When did a C compiler first become available for the IBM PC? I have fond memories of Turbo C, but that didn't become available until the mid to late eighties; it definitely wasn't the first one. Languages available at launch seem to have been Basic, assembly and a Pascal byte code system.

2 Answers 2


The first compiler for PC-DOS was Lattice C, released in June, 1982. This compiler was also distributed under license as Microsoft C v2.0. The Lattice C compiler was very popular and widely ported, available on several 1980s retrocomputers including Amiga, Atari ST, and Sinclair QL. The Lattice compiler was acquired by SAS Institute in 1987 and renamed SAS/C.

Watcom C was also popular and widely ported, but was not available for the PC until the late-1980s, around the same time as Borland's Turbo C.

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    I remember Watcom and Lattice. I know Digital Research had C (along with many other languages) for CP/M-86. I wonder if that might have have been available to run on the IBM PC earlier than Lattice, though for CP/M-86 and not for PC-DOS at the time. Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 23:59
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    DJGPP came much later (1989 I believe) but it was an amazing project. First 32-bit C compiler I ever used. Those were the days....
    – cbmeeks
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 14:38
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    @cbmeeks, same here. I had a copy that came free with a "Teach yourself C in 21 Days" book. I seem to remember enjoying using that compiler, can't really remember the details though.
    – Wossname
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 9:21
  • @Wossname I had that exact same book! In fact, I still may have it. :-) I loved that book. Almost as much as I loved the game programming book from Diana Gruber.
    – cbmeeks
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 13:06
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    "distributed under license as Microsoft C v2.0" What was MS C v1.0?
    – RonJohn
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 18:11

I worked for SAS when it acquired Lattice C in 1983. SAS needed a C compiler so it could port the SAS System to the IBM PC. I was part of a group whose job it was to create a "cross-compiler" that ran on IBM's CMS operating system but generated code for the IBM PC. I was experienced in CMS program development so my job was to write enough of the C standard library (memory management, I/O, etc.) to be able to run the compiler on CMS. Other members of the team included ex-Lattice employees who were familiar with code generation, etc.

SAS/C was a compiler that ran on IBM operating systems that could be used to create executables that ran on CMS and IBM's MVS (now Z/OS) O/S. We leased the compiler very successfully but eventually IBM created its own C compiler that eventually took over.

I worked on that product for 6 or 7 years. It was a lot of fun and I wrote some of the best code in my 30+ year career.

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    This is a very interesting anecdote, but I don't see how it answers the question which C compiler was the first to run on the IBM PC. You can edit your answer to expand on it. Please note that on Stack Exchange, answers should answer the question as asked. Supplementary, related material can be interesting, but doesn't replace the answer.
    – user
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 16:11
  • So you're saying the first compiler on the PC was SAS/C? Interesting, not one that I've heard of.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 19:08
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    I'm agreeing with mannaggia's answer. SAS bought Lattice C and from it, created SAS/C. As I said, SAS/C ran on IBM mainframe operating systems. Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 17:45

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