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Source Code Control System (SCCS)
Original author(s)Marc J. Rochkind
Developer(s)Bell Labs
Initial release1973; 51 years ago (1973)[discuss]
Written inFirst version: SNOBOL4
Rewrite: C
Operating systemOS/360, Unix, Unix-like
PlatformIBM System/370, PDP-11, IA-32
TypeVersion control
Licenseproprietary licenses, Common Development and Distribution License
WebsiteThe Open Group Base Specifications Issue 7, IEEE Std 1003.1-2008, 2016 Edition

Source Code Control System (SCCS) is a version control system designed to track changes in source code and other text files during the development of a piece of software. This allows the user to retrieve any of the previous versions of the original source code and the changes which are stored. It was originally developed at Bell Labs beginning in late 1972 by Marc Rochkind for an IBM System/370 computer running OS/360.[1]

A characteristic feature of SCCS is the sccsid string that is embedded into source code, and automatically updated by SCCS for each revision.[2] This example illustrates its use in the C programming language:

 static char sccsid[] = "@(#)ls.c        8.1 (Berkeley) 6/11/93";

This string contains the file name, date, and can also contain a comment. After compilation, the string can be found in binary and object files by looking for the pattern @(#) and can be used to determine which source code files were used during compilation. The what command is available to automate this search for version strings.[3]


In 1972, Marc Rochkind developed SCCS in SNOBOL4 at Bell Labs for an IBM System/370 computer running OS/360 MVT.[1] He rewrote SCCS in the C programming language for use under UNIX, then running on a PDP-11, in 1973.

The first publicly released version was SCCS version 4 from February 18, 1977.[4] It was available with the Programmer's Workbench (PWB) edition of the operating system. Release 4 of SCCS was the first version that used a text-based history file format, earlier versions did use binary history file formats. Release 4 was no longer written or maintained by Marc Rochkind. Subsequently, SCCS was included in AT&T's commercial System III and System V distributions. It was not licensed with 32V, the ancestor to BSD.[5] The SCCS command set is now part of the Single UNIX Specification.

SCCS was the dominant version control system for Unix until later version control systems, notably the RCS and later CVS, gained more widespread adoption. Today, these early version control systems are generally considered obsolete, particularly in the open-source community, which has largely embraced distributed version control systems. However, the SCCS file format is still used internally by a few newer version control programs, including BitKeeper and TeamWare. The latter is a frontend to SCCS. Sablime Archived 2016-07-22 at the Wayback Machine has been developed from a modified version of SCCS[6] but uses a history file format that is incompatible with SCCS. The SCCS file format uses a storage technique called interleaved deltas (or the weave[7]). This storage technique is now considered by many version control system developers as foundational to advanced merging and versioning techniques,[8] such as the "Precise Codeville" ("pcdv") merge.

Apart from correcting Year 2000 problems in 1999, no active development has taken place on the various UNIX vendor-specific SCCS versions.[9] In 2006, Sun Microsystems (today part of Oracle) released their Solaris version of SCCS as open-source under the CDDL license as part of their efforts to open-source Solaris.[10]


The Source Code Control System (SCCS) is a system for controlling file and history changes. Software is typically upgraded to a new version by fixing bugs, optimizing algorithms and adding extra functions.[11] Changing software causes problems that require version control to solve.[1]

SCCS was built to solve these problems. SCCS from AT&T had five major versions for the IBM OS and five major versions for UNIX[12] Two specific implementations using SCCS are: PDP 11 under Unix and IBM 370 under the OS.[1]


SCCS consists of two parts: SCCS commands and SCCS files.[13] All basic operations (e.g., create, delete, edit) can be realized by SCCS commands.[13] SCCS files have a unique format prefix s., which is controlled by SCCS commands.[2]

SCCS files

An SCCS file consists of three parts:[14]

Delta table

In SCCS, a delta is a single revision in an SCCS file. Deltas are stored in a delta table, so each SCCS file has its own record of changes.[14]

Control and tracking flags in SCCS files

Every operation of each SCCS file is tracked by flags. Their functions are as below:[14]


SCCS uses three types of control records for keeping track of insertions and deletions applied in different deltas. They are the insertion control record, the deletion control record, and the end control record. Whenever a user changes some part of the text, a control record is inserted surrounding the change. The control records are stored in the body along with the original text records.[1]

SCCS basic commands

SCCS provides a set of commands in the form of macro invocations that perform or initiate source code management functions with a simple syntax, such as create, get, edit, prt.[15][16] It also provides access to the revision history of files under management. These commands are implemented as argument verbs to the driver program sccs.


The sccs command create uses the text of a source file to create a new history file. For example:

$ sccs create program.c
87 lines

The outputs are name, version and lines.

The command is a macro that expands to admin to create the new history file followed by get to retrieve the file.


$ sccs edit program.c
new delta 1.2
87 lines

Edit a specific file.

The command is a macro that expands to get -e.


$ sccs delget program.c
comments? main function enhanced
10 inserted
0 deleted
87 unchanged
97 lines

Check in new version and get the new version from sccs.

The command is a macro that expands to delta to check in the new version file followed by get to retrieve the file.


$ sccs get program.c
87 lines

The outputs are version and lines you want to get from specific file.


$ sccs prt program.c

This command produces a report of source code changes.


UNIX SCCS versions

Most UNIX versions include a version of SCCS, which, however, is often no longer actively developed.[17][better source needed]

Jörg Schilling's fork

The late Jörg Schilling [de] (who requested the release of SCCS in the early days of the OpenSolaris project)[18] maintained a fork of SCCS[19][20] that is based on the OpenSolaris source code. It has received major feature enhancements but remains compatible with the original SCCS versions unless using the "new project" mode.[21]

Heirloom Project

The Heirloom Project includes a version of SCCS derived from the OpenSolaris source code[22] and maintained between December 2006 and April 2007.[23]

GNU conversion utility

GNU offers the SCCS compatible program GNU CSSC ("Compatibly Stupid Source Control"), which is occasionally used to convert SCCS archives to newer systems like CVS or Subversion;[24] it is not a complete[25] SCCS implementation and not recommended for use in new projects, but mostly meant for converting to a modern version control system.

Other version control systems

Since the 1990s, many new version control systems have been developed and become popular that are designed for managing projects with a large number of files and that offer advanced functionality such as multi-user operation, access control, automatic building, network support, release management and distributed version control. Bitkeeper and TeamWare use the SCCS file format internally and can be considered successors to SCCS.[26][27]

On BSD systems, the SCCSID is replaced by a RCSID starting and ending with $; the corresponding tool is ident.[28] This system is originally used by RCS and added automatically on checkout. The resulting source code revision control identifiers are documented in the NetBSD[29] and FreeBSD[30] style guides for their own code bases. NetBSD defines the custom keyword $NetBSD: ...$ while FreeBSD defines $FreeBSD: ...$ and a macro renamed __FBSDID.

The SRC version control system can also use the SCCS file format internally (or RCS's) and aims to provide a better user interface for SCCS while still managing only single-file projects.[31]


  1. ^ a b c d e Rochkind, Marc J. (December 1975), "The Source Code Control System" (PDF), IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, vol. SE-1, no. 4, pp. 364–370, doi:10.1109/tse.1975.6312866, S2CID 10006076, archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-05-25, retrieved 2005-07-08
  2. ^ a b Oracle. "Chapter 5 SCCS Source Code Control System". Programming Utilities Guide.
  3. ^ "what". IEEE and The Open Group. n.d. Retrieved November 28, 2022.
  4. ^ AT&T Announcement for SCCSv4
  5. ^ SCCS what(1) manpage from 4BSD, 1980, on the website of The Unix Heritage Society Archived 2005-08-31 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Estublier, Jacky, David Leblang, André van der Hoek, Reidar Conradi, Geoffrey Clemm, Walter Tichy, and Darcy Wiborg-Weber. “Impact of software engineering research on the practice of software configuration management.” ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology (TOSEM) 14 (October 2005): 383–430.
  7. ^ Hudson, Greg (2002-10-03), Notes on keeping version histories of files, Unpublished personal notes
  8. ^ Estublier, Jacky, David Leblang, André van der Hoek, Reidar Conradi, Geoffrey Clemm, Walter Tichy, and Darcy Wiborg-Weber. “Impact of software engineering research on the practice of software configuration management.” ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology (TOSEM) 14 (October 2005): p.398.
  9. ^ What is SCCS, GNU operating System
  10. ^ Stephen Lau, Sun Microsystems (2006-12-19). "SCCS/make source available". Archived from the original on April 25, 2012. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
  11. ^ Home Organization Selection ProQuest 215925387
  12. ^ The evolution of a Source Code Control System. Alan L.Glasser, published in sigmetrics, Nov 1978 when SCCS on UNIX was a version 4
  13. ^ a b "SCCS". Retrieved 2016-09-12.
  14. ^ a b c IBM (7 June 2018). "General Programming Concepts: Writing and Debugging Programs". IBM Knowledge Center.
  15. ^ An Introduction to the Source Code Control System Eric Allman, Project Ingres, University of California at Berkeley
  16. ^ Source Code Control System Programming Utilities Guide
  17. ^ Koike, Hideki, and Hui-Chu Chu. "VRCS: Integrating version control and module management using interactive three-dimensional graphics." Visual Languages, 1997. Proceedings. 1997 IEEE Symposium on. IEEE, 1997.
  18. ^ "os.solaris.opensolaris.rfe - Re: star - msg#00001 - Recent Discussion". Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  19. ^ Jörg Schilling's SCCS development website
  20. ^ "A collection of tools written or formerly managed by Jörg Schilling". Codeberg. 22 October 2022. Retrieved 28 November 2022. development has been picked up by a group of volunteers who would like to keep the project alive and well
  21. ^ Schily SCCS web site: "Will the upcoming SCCSv6 stay compatible with POSIX and with historic SCCS implementations?"
  22. ^ Gunnar Ritter (20 June 2010). "The Heirloom Development Tools". Retrieved 4 November 2011.
  23. ^ see CVS history
  24. ^ SCCS2SVN conversion utility Archived 2009-12-22 at the Wayback Machine, which works with both SCCS and CSSC
  25. ^ GNU CSSC list of limitations in its documentation
  26. ^ "revtool". BitKeeper Documentation.
  27. ^ "Introduction to Sun WorkShop TeamWare". Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  28. ^ ident(1) – NetBSD General Commands Manual
  29. ^ "src/share/misc/style revision 1.64". NetBSD CVS repository.
  30. ^ style(9) – FreeBSD Kernel Developer's Manual
  31. ^ "Resource page for src 1.29". January 21, 2022. Retrieved November 28, 2022.

Further reading