Amsterdam Compiler Kit

The Amsterdam Compiler Kit (ACK) is a retargetable compiler suite and toolchain written by Andrew Tanenbaum and Ceriel Jacobs, and was MINIX's native toolchain until the MINIX userland was largely replaced by that of NetBSD (MINIX 3.2.0) and clang was adopted as the system compiler. The ACK was originally closed-source software (that allowed binaries to be distributed for MINIX as a special case), but in April 2003 it was released under an open source BSD license. It has frontends for programming languages C, Pascal, Modula-2, Occam, and BASIC.

Amsterdam Compiler Kit
Developer(s)Andrew Tanenbaum, Ceriel Jacobs
Initial releaseearly 1980s
Stable release
6.0pre5 / June 2, 2016 (2016-06-02)
Written inC
Operating systemMinix, Unix-like
TypeRetargetable compiler
LicenseBSD licenses

The ACK's notability stems from the fact that in the early 1980s it was one of the first portable compilation systems designed to support multiple source languages and target platforms.[1][2]

The ACK achieves maximum portability by using an intermediate language using bytecode, called EM. Each language front-end produces EM object files, which are then processed through several generic optimisers before being translated by a back-end into native machine code.

ACK comes with a generic linker and librarian capable of manipulating files in the ACK's own a.out-based format; it will work on files containing EM code as well as native machine code. However, EM code cannot be linked to native machine code without translating the EM binary first.

Target processors

* Version 6.0

See also


  1. Tanenbaum, Andrew S; van Staveren, H.; Keizer, E.G.; Stevenson, J.W. (1983). "A Practical Tool Kit For Making Portable Compilers". Communications of the ACM. 26 (9): 654–660. doi:10.1145/358172.358182.
  2. A.V Aho, R. Sethi & J.D. Ullman (1986). Compilers: Principles, Techniques, and Tools ("The Dragon Book"). Addison-Wesley. p. 511. ISBN 0-201-10088-6.
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