next up previous

3.1.5 Fourth Generation (1972--1984)     continued...

Developments in software include very high level languages such as FP (functional programming) and Prolog (programming in logic). These languages tend to use a declarative programming style as opposed to the imperative style of Pascal, C, FORTRAN, et al. In a declarative style, a programmer gives a mathematical specification of what should be computed, leaving many details of how it should be computed to the compiler and/or runtime system. These languages are not yet in wide use, but are very promising as notations for programs that will run on massively parallel computers (systems with over 1,000 processors). Compilers for established languages started to use sophisticated optimization techniques to improve code, and compilers for vector processors were able to vectorize simple loops (turn loops into single instructions that would initiate an operation over an entire vector).

Two important events marked the early part of the third generation: the development of the C programming language and the UNIX operating system, both at Bell Labs. In 1972, Dennis Ritchie, seeking to meet the design goals of CPL and generalize Thompson's B, developed the C language. Thompson and Ritchie then used C to write a version of UNIX for the DEC PDP--11. This C--based UNIX was soon ported to many different computers, relieving users from having to learn a new operating system each time they change computer hardware. UNIX or a derivative of UNIX is now a de facto standard on virtually every computer system.