If you use Linux at all (and in many cases these days, even if you don’t), you have heard of the open source Linux compiler called GNU Compiler Collection, or GCC for short. It’s the most common compiler used, shipping with almost all distributions of Linux, and it’s actually older than Linux itself.
A compiler transforms one computer language into another, generally making the code executable and machine-readable. Way back in 1984, programmer Richard Stallman wrote a C compiler called GNU C Compiler. GNU stands for "GNU’s Not Unix," a common naming convention for hackers at the time.
Linus Torvalds announced that he was using GCC 1.40 in his new Linux operating system. The rest of that story is history.
Throughout the years, GCC has had many changes and additions. It’s been used by operating systems like OpenBSD and all Linux derivatives, and you can use it on anything from Microsoft Windows to Symbian. Even Apple’s XCode used GCC until recently. GCC is everywhere, and it is now the standard compiler for C, C++, and Fortran. It runs on anything from PowerPC processors to x86 to ARM.
GCC 4.7 includes a wide variety of updates and changes, including new features, subsets and standards. The addition of ARM support is huge for Linux on mobile systems, which is new with this release. Additional hardware support for new processors from Texas Instruments and National Semiconductor are also included.
For a look at all of the new changes and features of GCC 4.7, you can take a look at the changelog.
Whether you know it or not, GCC has probably affected how you go about your daily life with computers.
Jason Kennedy is an IBM-trained systems administrator turned writer interested in all things Linux, mobile, and science-related. He’s a curator of terrible sci-fi movie and book knowledge, and a reformed competitive FPS and MMO gamer. Find Jason on Twitter and Google+.