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The 20th Haskell anniversary

Intro: The hbc compiler was written by Lennart Augustsson, a researcher at the Department of Computer Science at Chalmers University whose programming productivity beggars belief. The hbc was the first compiler written for the Haskell programming language and it was released on the 21 of August 1990.

Body text: In the end of the 80’s Lennart Augustsson and Thomas Johansson were working on development of compilers for lazy functional languages. They called their functional language LML and invented many important techniques that have become standard today. The functional language work involved many other people at the Department of Computing Science at the time, Urban Boquist and Niklas Röjemo among others were PhD students who later on did their doctorates on the issue.

Some researchers were working on similar things at other universities and a committee for people interested in functional languages was founded. The committee included Lennart Augustsson, Thomas Johansson, and John Hughes for example (John Hughes was at Glasgow University, now at Chalmers University of Technology), and together they designed the Haskell language – the first complete compiler was Lennart’s hbc released in 1990.

The Haskell programming language is now celebrating its 20th anniversary. Haskell has been widely spread in recent years, both within academia and industry, though of course still not as common as Java and C++.

In “A History of Haskell: Being Lazy With Class” (http://www.scs.stanford.edu/~dbg/readings/haskell-history.pdf) Augustsson writes:

“During the spring of 1990 I was eagerly awaiting the first Haskell compiler, it was supposed to come from Glasgow and be based on the LML compiler. And I waited and waited. After talking to Glasgow people at the LISP & Functional Programming conference in Nice in late June of 1990 Staffan Truve ́and I decided that instead of waiting even longer we would write our own Haskell compiler based on the LML compiler.
For various reasons Truve ́couldn’t help in the coding of the compiler, so I ended up spending most of July and August coding, sometimes in an almost trance-like state; my head filled with Haskell to the brim.
At the end of August I had a mostly complete implementation of Haskell. I decided that hbc would be a cool name for the compiler since it is Haskell Curry’s initials. (I later learnt that this is the name the Glasgow people wanted for their compiler too. But first come, first served.)
The first release, 0.99, was on August 21, 1990. The implementation had everything from the report (except for File operations) and also several extensions, many of which are now in Haskell 98 (e.g., operator sections).”

2010: Lennart Augustsson is back in Gothenburg and Sweden, still working on Haskell, but he is now employed by Standard Chartered Bank in London, who is using Haskell for modeling of financial products. Lennart still has close connections to the department and the Functional Programming group is still a world-leader in Haskell-related research.

More on Lennart Augustsson:

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Page last modified on August 25, 2010, at 02:21 PM