Hello World in ALGOL 68

Published on 31 December 2018 (Updated: 02 May 2020)

Hello World in ALGOL 68

Welcome back to another installment in the Hello World in Every Language series. Today, we’re tackling Hello World in ALGOL 68.

How to Implement the Solution

Without further ado, let’s implement Hello World in ALGOL 68:

printf(($gl$, "Hello, World!"))

Now, I believe we can actually shorten this implementation to look identical to the Python implementation. But, that wouldn’t be too interesting. Instead, we opted to use a printf solution to show off a couple of features.

If you’re unfamiliar with printf, it’s typically a version of the print function which allows for string formatting. Unfortunately, that’s about where the similarities end. In ALGOL 68, the syntax for formatting text is about as bizarre as I’ve ever seen. Luckily, we have a simple example: $gl$.

In this example, everything between the dollar signs is considered a format string. In this case, we have two characters: g and l.

Since we’re formatting strings, one of those tokens will be replaced by our “Hello, World!” string. In this case, it’s g. As for l, that’s actually the newline token — something we haven’t paid a lot of attention to in this series. When put together, “Hello, World!” will print to the console.

Another interesting bit about this program is the fact that we have double parentheses that almost look redundant. But make no mistake, they’re important:

1     printf($gl$, "Hello, World!")
a68g: error: 1: incorrect number of arguments for PROC ([] "SIMPLOUT") VOID (detected in particular-program).

To be honest, I don’t understand the error. My best guess is printf requires an array of arguments. Whereas, the varargs solution I’m proposing issues the format string and “Hello, World!” as separate arguments. Fortunately, James Jones has a great explanation for this.

How to Run Solution

Perhaps the easiest way to run the solution is to use an online ALGOL 68 editor. If we copy the solution above into the editor, we can hit execute to run it.

Alternatively, we have the option to install an ALGOL 68 interpreter. Apparently, there is a limited ALGOL 68 Genie interpreter which should get the job done. After all, it’s the same interpreter the online solution uses. Feel free to leverage the documentation.

Further Reading