SPITBOL Status and Plans

Yesterday I sent the following note to many of my colleagues at LinkedIn, to let them know of My Software Sabattical and my plans now that is over.

Dear Colleague,

As you may — or more likely may not — know, I haven’t had much of web presence for almost three years.

The sabbatical is now over, and I’m back coding, so here’s a short note about recent work.

I am now the maintainer of SPITBOL. Mark Emmer kept the project going for over 25 years. He’ll still be involved, but not as the maintainer.

SPITBOL/Linux will be posted shortly. Mark did most of it: I just tied up some loose ends. This will be the first release of SPITBOL for Linux, and the first SPITBOL update/release of any kind, in over a decade.

The code will soon appear at Github daveshields/spitbol-linux, hopefully before July 1. I’ve also created a twitter account, so you can follow @spitbol for news and such. I’ll be using twitter instead of the usual mail list(s).

The first release is for Linux with 32 bit words, 8 bit characters. I’ve been using Ubuntu 12.04. The port for other Unices should be straightforward.

My current plans include the following:

  • Convert from gas to nasm as assembler for 386
  • Clean up translator from Minimal to assembler
  • Port to iOS
  • Provide 64 bit word, 8 bit character, versions
  • Provide 16 bit character versions, i.e., support Unicode
  • Consider port to Arm
  • Investigate use of lua as basis for development of apps using Spitbol
    for both iPhone and Android

In case you’re not familiar with Macro SPITBOL, it is one of the most amazing programs I have ever seen, a true software tour-de-force.

The work of Professor Robert B. K. Dewar of New York University and the late ProfessorAnthony A. P. “Tony” McCann of the University of Leeds, Macro SPITBOL is written in the Minimal assembly language, an assembly language for an abstract machine carefully defined to allow efficient implementations on actual hardware.

By efficient I mean “very, very efficient.” You have to use it to appreciate its speed.

SPITBOL is a minor extension of SNOBOL4. With the release of SPITBOL/Linux I hope to spur renewed interest in one of the original — and still one of the most original in its power and elegance — programming languages.

SNOBOL4 has maintained its charm and power for over fifty years now. It would be good for more folks to know about it and use it.

Apart from its charm and power, working with Macro SPITBOL — either as implementor, user, or both — provides more fun than any other programming language/project I can think of.



  1. David Murphy
    Posted June 29, 2012 at 18:43 | Permalink | Reply

    will this run on mac os x? if not will there be a port?

    • Posted July 3, 2012 at 19:42 | Permalink | Reply

      I plan to start a port to OSx/iOS shortly

      • David Murphy
        Posted July 4, 2012 at 01:45 | Permalink

        You are now officially my Hero. Can’t help much with coding but happy to test or otherwise help.

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