After surviving 35 years, dozens of languages, hundreds of projects, thousands of meetings and millions of LOC, I now teach the basics to the computer-phobic

Nov 2016

A SNOBOL's Chance

by in Feature Articles on

We’ve all inherited legacy systems. You know the sort; 20 years old, more than 50,000 lines of code, poorly designed - even for its time, completely undocumented externally and useless code comments within, mangled beyond recognition due to countless developers making myriad ad-hoc changes upon changes and so-on. Now imagine such a system written in a tool that’s been around for nearly half a century, but rarely used for the intended purpose of the application.

A group of people rolling a snowball taller than any of them

Reg worked for a firm that built space-rocket related applications; specifically an Ada compiler, written in SNOBOL, for a 15+ years obsolete legacy processor used in the rocket. The system itself consisted of more than 100 SPITBOL (a speedier compiler of SNOBOL) programs, most of which were written by one guy nearly four decades ago, Barry. Barry was a former sixties hippie-turned-coder. Though long since retired, he had been called back to active duty to try and help decipher what this thing does.