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Papers on the history of ALGOL

by Paul McJones last modified 2024-05-08 18:50


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  • Saul Rosen. Programming systems and languages: a historical survey. In Proceedings of the April 21-23, 1964, Spring Joint Computer Conference, AFIPS. ACM, New York, pages 1-15. ACM Digital Library
  • Section 3 (pages 5-8) is "Algol and its Dialects".

  • Heinz Rutishauser. Description of ALGOL 60. Handbook for Automatic Computation, Volume 1, Part A. Springer-Verlag, New York, 1967.

    Sections 2 through 4 of Chapter 1 contain historical material. Naur's HOPL paper quotes section 2 and the first two sections of section 3 to provide coverage of the events of which he lacked firsthand experience.

  • Peter Naur. Successes and Failures of the ALGOL Effort. Talk given at the colloquium "Ten Years of Algol, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, Zürich, May 31, 1968. ALGOL Bulletin, Number 28 (July 1968), pages 58-62. CHM ACM Digital Library
  • W. L. van der Poel. Some Notes on the History of ALGOL. Chapter 7 in: MC-25 Informatica Symposium (on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Mathematical Centre). MR37, Mathematisch Centrum, Amsterdam, 1971. Online at
  • R. W. Bemer. A Politico-Social History of Algol (With a Chronology in the Form of a Log Book). In Annual Review in Automatic Programming, Volume 5, edited by M. I. Halpern and C. J. Shaw, Pergammon Press, Oxford, 1969, pages 151-237. PDF [Currently missing from ScienceDirect.]
  • F. L. Bauer. Appendix: Historical remarks on compiler construction. In: F. L. Bauer and J. Eickel, editors. Compiler Construction. 1974, Chapter 6, pages 603-621. SpringerLink
  • John E. Peck. The ALGOL 68 Story: A personal account by a member of the design team. ACS Bulletin, November 1978, Page 4-6. PDF
  • R. L. Wexelblat, editor. History of Programming Languages I. ACM, New York, 1981.
  • Peter Naur. Aad van Wijngaarden's contributions to ALGOL 60. In Algorithmic Languages, ed. J. W. van Vliet. Amsterdam, Norht-Holland, 1981.
  • Charles Antony Richard Hoare. The emperor's old clothes. Communications of the ACM, Volume 24, Number 2 (February 1981), pages 75-83. ACM Digital Library

    Hoare's ACM Turing Award Lecture. He discusses ALGOL 60, the Elliot 803 ALGOL compiler, IFIP WG2.1, ALGOL X, ALGOL W, and ALGOL 68.

  • Niklaus Wirth. From programming language design to computer construction. Communications of the ACM, Volume 28, Number 2 (February 1985), pages 160-164. ACM Digital Library (open access)
    Wirth's ACM Turing Award Lecture. He discusses ALGOL 58, NELIAC, ALGOL 60, and ALGOL 68, as well as the languages of his own design: Euler, ALGOL W, PL360, PASCAL, Modula, and Modula-2.
  • C. H. Lindsey. A Browse through some Early Bulletins. ALGOL Bulletin, Number 52 (August 1988), pages 27-38. CHM ACM Digital Library

    "After IFIP WG2.1 had been formed (initially from the original authors of ALGOL 60) a decision was taken in March 1964 to revive the ALGOL Bulletin, which had lain dormant since the publication of the Revised Report on the Algorithmic Language ALGOL 60 in 1962. Fraser Duncan was appointed as Editor, and AB16 duly appeared in May 1964. As present editor of the AB, I have no access to any issues prior to AB16, but I have managed to piece together a complete set since that date, and they form a fascinating account of what was going on in those years. The following article surveys some of the material published between 1964 and 1972."

  • F. L. Bauer. The Cellar Principle of State Transition and Storage Allocation. IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, Volume 12, Number 1 (January-March 1990), pages 41-49. IEEE Computer Society
  • Gerard Alberts, editor. Conference on the history of ALGOL 68. Historical Note AM-HN9301, Department of Analysis, Algebra, and Geometry, Centrum voor Wiskunde en Informatica, January 1993. Conference on 25 years of ALGOL 68 held on the occasion of the 47th anniversary of CWI, Amsterdam, February 11, 1993. Online at
    • Gerard Alberts. Introduction to the Conference.
    • Friederich L. Bauer. History of Programming Languages, a Survey.
    • Charles Lindsey. The History of ALGOL 68 (Extended Abstract).
    • Kees Koster. The Making of Algol 68.
    • Sietse van der Meulen. An Orthogonal First Programming Language.
    • Mikhail A. Bulyonkov, Alexandr F. Rar, Andrei N. Terekhov. Algol 68—25 Years in the USSR.
    • Lambert Meertens. The Design of Elegant Languages.
    • John Peck. Aad van Wijngaarden and the Mathematisch Centrum, A Personal Recollection.
  • Nicholas Enticknap and Pat Woodroffe. The early days of Algol. Computer RESURRECTION : The Bulletin of the Computer Conservation Society, Volume 1, Number 4, Summer 1992 Online at

    Summarizes a meeting at the Science Museum recognizing the 30th anniversary of the first ALGOL 60 implementations, with presentations by Mike Woodger and David Hill on Algol standardization, followed by talks by Lawford Russell on Whetstone ALGOL for the English Electric KDF9, Jeff Hillmore on Elliot 803 ALGOL, and Richard de Morgan on DECsystem-10 ALGOL.

  • Thomas J. Bergin and Richard G. Gibson, editors. History of Programming Languages II. ACM, New York, 1996.
    • ALGOL 68 Session. Pages 27-96. ACM Digital Library (open access)
      • C. H. Lindsey. A History of ALGOL 68. Pages 27-84.
      • C. H. Lindsey. Transcript of Presentation. Pages 84-95.
      • Transcript of Question and Answer Session. Pages 95-96.
      • Biography of C. H. Lindsey. Page 96.
    • Pascal Session. Pages 97-120. ACM Digital Library (open access)
      • Niklaus Wirth. Recollections about the Development of Pascal. Pages 97-111.
      • Andrew B. Mikel. Transcript of Discussant's Remarks. Pages 111-117.
      • Transcript of Question and Answer Session. Pages 117-119.
      • Biography of Niklaus Wirth. Pages 119-120.
  • C. H. A. Koster. The Making of Algol 68. In Perspectives of System Informatics : Proceedings of Second International Andrei Ershov Memorial Conference, Akademgorodok, Novosibirsk, Russia, June 25–28, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Volume 1181, 1996, pages 55-67. PDF at SpringerLink
  • Maurice V. Wilkes. A Revisionist Account of Early Language Development. Computer, Volume 31, Number 4 (April 1998), pages 22-25. IEEE Computer Society

    "In the 1950s, there was a good deal of discussion at computer conferences about what was then known as automatic programming. This led to Fortran, which was developed by a group within IBM who had strictly pragmatic aims. They saw a clear need for some system that would enable the labor of programming to be reduced. The scientific study of programming languages began slightly later with the publication of the Algol 60 report. This was put together by an international committee whose aims were essentially intellectual. They set out to design a language that was elegant in a mathematical sense and would enable scientists to specify a computation without concerning themselves about practical details. Together, Fortran and Algol define a fault line that runs through the study of programming languages that we are now only beginning to bridge."

  • Edsger W. Dijkstra, OH 330. Oral history interview by Philip L. Frana, 2 August 2001, Austin, Texas. Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Online at
  • "Abstract: In this oral history Edsger Dijkstra recounts his early education and training as a theoretical physicist and as a 'programmer'. Dijkstra describes his work developing software, and his activities at several early information processing conferences. Dijkstra also discourses on the development of ALGOL 60 and the origins of computing science in Europe and America."

  • Susan Bond. An oral history conducted in 2001 by Janet Abbate, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA. Online at IEEE Global History Network

    A section covers Developing the World's First ALGOL 68 Compiler.

  • F. L. Bauer. Die Algol-Verschwörung [The Algol Conspiracy]. In: Geschichten der Informatik : Visionen, Paradigmen, Leitmotive, H.D. Hellige, ed., Springer, 2004, pages 237–254.
  • N. J. Lehmann, Algol im Ostblock und der Weg zu Systemen von Programmiersprachen [Algol in the Eastern Bloc and the Way to Systems of Programming Languages]. In: Geschichten der Informatik : Visionen, Paradigmen, Leitmotive, H.D. Hellige, ed., Springer, 2004, pages 256–259.
  • H. T. de Beer. The History of the ALGOL Effort. Master's Thesis in Computer Science and Engineering (Technische Informatica) at the Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands, August 2006. Online at
  • Edward Feigenbaum, interviewer. Donald Knuth Oral History. Computer History Museum, Mountain View, California, March 14 and 21, 2007. Online at
  • Gerard Alberts, et al. Software for Europe: Constructing Europe Through Software. Tensions of Europe/Inventing Europe Working Paper 2008_3. PDF at via

    "Software for Europe proposes as a working hypothesis that, beyond the effort to define a new language, the culture of software co-entrepreneurship across borders represented by ALGOL helped to create a specifically European space for software."

  • Gauthier van den Hove. Edsger Wybe Dijkstra: first years in the computing science (1951-1968). Master's thesis, University of Namur, August 2009. Online at

    Chapter 2 discusses the definition of ALGOL 60 and the MC ALGOL 60 compiler.

  • Sten Henriksson. A brief history of the stack. SIGCIS 2009 Workshop: Michael Mahoney and the Histories of Computing, October 18, 2009, Pittsbugh, Pennsylvania, USA. PDF at
  • Karel Van Oudheusden (alias Edgar G. Daylight). The Advent of Recursion & Logic in Computer Science. MSc Thesis, Institute of Logic, Language, and Computation, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, November 2009. PDF at
  • 50 years of Advanced Programming – an Anniversary Seminar on Algol 60. Joint meeting of the BCS Advanced Programming Group and the Computer Conservation Society, London, January 14, 2010.
    • Transcripts of talks by Brian Randell, Tony Hoare, Luca Cardelli, Bob Hopgood, and Dik Leatherdale in: Computer RESURRECTION : The Bulletin of the Computer Conservation Society, Number 50, Spring 2010. Online at
  • H. T. de Beer. ALGOL 60: the Death of a Programming Language and the Birth of a Science. Slides from lecture presented at DASK-ALGOL birthday celebration, Feburary 13, 2010. PDF at
  • David Nofre. Unravelling Algol: US, Europe and the creation of a programming language, 1955-1960. IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, Volume 32, Number 2 (April-June 2010), pages 58-68. Online at Computing Then IEEE Computer Society

    "I argue, however, that the transatlantic collaboration that would lead to the making of Algol was born from a shared concern within American and European computing centers: the need to foster information exchange between computing centers."

  • Mark Priestley. A Science of Operations : Machines, Logic and the Invention of Programming Series. History of Computing series, Springer, 2011, 341 pages. SpringerLink

    Chapter 9 is "The Algol Research Programme". The book is an extended version of Priestley's PhD thesis: Logic and the Development of Programming Languages, 1930-1975. University College London, May 2008.

  • Edgar G. Daylight (alias for Karel Van Oudheusden). Dijkstra's Rallying Cry for Generalization: The Advent of the Recursive Procedure, Late 1950s–Early 1960s.

    "This paper describes some early contributions of E.W. Dijkstra by elaborating on his involvement in putting forward and implementing the recursive procedure as an ALGOL60 language construct."

  • Edgar G. Daylight. From Mathematical Logic to Programming-Language Semantics — a Discussion with Tony Hoare. Journal of Logic and Computation, Volume 25, Issue 4, August 2015, Pages 1091–1110. Oxford Academic

    Section 2.3 covers Hoare's Algol work at Elliot.

  • Edgar G. Daylight. Pluralism in Software Engineering: Turing Award Winner Peter Naur Explains. CONVERSATIONS. Issue 1, Volume 2011, Lonely Scholar, 2011.

    Part I of this wide-ranging interview covers Naur's work on Algol 60, including the DASK and GIER implementations. He also makes a few remarks about Algol 68.

  • Pierre Mounier-Kuhn. From universal project to sunken culture : Algol in France. SHOT / SIGCIS Workshop 2011, Cultures and Communities in the History of Computing, Cleveland (OH), 6th November 2011. PDF
  • Gauthier van den Hove. On the Origin of Recursive Procedures. Computer Journal Volume 58, Number 11 (November 2015), pages 2892-2899. Online at
  • A. Endres. Early Language and Compiler Developments at IBM Europe: A Personal Retrospection. In IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, volume 35, number 4, pages 18-30, Oct.-Dec. 2013. IEEE Xplore / via
  • Lambert Meertens. ALGOL X and ALGOL Y. Slides for talk presented at CWI Lectures in honour of Adriaan van Wijngaarden, November 2016. PDF at
  • Gauthier van den Hove. Dissolving a half century old problem about the implementation of procedures. Science of Computer Programming, Volume 150 (15 December 2017), pages 75-86. Online at
  • G. M. C. J. T. G. van den Hove d'Ertsenryck [Gauthier van den Hove]. New Insights from Old Programs: The Structure of the First ALGOL 60 System. With a Foreword by Donald E. Knuth. Ph.D. thesis, Universiteit van Amsterdam, 2019. Cover and appendices

    "To understand what computer programming is, and how it should be done, Gauthier van den Hove proposes to study how it is actually done, and induce elements of method from factual observation. To this end, he carries out a detailed analysis of the first ALGOL 60 system. He carried out the research at Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI), the national research institute for mathematics and computer science in the Netherlands, where the system was originally designed and implemented." [Announcement for thesis defense, UvA, 2019]

  • David Nofre. The Politics of Early Programming Languages: IBM and the Algol Project. Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, Vol. 51, Number 3, June 2021, pages 379–413.

    "Through extensive archival research, this article shows how the relentless pursuit of a still better language that came to dominate the agenda of the Algol project brought to the fore the tension between the research-driven dimension of the project and the goal of developing a reliable programming language."


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