Thursday, July 20, 2017

[FreeDOS] The FAST and SOFA compilers

Two recent additions to the FreeDOS stable of development languages are FAST (Fast PC Compiler) and SOFA (Super Optimised Fast Assembler), inventions of one Peter Campbell of New Zealand. Peter developed FAST and SOFA in the mid 1980s and they were used as the main development languages for the Fastbase accounting system. In 2000, Peter rewrote the entire system in Tcl. All use and development of FAST and SOFA stopped at that point.

SOFA is an 8088 (and semi-80386) assembler. The syntax has some similarities to two other shareware assemblers,
A86 and CHASM. SOFA can assemble its own source-code. Its features include quick assembly time (thousands of lines per second), conditional compilation and include files.

FAST was written in SOFA. The language syntax was influenced by Basic, Pascal, C and Assembler. The binaries produced are small and fast

Peter Campbell died in tragic circumstances at Easter 2007, leaving the Fastbase business to his brother, Russell Bell.

The adding of FAST and SOFA to FreeDOS took a little too long: I had heard of the language during the 1990s and had rediscovered it in the
Vetusware abandonware collection. From there I found out about FastBase and made contact with Russell. This was 2009 and it was at that time that I suggested to Russell that SOFA/FAST could be re-released as Open Source software, thus preserving in some way Peter's legacy. Russell promptly gave permission and provided me with the sources. Embarassingly, it has taken me eight years to finalise the process.

SOFA and FAST will appear eventually on
HOPL (The Online Historical Encyclopaedia of Programming Languages). In the meantime, postings regarding the languages can be found on HOPL's Facebook front-end at SOFA and FAST respectively.

[1] Already some FreeDOS utilities have been rewritten in FAST.

© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2017

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