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Xavier Denis – ПП-BESM

Xavier Denis – ПП-BESM

2023-05-21 03:29:23

In February, my buddy @moe came visiting me for a pair weeks. Whereas he was right here we talked about programming language design, unicode and the impression that anglo-centering of the computinng world. Moe introduced up the language Qalb, an arabic script, scheme-like language which was additionally a mirrored image on these points.

Qalb is an fascinating challenge and obtained me pondering, what alternate presents did we miss out on? What might programming languages seem like if historical past took a distinct path? To do that I wished to try to discover a language that wasn’t influenced by a long time of anglophone programming.

Sometimes after we be taught of early pc science historical past, we begin with Turing at Bletchley Park, von Neumann on the IAS; we hear in regards to the ENIAC, MARK I, MANIAC. When you lookup “Historical past of Programming Languages” on Wikipedia, you get:

first programming languages
first programming languages

Whereas these languages are undeniably necessary and the ancestors of the fashionable languages all of us use, take pleasure in and hate, it additionally erases an entire trunk of programming language historical past. Whereas American and British scientists have been constructing computer systems and designing languages, on the opposite aspect of the world within the recovering post-war Soviet Union, mathematicians and engineers weren’t idle. Working in relative isolation till the late fifties, they developped an entire lineage of programming languages that was basically completely different from the american ones.

I wished to share a few of the historical past I found, the insights I gained and hopefully to impress readers to consider the impression of tradition in software program engineering. So, I’ve been engaged on faithfully reimplementing one of many first soviet compilers or programming programme.

Programming Programmes

Described in A.P. Ershov’s 1959 ebook “Programming Programme for the BESM Laptop”, ПП-BESM, was a language carried out for the BESM pc, one of many first giant scale soviet computer systems. Began in 1954, after a lecture on ПП-1 a precursor language, it was completed by 1955.

Based mostly on the “Operator Technique”, described by A. A. Lyapunov within the first college programming course in 1953, it establishes a separation of applications into two separate components: a program scheme during which a sequence of ‘operators’, management operators, are listed and a specification of these operators during which every operator is elaborated. This leads Lyapunovian languages to have what would now be thought of a really alien syntax:

Lyapunov’s Program Scheme Notation
Lyapunov’s Program Scheme Notation

Lyapunov’s ‘language’ was by no means carried out nor was it actually meant to be, it acted extra as a type of pseudocode. Packages could possibly be written in it after which translated by hand to machine code. The syntax of the operator methodology made reasoning about and establishing applications easier. In ПП-BESM, this strict separation was completely maintained so the identical program appears like:

PP-BESM equivalent
PP-BESM equal

The operator methodology was successfully an try at decomposing an issue down into constituent components that could possibly be written and verified independently, not fairly sub-routines however hte subsequent smartest thing. Nevertheless, the syntax of ПП-BESM wasn’t the one factor that was completely different. The language additionally integrated novel options.


It’s one/the primary language to have an express loop assemble. Every loop refers to a parameter outlined in a particular part of this system. The parameter may be of three completely different varieties:

  • Non-Attribute: It’s given a decrease and upperbound and steps between them by unity
  • Attribute Particular: In some instances we wish a variable variety of iterations, so as an alternative we offer a decrease sure and a logical situation for when to terminate the loop.
  • Depending on the next order parameter: It’s additionally attainable to outline the higher sure for a loop in relation to a different, surrounding loop.

Variable Addresses

ПП-BESM has no pointer arithmetic or direct entry to reminiscence within the language. As a substitute, it supplies a software referred to as variable addresses. A variable handle supplies entry to cells of a reminiscence block, in line with a pre-established linear relation between as much as three loop paremeters. This enables ПП-BESM to do issues like index into matrices.

See Also


This was additionally the primary language to characteristic any type of optimization. ПП-BESM can use the principles of commutativity to get rid of frequent arithmetic sub-expressions. It can also optimize the utilization of intermediate outcomes when performing these operations.

Compiler Enter

The BESM-1, the pc on which ПП-BESM ran, had no textual content enter, as an alternative it might learn 39-bit phrases from punch playing cards. These phrases represented both directions or floating level numbers. This meant that ПП-BESM applications needed to be encoded as numbers or invalid directions. This meant that earlier than even feeding a program to the compiler it needed to undergo a tedious ‘coding’ step the place this system was encoded within the right punch-card type.

Put collectively ПП-BESM is a captivating language that nobody has heard of. I’ve determined to carry it to everybody’s consideration by absolutely reimplementing it. I’ve began a challenge which is able to implement the compiler in it’s authentic machine code, and encode applications into their binary illustration to be run by way of the compiler. I’d like to make use of this to spotlight the variations between the early languages which are remembered and the Soviet languages that didn’t. Wanting on the other ways languages might have advanced is places our present world of know-how into perspective. We selected to observe one particular department of language design and will by no means know what would have occurred if we as an alternative had chosen a distinct department.

In case you have any questions don’t hesitate to succeed in out to me on twitter @xldenis


Listed below are a few of the sources I’ve utilized in my analysis for these which are within the topic:

  • [1]A. P. Ershov, “Program texts,” Academician Andrei Ershov’s Archive, Jun. 20, 2016. (accessed Could 11, 2020).
  • [2]A. P. Ershov, Programming Programme for the BESM Laptop. .
  • [3]G. D. Crowe and S. E. Goodman, “S.A. Lebedev and the delivery of Soviet computing,” IEEE Annals of the Historical past of Computing, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 4–24, Spring 1994, doi: 10.1109/85.251852.
  • [4]A. P. Ershov and M. R. Shura-Bura, “The Early Growth of Programming in the us**English textual content edited by Ken Kennedy, Division of Mathematical Sciences, Rice College, Houston, Texas.,††This analysis was carried out for the Worldwide Analysis Convention on the Historical past of Computing held at Los Alamos, New Mexico, 10–15 June 1976.,” in A Historical past of Computing within the Twentieth Century, N. Metropolis, J. Howlett, and G.-C. Rota, Eds. San Diego: Tutorial Press, 1980, pp. 137–196.
  • [5]S. A. Lebedev, “The Excessive-Pace Digital Calculating Machine of the Academy of Sciences of the usS.R.,” J. ACM, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 129–133, Jul. 1956, doi: 10.1145/320831.320832.

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