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The Amsterdam Compiler Kit

                 THE AMSTERDAM COMPILER KIT V6.1pre1

              © 1987-2005 Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam


The Amsterdam Compiler Kit is a complete compiler toolchain consisting of front end compilers for a number of different languages, code generators, support libraries, and all the tools necessary to go from source code to executable on any of the platforms it supports.

This is an early prerelease of the apocryphal version 6.1 release. Not a lot is supported, the build mechanism needs work, and a lot of things are probably broken. However, what’s there should be sufficient to get things done and to evaluate how the full 6.1 release should work.



ANSI C, Pascal, Modula 2, Basic. K&R is supported via the ANSI C compiler.


pc86 produces bootable floppy disk images for 8086 PCs linux386 produces ELF executables for PC Linux systems linux68k produces ELF executables for m68020 Linux systems cpm produces i80 CP/M .COM files rpi produces Raspberry Pi GPU binaries


The version 5.0 build mechanism has been completely rewritten. Installation ought to be fairly straightforward.


  • an ANSI C compiler. This defaults to gcc. You can change this by setting the CC make variable.

  • flex and yacc.

  • GNU make.

  • Lua 5.1 and the luaposix library (used by the build system).

  • (optionally) ninja; if you’ve got this, this will be autodetected and give you faster builds.

  • about 40MB free in /tmp (or some other temporary directory).

  • about 6MB in the target directory.


  • edit the Makefile. There’s a small section at the top where you can change the configuration. Probably the only one you may want to edit is PREFIX, which changes where the ACK installs to.

  • Run:


…from the command line. This will do the build.

The make system is fully parallelisable. If you have a multicore system, install ninja and it’ll use all your cores. If you don’t have ninja, you can still use make for parallel builds with:

make MAKEFLAGS='-r -j8'   # or however many cores you have

…but frankly, I recommend ninja.

  • Run:

    sudo make install

…from the command line. This will install the ACK in your PREFIX directory (by default, /usr/local).

The ACK should now be ready to use.


Currently I haven’t sorted out all the documentation — it’s supplied in the distribution, but not all of it gets installed yet — so here is a quickstart guide.

The main command to use is ‘ack’. This invokes the compiler and the linker. Some useful options include:

-m build for the specified platform -o specifies the output file -c produce a .o file -c.s produce a .s assembly file -O enable optimisation (optimisation levels go up to 6) -ansi compile ANSI C (when using the C compiler) -v be more verbose (repeatable) build file

ack figures out which language to use from the file extension:

.c C (ANSI or K&R) .b Basic .mod Modula-2 .ocm Occam 1 .p Pascal .o object files .s assembly files .e ACK intermediate code assembly files

For further information, see the man page (which actually does get installed, but is rather out of date).

There are some (known working) example programs in the ‘examples’ directory. A sample command line is:

ack -mlinux386 -O examples/paranoia.c


There are some things you should be aware of.

  • Look at plat//README for information about the supported platforms.

  • The library support is fairly limited; for C, it’s at roughly the ANSI C level, and for the other languages it’s similar.

  • When compiling languages other than C, the ACK will usually look at the first character of the file. If it’s a #, then the file will be run through the C preprocessor anyway.

  • BSD systems may need to up the number of file descriptors (e.g. ‘ulimit -n 200’) before the ACK will compile.

  • The ACK uses its own .o format. You won’t be able to mix the ACK’s object files and another compiler’s.

  • The distribution contains everything, including the weird, ancient, archaic stuff that doesn’t work any more and never will, such as the int EM interpreter and the assembler-linkers. Only some of it builds. Look for build.lua files.


The ACK is mature, well-tested software, but the environment in which it was developed for and tested under is rather different from that available on today’s machines. There will probably be little in the way of logical bugs, but there may be many compilation and API bugs.

If you wish to use the ACK, please join the mailing list. We are interested in any reports of success and particularly, failure. If it does fail for you, we would love to know why, in as much detail as possible. Bug fixes are even more welcome.

The ACK is licensed under a BSD-like license. Please see the ‘Copyright’ file for the full text.

You can find the mailing list on the project’s web site:

Please enjoy.

David Given (dtrg on Sourceforge) [email protected] 2016-08-02

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