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File Format
Released 1966

BCPL (Basic Combined Programming Language) was a programming language developed at the University of Cambridge in the 1960s, based on the earlier CPL, and aimed at being a language in which compilers for other languages could be written. It was able to be used to produce simple and compact compilers, useful for the small amount of memory that computers had in those days.

While BCPL remained in use as late as the 1990s (when it was used for parts of AmigaOS), it has fallen out of use in recent times. However, it has a claim to fame as an ancestor of the C family of languages, though its syntax doesn't particularly look like it. The BCPL syntax takes after ALGOL and FORTRAN and BASIC more obviously than anything to do with C, though it did introduce the now-ubiquitous convention of surrounding blocks of code with curly braces {}. Even that, however, was not consistently followed; many keyboards of the day lacked the curly brace characters, so an alternative syntax of using $( )$ was often used.

In its early days, BCPL was used in the Multics project, where Ken Thompson encountered it and used it as the basis for his own project to create a programming language for the new Unix operating system he was developing. The first version of this new language was called B, and this was soon followed by C.


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