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Early Pascal Compilers Essay

The first Pascal compiler was designed in Zurich for the CDC 6000 series mainframe computer family. Niklaus Wirth reports that a first attempt to implement it in Fortran in 1969 was unsuccessful due to Fortran’s inadequacy to express complex data structures. The second attempt was formulated in the Pascal language itself and was operational by mid-1970. Many Pascal compilers since have been similarly self-hosting, that is, the compiler is itself written in Pascal, and the compiler is usually capable of recompiling itself when new features are added to the language, or when the compiler is to be ported to a new environment.

The GNU Pascal compiler is one notable exception, being written in C. The first successful port of the CDC Pascal compiler to another mainframe was completed by Welsh and Quinn at the Queen’s University of Belfast (QUB) in 1972. The target was the International Computers Limited 1900 series. This compiler in turn was the parent of the Pascal compiler for the ICS Multum minicomputer. The Multum port was developed – with a view to using Pascal as a systems programming language – by Findlay, Cupples, Cavouras and Davis, working at the Department of Computing Science in Glasgow University.

It is thought that Multum Pascal, which was completed in the summer of 1973, may have been the first 16-bit implementation. A completely new compiler was completed by Welsh et al. at QUB in 1977. It offered a source-language diagnostic feature (incorporating profiling, tracing and type-aware formatted postmortem dumps) that was implemented by Findlay and Watt at Glasgow University. This implementation was ported in 1980 to the ICL 2900 series by a team based at Southampton University and Glasgow University.

The Standard Pascal Model Implementation was also based on this compiler, having been adapted, by Welsh and Hay at Manchester University in 1984, to check rigorously for conformity to the BSI 6192/ISO 7185 Standard and to generate code for a portable abstract machine. The first Pascal compiler written in North America was constructed at the University of Illinois under Donald B. Gillies for the PDP-11 and generated native machine code.

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