ACK : the Amsterdam Compiler Kit

One upon a time there was this magnificent and free operating system, called Minix. It was a small version of Unix meant to be used for research on and teaching about operating systems. Minix was made by Professor Andrew Tanenbaum (AST) of the Free University of Amsterdam. Minix was small, flexible, extendable and rock stable.
Minix was so good, that the Linux guys decided to use it as a template for their new platform. Until the latter guys got too greedy and could not understand why AST would not let them ruin his OS. So they left and created their own version of Minix, called Linux. We all know what way that went.

Minix went its own way. It is built upon the ACK, which is short for the Amsterdam Compiler Kit. It is a compiler that has multiple front ends and multiple back ends. It managed to compile for all the platforms and all the target processors of the era. A product so good and stable, that nobody took an interest in it. Bad code sells. And it keeps selling since every bug brings in new money. So who cares for a good compiler, if there are so many bad compilers around?

Is it free?

Yes. As of 2003, the ACK is in the Public Domain or on a GPL. I'm not sure what exactly. But it is free as in freedom and free as in free beer. And then this nice guy David Given (dtrg on Sourceforge) came along and ported it to Linux. Which was an effort not to be underestimated. He did a fine job, I can tell you now.
But there is a price to pay, for this freedom of course. The amount of libraries is rather limited. Which, of course makes the compiler more appealing to us, real programmers. We do not need a zillion lines of code in a million libraries, so you can cut and paste all the .h files together to get a piece of software that may eventually do what it was intended for. No, we (the real men) start our editors and produce that code from scratch.
In this aspect, the ACK resembles the Mocka compiler. With that distinction, that the ACK will compile Modula-2, ANSI C and Pascal for either PC86, Linux or CP/M. Yes. That's what your eyes see: CP/M-80.

Topics covered

Below is a list of topics covered with the ACK compilers:

Just read the files. They're more like stories, like journeys, not like dull webpages about programmers that work without evolution.

Page created 30 July 2010,