assembly language and then parsed and executed it instruction by instruction.

This project was probably not a good idea in many ways, but it sounded like fun and my professor thought it was doable, so I tried.

I ran in to a number of big problems which prevented me from finishing within the available time. I’ve conveniently forgotten everything about the ones that were my own fault, but I remember having serious trouble with the Spitbol system itself, which was still relatively new on the CDC Cyber 174 NOS timesharing system we were using. Look at it cross-eyed, or make a slight syntax error, and it would give you an exchange package error–essentially just an octal dump of all the processor registers.

I wrote a thorough report on the project and got a B+ in the class even though this part of never worked.

I posted the following comment:


My apologies for your problems with SPITBOL/6000. I am its author.

Ah, “NOS.” I used all the OS’s for the CDC 6600, starting with the first, Chippewa. I think the *complete* manual was about twenty pages or so! My favorite was “Kronos,” though I may have the name wrong.

There is an interesting story about SPITBOL/6000. One day one of the systems programmers at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences (CIMS) of New York University, noticed that part of the code for the CDC OS was clearly generated using a program written in SPITBOL. I checked my list of licensed copies (it was short: we sold at most thirty or so copies.) and found that CDC was not a licensed customer. I wrote a note to the CEO of Control Data pointing out the problem. An assistant to the CEO gave me a call shortly thereafter, and after I explained the problem, he promised to send a check. (I think it cost $1000 in those days). The check arrived a few days later.

SPITBOL has been released under the GPL. See http://code.google.com/p/spitbol

The binary for the IBM PC has been posted, so you can once again have fun — hopefully lots of it — programming in SPITBOL.

We should soon have binaries for Linux, courtesy of Mark Emmer

I am considering doing both a 64-bit version and also an implementation using LLVM.


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