What is the Forth programming language?

Forth is a computer language originally designed for embedded and real-time applications. Versions are available for Windows, DOS, and variants of Unix, and commercial-grade Forth cross compilers support many microprocessors and microcontrollers.

Forth enjoys the grass-roots support of both language theorists and real-world problem solvers. Their work (and, often, generous advice) can be found online.



The SwiftXembedded systems development environment provides a method of creating compact, fast applications that run on 8-, 16- and 32-bit microcontrollers.

The SwiftForth™ development environment for creating Windows-based applications provides that same efficiency and compactness, along with access to all Windows callbacks and other functions.


Forth Programmer's Handbook — a technical reference manual

Forth Application Techniques — introductory textbook with many exercises and examples

Starting FORTH by Leo Brodie (online edition) — a classic Forth tutorial since its first release more than 20 years ago


Origins: Forth was developed in the early 1970s at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, where it was used for radio telescope control, on-line data acquisition, and data analysis. Its author, Charles H. Moore, designed it from the ground up; it wasn't based directly on pre-existing languages, though it took concepts from many.

Historical Detail: "The Evolution of Forth" describes Forth's beginnings and follows its subsequent evolution through decades of intensive use in diverse application domains.

Forth gives you…

Forth is not an assembler, it is a high-level language (although most versions also include an assembler for the target processor). However, it does not really resemble most other high-level programming language. Forth is characterized by an interactive programming style, which dramatically shortens development times, and by extremely small target program size.

Forth provides you with concise, powerful tools to help make optimal use of your system's resources. New users may find Forth's brevity, directness, and apparent simplicity unusual; but soon they're creating custom data structures on the fly and defining new operators, literally extending the language to address the requirements of their application and the characteristics of their hardware.

Innovative tools can inspire innovative solutions.
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Many experienced Forth programmers have reported that the language frees them to think in terms of the solution instead of the tool, that it is expressive enough to encourage original, elegant solutions without penalty and without undue constraint. (Some have even said their use of Forth made them better programmers in other languages.)

Make this your time to learn about Forth. You will find distinguishing characteristics that make it ideal as an embedded systems development environment like SwiftX. And you'll be able to verify that, time after time, Forth earns its reputation for rapid development, lean code, and superb performance.

Forth is not widely taught in universities, but is easy to learn if you have a programming background. The Forth Programmer's Handbook, included in electronic form with every FORTH, Inc. system, is a good general Forth manual. Paper copies of this and other books are available from FORTH, Inc. Also, Forth programming classes are offered regularly at our facilities, and can be given at your site as well.