Universality versus Locality: The Amsterdam Style of Algol Implementation


In the 1950s, American and European computer programmers collaborated in an effort to combine the ideal of a machine-independent programming tool with the metaphor of language. This article elaborates on the tension between Algol’s aspired universality and necessary locality of working on a specific machine by contrasting the Amsterdam and Munich styles of programming. It also highlights the Algol controversy on recursive procedures and Edsger Dijkstra’s concept of a machine-independent object language.