For questions about the history of programming and computing.

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3
votes
4answers
296 views

Why was Basic using line numbers?

Why were old Basics (and maybe other languages) using line numbers as part of the source code? I mean, what problems did it (try to) solve?
2
votes
0answers
80 views

What was the first mechanical Turing-complete machine ever constructed?

We know that Charles Babbage designed the first Turing-complete mechanical machine - the Analytical Engine - in the 1800s, but it was never actually built (not yet anyway). In recent history, at ...
9
votes
1answer
208 views

What is the origin of the C Preprocessor?

The C preprocessor is attached to C, but it has a completely different syntax from the main language: syntactically significant whitespace (end of line terminates a statement, gap after the macro ...
1
vote
1answer
100 views

What was the reason behind using quotes in Go's import statements?

The usage of quotes in Go's import statement strikes me as unnecessary. Typical Go import statements look like: import "foo/bar" import other_name "foo/bar" import ( "foo/bar" x "foo/baz/bar" ...
3
votes
1answer
152 views

What is the origin of “Program to an interface, not an implementation”? [closed]

What is the origin of "Program to an interface, not an implementation" -- does it originate from Design Patterns, 1994, by GoF, or from a computer scientist or from some concepts in computer science ...
4
votes
2answers
341 views

How and when did it happen that, a type is an interface?

I came from a highly functional and procedural background in programming, and never knew that a type is the same as an interface. As in the Design Patterns book by GoF, it says: A type is a name ...
-1
votes
1answer
117 views

Naming choice in Java — clone vs. copy [closed]

We have "copy constructor" but "clone method". This asymmetry in naming puzzles me -- does anyone know for what reason the method was not named "copy" (and interface per analogy "Copyable")? This ...
47
votes
3answers
3k views

What is the exact ingenuity of Unix pipe

I have heard the story of how Douglas Mcllroy came up with the concept and how Ken Thompson implemented it in one night. As far as I understand, pipe is a system call which shares a piece of memory ...
-1
votes
4answers
191 views

Which programming language (or machine language) first used line numbers?

Fortran II (1958) was recorded using line numbers, from what I can tell. For example, the first five columns of this IBM punch card are titled "statement number". Punch card from a typical Fortran ...
29
votes
3answers
716 views

Development process used for the code on Apollo 11 missions?

The Apollo missions had technology no more complicated than a pocket calculator. From link here, there's an information about Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) The on-board Apollo Guidance Computer ...
2
votes
2answers
131 views

Did labelled loops pre-date for loops?

Was the first implementation of looping control flow effectively the goto (or something like a labelled JMP in assembler) or was there another syntactic construction? for (für) was introduced in ...
29
votes
10answers
7k views

Why is Math.Sqrt() a static function?

In a discussion about static and instance methods, I always think, that Sqrt() should be a instance method of number types instead of a static method. Why is that? It obviously works on a value. // ...
3
votes
2answers
173 views

What was the first language to support convenient user-land recursion?

What was the first programming language to support convenient user-land recursion? I know that early languages did not support it, but can find no specifics on when it was introduced.
61
votes
6answers
8k views

Why is the minus sign, '-', generally not overloaded in the same way as the plus sign?

The plus sign + is used for addition and for string concatenation, but its companion: the minus sign, -, is generally not seen for trimming of strings or some other case other than subtraction. What ...
1
vote
1answer
142 views

What was the first programming language with Enumerations?

I'm reading about Swift enum's in the Swift Programming Language guide and the text was comparing the differences between Swift's enum and C's enum. This made me curious as to where enumerations came ...
1
vote
0answers
63 views

Where did the tradition of new releases on Christmas Day start? [closed]

Perl 6 is being released on Christmas Day this year. I'm familiar with Ruby having a history of releases on Christmas Day, going back as far as Ruby 1.0 in 1996 if not further. However, a quick scan ...
1
vote
1answer
354 views

History of VanillaJS

When did the trend of saying VanillaJS to refer to pure JavaScript come into widespread. Is the website Vanilla-js the discoverer of the term VanillaJS or was this term used even before the launch of ...
22
votes
5answers
3k views

Why do build tools use a scripting language different than underlying programming language?

I've recently been using some build tools for a Nodejs project at work when I realized that most languages' main build tool/system use a different language than the underlying programming language ...
7
votes
1answer
497 views

static globals and anonymous namespaces in C++

Why did C++ make any distinction between static globals (internal linkage) and symbols in an unnamed namespace (external linkage, but no way to refer to it from outside anyway), when introducing the ...
4
votes
2answers
131 views

Why does ISO 8859-1 contain letter-free diacritics?

ISO 8859-1 contains a few letter-free diacritics: The diaeresis (¨), the acute accent (´), the cedilla (¸) and the macron (¯).¹ Why were they included? As far as I know (please correct me if I am ...
20
votes
1answer
1k views

Why do arrays in .Net have Length but other collection types have Count? [closed]

In C# for example, arrays have Length property. But other collection types like lists, etc. have Count property. Is there a reason why these two are different? If so I would like to know.
16
votes
1answer
512 views

In what programming language did the use of the percent sign (%) to mean modulo/remainder originate?

In what programming language did the use of the percent sign (%) to mean modulo/remainder originate? This previous post1 explains that the symbol % was likely chosen because it includes a slash, ...
2
votes
3answers
581 views

Why Session has implemented this way in Asp.net

I'm not a Asp.net/C# developer myself but recently had to slightly refactor a Asp.net/C# project and I had to use Session at some point. When working with the session, regardless of the data type that ...
4
votes
1answer
251 views

Genesis of C++ temporary object lifetime extension

I'm revising a proposal to expand the C++ feature where "temporary" objects cease to be temporary when attached to a name by binding a reference. Here's a sample of the classic behavior (not the ...
7
votes
1answer
344 views

When was Java's 'qualified this' introduced?

I've only recently learned about the qualified this, and was curious as to when was it introduced in the language, as I've been using Java here and there for around 18 years. Oracle keeps only the ...
5
votes
4answers
347 views

When did Undefined Behavior in C jump the causality barrier

Some hyper-modern C compilers will infer that if a program will invoke Undefined Behavior when given certain inputs, such inputs will never be received. Consequently, any code which would be ...
7
votes
3answers
367 views

Origin of “a method should return a value or have side-effects, but not both”

I read once that a method should either have a return value (and be referentially transparent), or have side-effect(s), but not both. I cannot find any references to this rule, but want to learn more ...
0
votes
0answers
87 views

What flavor of MUMPS does InterSystems Caché descend from?

I've been reading through an old-ish book on MUMPS ("M Programming", by Walters) to try and get some historical perspective on the language. The book was published in 1997, and provides the following ...
9
votes
1answer
161 views

Why does Apache have two separate tools for build and dependency management?

Apache has two separate tools: Apache Maven Apache Ant + Apache Ivy They seem to both fill the same niche. I have two questions: What are the highlights of the main differences between the two ...
0
votes
2answers
266 views

Why can't I use an operator like plus sign to concatenate strings? [closed]

Why in Objective-C we should be typing explicit references to methods like stringByAppendingString to concatenate strings, when in some other languages we can use operators for that? For example, ...
2
votes
1answer
146 views

What is the etymology of the “dot” operator for string concatenation?

Some languages have a . operator for string concatenation. The oldest language I could find that supports it is Perl. Was Perl the first to use it? Why was it chosen?
3
votes
1answer
157 views

What was the date of the Java Alpha and Beta releases

The date of the public 1.0 release of Java is easy to find: January 23, 1996. But there were public Alpha and Beta releases before that, and in December 1995 Java already appeared on the list of Time ...
2
votes
0answers
197 views

Have any C compilers ever *defined* `unsigned short x=-3; x*=x;` to yield anything other than 9

In a C implementation where int can hold all values of type unsigned short, standard integer promotion rules dictate that given the code: unsigned short x=(USHORT_MAX+1)-3; // Or just -3 x*=x; a ...
3
votes
2answers
356 views

Why was the AT&T assembly syntax designed this way?

The AT&T assembly syntax, often called the GAS syntax, keeps surprising me. For example, its parameter order: mov $100,%eax /* Destination after source */ This just seems so counter-intuitive! ...
33
votes
6answers
2k views

Why was the Itanium processor difficult to write a compiler for?

It's commonly stated that Intel's Itanium 64-bit processor architecture failed because the revolutionary EPIC instruction set was very difficult to write a good compiler for, which meant a lack of ...
2
votes
2answers
89 views

What is the origin of the tag property in UI toolkits?

I've seen the tag property in all UI frameworks I worked with: UIKit, Forms, OpenStep, even Delphi 6. Was it in the original Macintosh Toolbox or Xerox's framework? WhAt was the original idea behind ...
9
votes
2answers
743 views

Why did programming languages start using = for assignment?

In most early algorithms books, <- referred to assignment and = referred to comparison. But nowadays the only languages that don't use = for assignment are Pascal (:=) and toy languages like COOL. ...
1
vote
1answer
187 views

What is the name/origin for this C code indentation style?

Look at the formatting of the variable declarations. I haven't encountered this indentation style in the past, but lately I stumbled upon two different code examples which use this style. Where does ...
36
votes
4answers
4k views

Why are structs and classes separate concepts in C#?

While programming in C#, I stumbled upon a strange language design decision that I just can't understand. So, C# (and the CLR) has two aggregate data types: struct (value-type, stored on the stack, ...
0
votes
1answer
165 views

Origin of the “array” term in computer science [closed]

Starting from this wikipedia page, and exploring the linked pages, I have tried to find the origins of the word "array" in the context of computer science. I have so far come nowhere, and am pursuing ...
6
votes
1answer
248 views

Why was the grave but not the acute accent included in ASCII?

While looking at the Unicode properties (code point, script, block, UTF-8 and UTF-16 encoding, etc.) of some characters, I stumbled upon major differences between ` ("GRAVE ACCENT") and ´ ("ACUTE ...
4
votes
2answers
415 views

How did people write end-user software in Smalltalk?

There is something I've never understood about Smalltalk, since reading about it in a book when I was a child, tho' I have never used it "in anger". I know that it is turtles-all-the-way-down, that ...
-3
votes
3answers
251 views

Are there any programming languages that don't descend from C? [closed]

I mean descend as in languages who's original compiler/interpreter was written in C or in a language that descends from C. If you don't count assembly, the only thing that comes to my mind is B. Are ...
-3
votes
1answer
193 views

Why are mostly 9999, 99999… are used for making comparisons [closed]

I (I am sure everyone else also) have always seen comparisons of some value to 999 or 9999 .... etc. for e.g.: in CSS z-index: 9999 or some times str.length < 99999 I wonder if there is some ...
3
votes
5answers
1k views

Why lambda/closures expressions came so late to C++?

I was reading a really great Bjarne Stroustrup's article where he exposes some C++ myths. I look at code that focus my attention, because I wouldn't know that C++ supports this kind of expressions. ...
5
votes
2answers
328 views

Where did the three tenets of OOP originate

It is easy to find the origin of the term OOP coined by Alan Kay when he created Smalltalk, but I can't find if when creating the language he also created the 3 tenets of OOP (Encapsulation, ...
4
votes
3answers
540 views

Why is Win32 API's WM_MOVE being called while dragging the window?

I have two callbacks for WM_MOVE and WM_MOVING. Oddly enough, WM_MOVE is being called while dragging the window. I expected WM_MOVE to be called only when I'm done dragging the window. MSDN says that ...
11
votes
4answers
1k views

Historical precedent for why Prolog is less popular than SQL in Imperative Programming? [closed]

It seems that writing Declarative SQL is very popular in Imperative Programming. However, it also seems that writing Declarative Prolog could save a lot of complexity but this is not very common. ...
0
votes
1answer
56 views

How can I determine which version of Python introduced a particular module to the std lib? [closed]

Is there a single timeline-style resource available showing the history of the modules available in different versions of Python? I'd like to, for instance, easily determine which version of Python ...
1
vote
1answer
378 views

Why does GCC use AT&T syntax by default?

I think title says it all :) Is there any particular practical reason (I guess it's mostly historic, but I'm unable to find it on my own) why GCC uses AT&T/GAS syntax? Note: I know this is just ...