For questions about the history of programming and computing.

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24
votes
3answers
7k views

How could the first C++ compiler be written in C++?

Stroustrup claims that Cfront, the first C++ compiler, was written in C++ (Stroustrup FAQ). However, how is it even possible that the first C++ compiler be written in C++? The code that makes up the ...
41
votes
8answers
4k views

Why a static main method in Java and C#, rather than a constructor?

I’m Looking for a definitive answer from a primary or secondary source for why (notably) Java and C# decided to have a static method as their entry point, rather than representing an application ...
255
votes
4answers
96k views

What software programming languages were used by the Soviet Union's space program?

I got interested in the Soviet space program and was interested to discover that the software on the Buran spacecraft circa 1988 was written in Prolog. Does anyone know what languages might have ...
58
votes
13answers
8k views

Why is 0 false?

This question may sound dumb, but why does 0 evaluates to false and any other [integer] value to true is most of programming languages? String comparison Since the question seems a little bit too ...
17
votes
2answers
4k views

What's the history of the non-official pronunciation of SQL?

SQL is officially pronounced as /ˌɛskjuːˈɛl/ like "S-Q-L", as stated in Beaulieu, Alan (April 2009). Mary E. Treseler. ed. Learning SQL (2nd ed.). Sebastapol, CA, USA: O'Reilly. ISBN ...
46
votes
3answers
4k views

So what *did* Alan Kay really mean by the term “object-oriented”?

Reportedly, Alan Kay is the inventor of the term "object oriented". And he is often quoted as having said that what we call OO today is not what he meant. For example, I just found this on Google: ...
13
votes
5answers
1k views

Why is filesystem preferred for logs instead of RDBMS?

Question should be clear from its title. For example Apache saves its access and error logs in files instead of RDBMS no matter on how large or small scale it is being utilized. For RDMS we just have ...
3
votes
2answers
436 views

History of Associative Array?

In quite a lot of modern scripting languages (e.g. Perl, Python, Ruby, PHP, Lua, JavaScript), associative arrays are supported as a primitive or first-class data type (with various names like map, ...
256
votes
9answers
58k views

Why is 80 characters the 'standard' limit for code width?

Why is 80 characters the "standard" limit for code width? Why 80 and not 79, 81 or 100? What is the origin of this particular value?
66
votes
19answers
4k views

Has any language become greatly popular for something other than its intended purpose?

Take this scenario: A programmer creates a language to solve some problem. He then releases this language to help others solve problems like it. Another programmer discovers it's actually much ...
48
votes
6answers
9k views

Who created the idea(s) of the first loop constructs?

while (1) { if (1+1==2) { print "Yes, you paid attention in Preschool!"; } else { print "Wait... I thought 1+1=2"; } } As a developer, we all have to use ...
13
votes
1answer
3k views

What did they call Object-Oriented Programming before Alan Kay invented the term?

Alan Kay claims that "I made up the term "object-oriented", and I can tell you I did not have C++ in mind." What he had in mind, of course, was Smalltalk. But he did not make up object-oriented ...
20
votes
12answers
3k views

How did JavaScript become popular?

In ancient history, Brendan Eich had a language design, and in today's world, JavaScript is a popular language implemented and used in many different places. What caused the language to become ...
15
votes
3answers
3k views

Who was the first programmer?

Is there some consensus among historians on who was the first programmer ever? If so, who was it and what were they programming on? I find it more interesting to know more about the pioneers of ...
13
votes
3answers
935 views

Pure virtual or abstract, what's in a name?

While discussing a question about virtual functions on Stack Overflow, I wondered whether there was any official naming for pure (abstract) and non-pure virtual functions. I always relied on ...
7
votes
7answers
9k views

What was the first programming language written for computers? [closed]

Looking at so many programming languages we have today, each one being unique in it's own way, I've tried to figure out what the first programming language written for computers is. Looking at the ...
21
votes
2answers
1k views

Who designed exceptions?

Where did exceptions and exception handling come from? I like how .NET uses it, I like how C++ supports it (but libraries unfortunately use return code or is written in C instead). I know its pretty ...
11
votes
2answers
720 views

When was source control invented?

I'm aware of many version control systems: CVS, SVN, TFS etc... I've googled for the very first "revision control/version control system" and seen various conflicting answers. When was source ...
6
votes
3answers
1k views

What was the historical impact of Ariane 5's Flight 501?

The disintegration of the Ariane 5 rocket 37 seconds after launch on her maiden voyage (Flight 501) is commonly referred to as one of the most expensive software bugs in history1: It took the ...
85
votes
14answers
15k views

What triggered the popularity of lambda functions in modern mainstream programming languages?

In the last few years anonymous functions (AKA lambda functions) have become a very popular language construct and almost every major / mainstream programming language has introduced them or is ...
61
votes
1answer
3k views

What task did Dijkstra give volunteers, which was mentioned in his paper “The Humble Programmer”?

In Dijkstra's paper "Humble Programmer", he mentions that he gave some volunteers a problem to solve: “I have run a little programming experiment with really experienced volunteers, but something ...
67
votes
3answers
22k views

Why do programming languages, especially C, use curly braces and not square ones?

The definition of "C-Style language" can practically be simplified down to "uses curly braces ({})." Why do we use that particular character (and why not something more reasonable, like [], which ...
49
votes
11answers
14k views

Why has C prevailed over Pascal?

My understanding is that in the 1980s, and perhaps in the 1990s too, Pascal and C were pretty much head-to-head as production languages. Is the ultimate demise of Pascal only due to Borland's neglect ...
3
votes
6answers
4k views

Why was Objective-C popularity so sudden on TIOBE index?

I'd like to ask a question that is pretty similar to the one being asked here, but for Objective-C. According to TIOBE rankings, the rise of popularity of Objective-C is unprecedented. This is ...
12
votes
6answers
2k views

What is the philosophy/reasoning behind C#'s Pascal-casing method names?

I'm just starting to learn C#. Coming from a background in Java, C++ and Objective-C, I find C#'s Pascal-casing its method-names rather unique, and a tad difficult to get used to at first. What is the ...
11
votes
1answer
760 views

Why did object-oriented paradigms take so long to go mainstream?

I read this question and it got me thinking about another fairly recent thing. Object oriented languages. I'm not sure when the first one was created, but why did it take so long before they became ...
16
votes
5answers
686 views

How did programmers work back when a computer was very expensive, rare, as big as a room?

I assume they weren't able to sit in front of a computer for the whole day like we do today. So how did they write their program? On a piece of paper and type it later when the computer is available? ...
10
votes
6answers
3k views

Are Java's public fields just a tragic historical design flaw at this point?

It seems to be Java orthodoxy at this point that one should basically never use public fields for object state. (I don't necessarily agree, but that's not relevant to my question.) Given that, would ...
6
votes
4answers
2k views

Who was the first software engineer?

It's fairly well known who the first programmer was but who was or were the first software engineer(s)? By software engineer I mean someone who uses formalized specifications and methods to deliver ...
2
votes
1answer
232 views

Is there genetic relationship between ARM and PDP-11 architectures?

Reading about ARM architecture I found many similarities to PDP-11 architecture which did not exist between ARM and x86. For example, General-purpose registers named Rx compared to AX, BX,... for ...
18
votes
6answers
1k views

Why do we call it “production”?

A coworker was wondering this today: "Why is it that in our industry 'production' means 'final, deliverable product'? You know, like if a movie is 'in production', it means they're currently filming ...
11
votes
3answers
1k views

How did the idea of Exception-handling emerge into programming languages? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Who designed exceptions? Today if we look at any language, exception handling is almost a compulsory feature. The languages that didn't have it earlier are implementing ...
5
votes
3answers
504 views

Where does the term “Front End” come from?

Where does the term "front-end" come from? Is there a particular presentation/talk/job-posting which is regarded as the first use of the term? Is someone credited with coining the term? The ...
5
votes
2answers
463 views

Who decided on the terminology downcasting and upcasting?

As far as I know, the terminology comes from how the inheritance hierarchy is traditionally displayed, with the extending types at the bottom, and the parent types at the top. This is a bit ...