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GNU C compiler turns 25

Mat Bettinson
GNU C compiler turns 25

One of the most enduring software components in the world is now celebrating a 25th birthday, the GNU C Compiler or GCC as it's commonly known.

The GNU C Compiler is a tool that compiles the even more enduring C programming language into binaries that can be executed on a variety of platforms. When Richard Stallman launched the first version in 1987, few have believed how far the open source tool would go.

GCC had a critical role to play in pioneering computing and it would also come to be synonymous with the open source operating system Linux, which makes continual use of the compiler in every day activities such as updating packages and applying updates.

In fact GCC is a critical software component in much of the computing infrastructure of the world. Even while commercial alternatives tend to be used to build Windows ecosystem applications, GCC itself is taught to every computer science student precisely because of the open source and cross platform nature of the compiler.

Far from being some piece of digital history, GCC is being improved with new versions just as rapidly today as at any time in the previous 25 years. On the eve of the anniversary milestone, the GCC developers unveiled version 4.7.0 with a raft of new features.

One such feature is an "improved link-time optimisation" system which reduces memory use considerable. With earlier versions of GCC, compiling the Firefox web browser needed 8GB of RAM to be optimised while on the new version it needs just 3GB.

GCC 4.7.0 also adds support for further elements of the proposed the next-generation version of C programming language dubbed C++11. A full list of changes for GCC 4.7.0 is here and Linux.com has a report featuring a brief history of the compiler.

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Tags: Linux, open source

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