Thanks PO8, that's very interesting. I'll look into this more sometime.
Other people's accounts seem less optimistic about the other compilers that existed at the time. (RMS, Michael Tiemann, and others whose names I forget or don't know) I'll review those statements more critically next time.
Maybe those tools happened to work ok for your usage, but weren't good enough for larger/different projects? GNU was written in C, so it doesn't seem like the C++ frontend could be what made GCC important.
> Somebody would have, too, if
In all fairness, compiler development is littered with corpses of statements like this :-)
I think the fact that the GNU project actually did it, is what makes GNU special.