<operating system, programming> The ease with which a piece of software
(or file format) can be "ported", i.e. made to run on a new platform and/or
compile with a new compiler.
The most important factor is the language in which the software is written and
the most portable language is almost certainly C (though see Vaxocentrism for
counterexamples). This is true in the sense that C compilers are available for
most systems and are often the first compiler provided for a new system. This
has led several compiler writers to compile other languages to C code in order
to benefit from its portability (as well as the quality of compilers available
The least portable type of language is obviously assembly code since it is
specific to one particular (family of) processor(s). It may be possible to
translate mechanically from one assembly code (or even machine code) into
another but this is not really portability. At the other end of the scale would
come interpreted or semi-compiled languages such as LISP or Java which rely on
the availability of a portable interpreter or virtual machine written in a lower
level language (often C for the reasons outlined above).
The act or result of porting a program is called a "port". E.g. "I've nearly
finished the Pentium port of my big bang simulation."
Portability is also an attribute of file formats and depends on their adherence
to standards (e.g. ISO 8859) or the availability of the relevant "viewing"
software for different platforms (e.g. PDF).
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