JOVIAL: Stand up Schwartz

Information on the web about JOVIAL is rather scarce. Came across some old grainy footage of a mpeg video of Jules Schwartz giving an amusing speech for those interested in the early pioneers of PLs.

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The JOVIAL specification is

The JOVIAL specification is available here:


I noticed that all the old links are no longer working. Nice to know the reference manual is still available.

Now, if we could just get a compiler to play with. :-)

1963 specification

The ACM has the 1963 specification online, too (membership required).

That's the same document

That's the same document Paul linked to below.

Plus ca change

While most previous posted JOVIAL links don't work, this one is still active, and amusingly it is about an issue currently being discussed on LtU.

Link not accessible

Did find a link to the 1978 HOPL-I paper The Development of JOVIAL by Jules L Schwartz. From a historical perspective, what makes the language of interest:

It was one of the first system programming languages and helped show that languages were capable of serving that purpose. It was one of the early, if not the earliest, compilers coded completely in its own language.

Probably because the

Probably because the certificate is for the wrong domain, and you are using FF3 ?!

My bad

FF3 doesn't like the certificate, but you can click to make the exception. After that, it views just fine.

There are big debates on

There are big debates on whether this change in FF3 was good or a bad UI change... Probably not great, I'd say.

Older JOVIAL references

An early specification appeared in CACM:

Shaw, C. J. 1963. A specification of JOVIAL. Commun. ACM 6, 12 (Dec. 1963), 721-736. DOI

The Computer History Museum also has some JOVIAL documents donated by Mark I. Halpern (lot number X3762.2007), but they aren't scanned or even cataloged, so you'd have make a request to Paula Jabloner, the archivist. All these items were in a notebook labeled "JOVIAL" when Mark donated them:

  • C.J. Shaw. The JOVIAL Manual.
    • Part 1 : Computers, Programming Languages, and JOVIAL. TM-555, Part
      1, System Development Corporation, December 20, 1960, 24 pages.
    • Part 2, Revision 1 : The JOVIAL Grammar and Lexicon. TM-555/002/01,
      System Development Corporation, June 9, 1961, 77 pages. Mimeograph.
  • C.J. Shaw. A Programmer's Introduction to Basic JOVIAL. TM-629, System
    Development Corporation, August 7, 1961, 39 pages. Original mimeograph with
    printed covers.
  • Millard H. Perstein. Implementation of JOVIAL in SSRL. TM-555/200/00,
    System Development Corporation, December 18, 1961, 124 pages.
  • Christopher J. Shaw. A Specification of JOVIAL. CACM, Volume 6, Number 12, December 1963, pages 721-736. Photocopy
  • C.J Shaw. A Comparative Evaluation of JOVIAL and Fortran IV. N-21169,
    internal working paper, System Development Corporation, January 7, 1964, 27
    pages. Blueprint.
  • E. Book, M. Bleier, and H. Bratman. The CORE Subset of the JOVIAL
    Language, TM-1682/002/00, System Development Corporation, January 7, 1964,
    13 pages. Blueprint. Inked annotation on cover notes that CORE is "Now
    called J5".
  • Ronald C. Houts. Considerations Leading to the Selection of JOVIAL for
    ADSAF Programming. Automatic Data Field Systems Command, Fort Huachuca,
    Arizona, September 1965.
  • Millard H. Perstein. Grammar and Lexicon for Basic JOVIAL.
    TM-555/005/01, System Development Corporation, July 4, 1968, 124 pages.

There were also a few NELIAC items, including:

  • C.J. Shaw. A Comparative Evaluation of JOVIAL and NELIAC. Field Note FN-6609, System Development Corporation, Santa Monica, California, June 5, 1962, 26 pages. Reprint, mimeograph.

Speaking of Algol 58 ;)

I never ran across Jovial, but I did spend a couple of years with its cousin, NELIAC. I've got some docs squirreled away somewhere, plus I grabbed a copy of the book a year or so ago. Fascinating language -- in a way, a lot like C or Forth. It was a high-level language, but you could escape down to the bare metal when you needed to. (And with 15-bit address spaces, you needed to. :)


Are you referring to Machine Independent Computer Programming by Halstead?

MAD (Michigan Algorithmic Decoder) is another descendant of Algol 58.

Wikipedia and Bitsavers have additional information on both.