Back in 1991, software engineers at MicroAPL in London, England were tasked with a challenge which at first they thought impossible: porting a large in-house application, written almost entirely in Motorola 68000 assembler, to run on the IBM RS/6000, a RISC-based architecture. And getting the ported software up and running in a matter of months.
They came up with an automated translation tool which originally was known by the unimaginative name of ‘CodeTran’. Unimaginative though the name might be, the automated tool worked, and worked well – by the Fall of 1991, the port was complete, and the performance and reliability of the translated code exceeded expectations.
Twenty years later, the code-translation technology which was born in that in-house project has grown and developed so that it now represents the company’s principal activity. The original code-translation tool, subsequently renamed PortAsm™ and greatly enhanced technically, was soon adopted by Apple Computer, Inc, to help with their transition from the 680x0 architecture to the PowerPC. This enabled dozens of high-profile applications to run native on the Power Macintosh range as soon as it was launched. Other versions of the tool were developed in response to demand from the embedded software sector, in mission-critical applications including telecoms equipment and high-end enterprise storage systems such as those used in banks and airline reservation systems.
The latest generation of MicroAPL’s porting tools is the Relogix™ Assembler to C translator. Launched in 2003, Relogix builds on the experience gained in the years since that original code translation tool was first developed. Richard Nabavi, MicroAPL’s Managing Director, commented:
"From that modest beginning twenty years ago, we have built a series of increasingly sophisticated code analysis and translation tools capable of porting large volumes of legacy code into modern, readable and maintainable source. The technical challenges have been immense, but by focusing firmly on that objective, our team has more than risen to those challenges. Modernization of legacy mainframe code is becoming an increasingly important part of our business, as customers seek to maximize technical advantage in the most cost-effective way, whilst retaining continuity with their existing business practices."