Forth system in Julia
Author tgvaughan
15 Stars
Updated Last
11 Months Ago
Started In
April 2016


A hobby implementation of a forth system atop the Julia scientific computing language. It will almost certainly never be useful for any purpose besides that which it has already fulfilled: forcing me to think quite carefully about how forth works.

This package owes a massive debt to the existence of the literate programming project JonesForth, which was an amazing read. To a large degree my package is simply a port of that project from x86 assembly + forth to julia + forth, although the mapping is in a few places non-trivial due to the fact that julia is a high level language. During the bootstrapping process, a huge proportion (say 80%) of the library code in src/lib.4th was directly copied from JonesForth. (The fact that it was possible to reuse this code was satisfying in its own right!) Since that time I've added a significant number of core definitions and modified some of the others with the eventual aim of F83 compliance (discussed below).

There's quite a lot to say about the implementation, especially due to its high-level grounding, but that will have to wait for another time.


forth.jl is not (and probably will never be) a registered julia package. To install it, you will therefore need to use the following command from the Julia package manager (accessed using the ] key):

(v1.0) pkg> add

Be aware that forth.jl requires Julia 1.0.


To start the interpreter/compiler running, simply enter the following at the julia prompt:

julia> import forth

The first thing the interpreter will do is compile the core definitions in the library file. Once this is complete you can start entering forth commands:

: star 42 emit ;  ok
star * ok

There's an example Mandelbrot Set drawing program included in the examples directory. To run it, use the INCLUDE-LIB word to open the file and compile its definitions:

include-lib ../examples/mandelbrot.4th
Enter 'mandel' to draw the Mandelbrot Set. ok
                                                      ***     ********************              
                                                       ****************************** ****      
                              **    *            *******************************************    
                              *************    *********************************************    
                           ******************  ********************************************     
                           ******************* ********************************************     
     **    *     *  *******************************************************************         
                           ******************* *******************************************      
                            *****************  ********************************************     
                              *************     ********************************************    
                              **    *           ********************************************    
                                                       ****************************** ****      
                                                       **     ********************              

(INCLUDE-LIB is exactly like INCLUDE, but includes files relative to thte platform-dependent forth.jl src/ directory.) To exit, enter ^D on a blank line or use the BYE word.

FORTH-83 Compliance

One of my goals has been to have forth.jl contain as much of the F83 required word set as makes sense given the underlying VM. (Actually, my main goal goes a bit beyond this: I want to forth.jl to be, with a couple of exceptions, compatible with the description of forth contained in the second edition of Leo Brodie's book "Starting Forth".) I'm fairly happy with my progress so far. Of the 131 required F83 words, only 20 remain unimplemented. These words fall into two categories: those I may possibly implement at some point, and those that I do not intend to ever implement for reasons of obsolescence or incompatibility with the design of the VM.

F83 Words that may be implemented someday

# #> #S -TRAILING <#

These words all have to do with number to string conversion, something I've not been interested in enough yet to get on top of.

F83 Words that won't be implemented


These words don't make sense to implement. The double-length integer words are useless because the smallest unit of memory in our VM is a full 64 bit integer. For the same reason, there's no point in dealing with unsigned values just to gain access to another bit. The block I/O words don't make sense because we have access to a filesystem via the OS.


This package is free software and is distributed under version 3.0 of the GNU General Public License, which may be found in the file LICENSE in this directory.