Celebrating their 40th anniversary, Adobe released the source code of PostScript v0.10 to the Computer History Museum. But before you ask, we tried and it won’t compile with GCC out of the box – it’s missing at least
except.h, but we’d bet you can hack around it with a little dedication.
PostScript is the precursor to PDF, and at the time it was revolutionary. Coming out of Xerox’s PARC, the idea was to create device- and resolution-independent documents where all the characters, symbols, and graphics are described by their shapes instead of bitmaps. PostScript’s secret sauce was in how it went back to a pixel-based representation for end use on monitors or printers. It’s no exaggeration to say that this ended up revolutionizing the print industry, and it makes sense in the CHM’s collection.
Still, on the trade-secret front, you shouldn’t get too excited. Apparently the code released here only includes a first-draft version of Adobe’s font hinting algos, as evidenced by the early version number. Nonetheless, you’re free to dig into pretty readable C. For instance,
vm.c contains the virtual machine that implements PostScript’s almost Forth-like language.
Of course, if you’d just like to mess around with PostScript, downloading a modern open-source interpreter like GhostScript probably makes a lot more sense. Even so, it’s fun to see the original codebase where it all started.