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What was the first program that was created as a dedicated IDE? That is, purpose built for coding, rather than simply allowing integration as part of its expansion options.

This is opposed to a text editor that has generic plugin/add-in/shell features that are were not dedicated to development work.

The features I am thinking about that would qualify an editor as an IDE:

  • Code highlighting
  • Integrated compiler invocation (with error reporting)
  • Code navigation features
  • (optionally) integrated debugger

Sub question - what was the first Visual IDE? (by which I mean with an integrated GUI designer).

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Removed "+1" after I saw that you could have looked up that easily on Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrated_development_environment –  Doc Brown May 24 '12 at 11:30
Nitpick: Wikipedia's claim that "Dartmouth BASIC was the first language to be created with an IDE" is unsourced. If someone can find good references for that, they won't be just providing the correct answer here but they could also fix the Wikipedia article. –  Yannis Rizos May 24 '12 at 11:35
As I said you can assign it, if in full gui one can easily write a little plugin/vimscript that assigns it to the menus. Several such plugins exist which is how modern IDE's often handle various compilers... –  ewanm89 May 24 '12 at 12:22
When you say "Integrated compiler invocation" do you mean the IDE ships with its own integrated compiler, possibly produced by the same vendor as the IDE? I suppose that would exclude most editors (like Vim), but that could also be argued as an artificial constraint if Vim (and others) make the integration with external compiler appear to be seamless. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner May 24 '12 at 14:45
@FrustratedWithFormsDesigner - I wanted to exclude editors that were not primarily created for coding (so VIM, VI and EMACS for instance, would be excluded). I meant purpose built. –  Oded May 24 '12 at 16:09
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3 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I'd nominate dBase II which appeared in 1979. It had integrated compilation and code editing/navigation and debugging. No code highlighting though - but I don't regard that as a prerequisite for making something an IDE, personally.

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How common were displays that could show multiple colours back then? I guess syntax highlighting would be dependent on that. Except for highlighting that changes fonts and styles instead - was that ever commonly used on monochrome systems instead? –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner May 24 '12 at 16:12
Color on PCs was rare until the PC-AT (1984). Black on white was common for highlighting menus etc. copied from mainframe terminals. In early PCs the fonts were actually in hardware on the graphics card –  Martin Beckett May 24 '12 at 16:21
dBase 2 and other similar things of the time worked on serial terminals, where you could use colour (eg VT100 derivatives) as well as various forms of highlighting. The big thing in the late 70's / early 80's was to get away from black and white, to either green and black (the famous IBM green screen being the precursor there) and for a while Amber and black was very big. –  quickly_now Apr 22 '13 at 5:54
Those old screens could vary the intensity of text (or invert it, or make it flash, though you wouldn't want to code much with either of those!) but you might typically save that sort of thing for mode lines/status bars/etc. because those were not part of the file being edited. –  Donal Fellows Apr 22 '13 at 10:21
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According to Wikipedia, the first language that was specifically created together with an IDE for that language was Dartmouth BASIC in 1964. However, that probably depends on your definition of "IDE". The way LISP development is done, and LISP is typically implemented, there is really no distinction between the language and the IDE, so I wouldn't be surprised to find examples earlier than that.

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See my comment to the question. –  Yannis Rizos May 24 '12 at 11:35
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IBM's Interactive System Productivity Facility (ISPF).

Copying from wikipedia:

ISPF primarily provides an IBM 3270 terminal interface with a set of panels. Each panel may include menus and dialogs to run tools on the underlying Time Sharing Option (TSO). Generally, these panels just provide a convenient interface to do tasks—most of them execute modules of IBM mainframe utility programs to do the actual work. ISPF is frequently used to manipulate z/OS data sets via its Program Development Facility named ISPF/PDF, where PDF refers to Program Development Facility.

SPF was developed and sold in the late 1970's. ISPF was sold in the early 1980's. I think the minicomputer emulators of ISPF mentioned in Wikipedia, like SPFPC, were sold in the late 1980's. The first time I actually used ISPF was 1982. Before that, I worked with minicomputers in the oil and gas industry.

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Year? 1980? Wikipedia unclear on this –  Warren P Jun 14 '12 at 0:01
@Warren P: SPF was developed and sold in the late 1970's. ISPF was sold in the early 1980's. I think the minicomputer emulators of ISPF mentioned in Wikipedia, like SPFPC, were sold in the late 1980's. The first time I actually used ISPF was 1982. Before that, I worked with minicomputers in the oil and gas industry. –  Gilbert Le Blanc Jun 14 '12 at 12:06
would you mind explaining more on what it does and what it's good for? "Link-only answers" are not quite welcome at Stack Exchange –  gnat Apr 20 '13 at 7:44
SPF / ISPF allowed code editing + integration with the compilers, generally FORTRAN and perhaps PL/1, though the integration was very limited. For example, tracking back through interactively generated compiler errors was not very easy. Running a batch compilation and using split-screen mode did allow browsing the compilation listing in 1/2 the screen and doing editing in the other 1/2. This was common through the late 1970's and into the early 1980's (at least). –  quickly_now Apr 22 '13 at 5:57
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