I Stitched a Sequin onto Elvis’ Coat…

Well, i did the equivalent thing in the C++ world. Back in 1986 and 1987 I worked in the C++ group at Bell Labs. I was trying to debug my program, but could not understand what I was seeing from the linker–mangled symbol names generated by cfront. The documentation I was reading said I could use the demangler to figure out what the output meant, but I could not find it. In frustration I sent out an email to the group and got a message back from Bjarne Stroustrup saying something like, “It hasn’t been written yet, would you like to write it?”

The program I created was called c++filt. The way it worked was to read standard input and try to demangle every c identifier it found. This meant we could fix the output from the linker without actually hacking it in any way. It seems that there is still a program floating around called c++filt and it works mostly the same way. I was never able to prove that I did this until recently, when a co-worker, Bryce Leblach, found a reference to me on page 197 of the AT&T documentation from cfront. Okay, so I didn’t invent C++ or any important language feature, but I did make a tiny contribution to the history of the language, one little glittering sequin on the dazzling C++ coat.

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