Computer Languages Use English

Two new computer languages have been announced recently. Both consist of simple English phrases that machines will automatically translate into their own language and then act on.


So, 57 years ago started a story in Electronics Weekly’s edition of September 14th 1960


The story continues:


Computer instructions are usually written in numerical form. Unfortunately the use of figures cuases a great deal of misapprehension among many would-be users.


Preparation of instructions or programmes for many business and routine applications is tedious but not complex.


A number of organisations prefer to appoint seventeen to eighteen year-old school leavers as programmers.


More academically qualified people have often been found wanting, as versatility appears one of the one of the criteria for success, rather than mathematical ability.


When writing a list of instructions, astute programmers can see ways of shortening the list. Often

Possible when operations are repeated a number of times in one process.


Special systems have been devised, however, to both speed and simplify programming.


These are based on writing instructions in a shortened English. These mnemonic characters are automatically transferred into machine language.


A command saying multiply by five might be written MPY.5.


A programme for repetitive operations can be stored on magnetic tape, and a number of manufacturers have libraries of these for their particular machines.



  1. You knew you had arrived when you realized you were calculating relative jumps in your head, in binary. Compilers were the key thoug. The productivity gains moving from assembler to compiler were phenomenal, and you could always fine tune the code or use inline if you wanted blinding speed or were struggling for room.

    • SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

      Compilers got the product out on the market much quicker – assuming the compiled programme would fit into memory. After all, VisiCalc fitted into the 48 KB RAM of an Apple II, and a modern compiler would drag far more than that in for a trivial “Hello World” programme.

      Also 1802 and 6502 were not that suited to stack based compilers unless you compiled to a virtual machine or FORTH. The UCSD system used a virtual p-machine but I am not sure how successful that was against the hard core assembly programmers back in the day.

      My hunch is that it was Turbo Pascal that in the mid-80’s was the effective turning point where compilers became generally available, reliable and not too bloated.

  2. Unbelievable, SEPAM

  3. Yeah right on zeitghost

  4. It’ll never catch on, you mark my words.

    Direct entry in hex, that’st the way of the future.

    • SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

      What? Not octal? 😎

      • Hmmm. I don’t understand how you could enter data directly in either hex or octal; after
        all pure binary is the only natural language of data representation when effecting data
        entry by sparking paperclips across the system backplane.

        Wait – you folks aren’t using front-panel toggle-switches or – gasp! – hex keypads
        are you? For shame.


        • SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

          I know many used plain hex on the KIM-1 back in the day. I used the more refined approach with a mostly full keyboard of Rockwell AIM-65 for hex and occasional decimal input. In fact I got rather comfortable with hex but never had a numerical keypad for it.

          The AIM-65 monitor was sparse but usable, only later on did I get access to a proper assembler. Then came PL/65 that taught me that compilers would never beat an assembly programmer. 😎

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