MWC (was: Re: How the Mac was born... supposedly...)

From: Jim Leonard <>
Date: Sat Jan 15 00:32:41 2005

Mark Davidson wrote:
> "Let's C" was MWC's low-cost C development system for the PC. It came
> with a cool spiral-bound manual, and consisted of their C compiler,
> debugger and libraries. When they first came out with it (I believe it
> was $75, or something like that), they had a contest and I won a free
> copy from them.

Much of the compiler work, at least when I got there, was done by Charles
Fiterman, who was the kind of genius that could whip up a C compiler for a new
platform in about 2 weeks -- and a peephole optimizer in another week -- but if
you gave him a task that was way too easy for him, he would do it almost
without thinking and there would be dumb obscure bugs caused by things like
incorrect order of operations, misplaced semicolons, etc. I fondly remember
him as a bit eccentric and very smart (in fact, most of the people who worked
at MWC were incredibly smart, and I'm not just saying this because I worked
there, it's the honest truth). Charles later left Mark Williams Company to
form Geodesic (sp?) Systems to build and market a garbage collection library for C.

I still have boxes of disks for the MWC C compiler for Atari ST. :-) No Let's
C though, although I remember Let's C being advertised in Byte and Dr. Dobbs'
before I worked there.

The thing about MWC compilers is that they were *excellent* at optimizing for
size. Not speed, but size. This led to some obscure tricks in the output
bytecode that made you scratch your head in a disassembler, but it was worth it
on systems with such limited memory. While we eventually ported gcc to the 386
version of Coherent, I still held great respect for the MWC compiler (even
though it was K&R, not ANSI) because of the ludicrously small executables it
produced. My numbers may be off, but I seem to remember that a
statically-linked binary of GNU TAR as produced by gcc at that time was ~256K,
while the same program statically-liked from the MWC compiler was ~50K.
Jim Leonard (          
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Received on Sat Jan 15 2005 - 00:32:41 GMT

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