Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Forth and Microcontrollers

My second computer programming language was Forth. My first was BASIC.  I picked up Forth sometime around 1984. I used it first on Commodore 64 and then on a DEC2060 to do some graphic hacks for a Tektronix terminal (am I showing my age now?).  I remember tightly constrained resources. Despite spending a lot of time on a timesharing system (DEC20) I spent my youth trying to get every ounce of performance out of the likes of Commodore 64s and Atari STs.

By 1989 I  had moved on. I became a UNIX junkie. C became my "base" language and I had adopted TCL as my "scripting" language by 1995.  Over the years I've dipped my toe in many other languages including Perl, Python, Lisp, Smalltalk, Logo, Awk, Java, Lua, C++, Standard ML, etc.  By 2004 my main languages were TCL, C and (sometimes) Awk.  That is, whenever I could get away with using them.

So, now I am at full circle of sorts.  I work with 8/16 bit microcontrollers (tightly constrained resources!) and my primary language is C.

Over the years I kept abreast of what Forth was up to. Chuck Moore is something of a hero of mine. Of course, in the past 20 years I've dabbled in creating my own Forths (mostly in C). 

It was only recently that I've actually came back to actually using Forth to write applications/systems.

Forth is not dead, IMHO.  However,  while I don't think that it will make any resurgence, it does make me wonder why the Microcontroller world is still stuck using C.

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