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This has always racked my brain. Compilers compile code. I imagine that the compiler is coded. So to actually run the code for a compiler, you'd have to compile it.

How was the first compiler compiled?

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It's like understanding recursion, you have to first understand recursion. –  Urda Apr 25 '10 at 20:26
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up vote 16 down vote accepted

The first compiler was written in assembly for the A-0 programming language in 1952. See Wikipedia for more info.

The first compiler that could compile itself was written for and in Lisp in 1962. This is called a self-hosting or bootstrapping compiler.

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For a long time, many programs (including compilers) were written directly in machine code or in assembly language. –  grawity Apr 25 '10 at 12:48
    
As a note, gcc has an interesting bootstrap. You compile a minimal gcc with the system compiler, then use this minimal gcc to compile "big" gcc, then use this "big" gcc to compile another "big" gcc so you can confirm the whole thing worked. –  Rich Homolka Jun 26 '12 at 22:08
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