For questions about the history of programming and computing.

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19
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6answers
3k views

What made BASIC profitable? [closed]

In the 1970s, a man called Bill Gates developed an interpreter for BASIC: the Altair BASIC. Per my understanding, he was able to persuade the guy in charge of a microcomputer company to include the ...
19
votes
6answers
754 views

Books and stories on programming culture, specifically in the 80's / early 90's

I've enjoyed a number of (fiction/non-fiction books) about hacker culture and running a software business in the 80's, 90's. For some reason things seemed so much more exciting back then. Examples ...
19
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2answers
2k views

Why is Java boolean primitive type name not 'bool'?

Java has int and Integer boolean and Boolean This seems a bit inconsistent, why not either bool vs Boolean to use an established shorter name for primitive type? or integer vs Integer to ...
18
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3answers
1k views

Why five dining philosophers?

I was wondering why the Dining philosophers problem is based on a five philosophers case. Why not four? I guess that we can observe all unpleasant issues that can occur when discussing five ...
17
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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 ...
17
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3answers
2k views

Where did the convention of naming command line arguments as 'argv' come from?

It seems like Python, PHP, and Ruby all use the name "argv" to refer to the list of command line arguments. Where does the name "argv" come from? Why not something like "args"? My guess is that it ...
17
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5answers
2k views

Why are several popular programming languages influenced by C? [closed]

The Top 10 programming languages, according to the TIOBE index seem to be heavily influenced by C: 1. Java The language derives much of its syntax from C and C++ but has a simpler object model ...
16
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13answers
1k views

What features contributed to the evolution of Pascal?

I am compiling a detailed history of the Pascal language, and there are a few details I am missing. There are so many features today that we take for granted. What features significantly contributed ...
16
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6answers
660 views

Why did the web win the space of remote applications and X not?

The X Window System is 25 years old, it had it's birthday yesterday (on the 15'th). As you probably are aware of, one of it's most important features is the separation of the server side and the ...
16
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9answers
2k views

What were the reasons why Windows never had a decent shell? [closed]

I was reading a topic on SO: Why are scripting languages (e.g. ...) not suitable as shell languages?. Especially I liked the answer by Jörg W Mittag, from which I learned interesting things about ...
16
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3answers
1k views

What's the origin of foo and bar? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Using “Foo” and “Bar” in examples I know AT&T labs used them in their Unix days, but do they have even deeper histories?
16
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5answers
645 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? ...
16
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2answers
3k 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 ...
16
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4answers
1k views

What was the first hierarchical file system?

"Directories containing directories and files" seems to have been around forever, but there must have been a first.
15
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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 ...
15
votes
5answers
783 views

What good reasons are there to capitalise SQL keywords?

There seem to be a lot of developers who write their SQL by capitalising the keywords: SELECT column FROM table INNER JOIN table ON condition WHERE condition GROUP BY clause HAVING ...
15
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2answers
1k views

What happened to Concurrent C?

I recently checked out a fantastic book from my college library. It is a bit old at 1989, but the language it describes sounds rather nice. And even while I may not be using it soon, I wanted to ...
15
votes
1answer
671 views

How long was Microsoft working on .NET before they released it?

With the whole CLI, CTS, CLS, etc., not only did they release a powerful platform/infrastructure, but they released all the specs that describe it etc. It supports potentially infinite myriad ...
14
votes
6answers
2k views

What came first, the compiler, or the source?

I'm curious about the birth of the compiler. How did programming begin? Did people first build hardware that recognized a certain set of commands, or did people define a language and then build ...
14
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6answers
5k views

Why no client-side HTML include tag?

I had a question posed to me the other day by another programmer. I remember (a very long time ago) wondering the very same. Why was a browser-side include tag never considered? Or was it? ...
14
votes
1answer
1k views

Where does the word “Programming” come from? [closed]

Where does the word "Programming" come from? I'm referring to the word "program" as referring to "to instruct a computer". Programming, programmer etc...
13
votes
3answers
774 views

Why is the “kill” command called so?

Why was it decided to call the kill command "kill"? I mean, yes, this utility is often used to terminate processes, but it can actually be used to send any signal. Isn't it slightly confusing? Maybe ...
13
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3answers
1k views

Object-Oriented Programming: Why “Oriented”?

I am most of the way through my games programming degree. This is not a computer science degree, so a lot of the theory is eschewed in favour of practical portfolio building and what I see as JIT ...
13
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5answers
926 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 ...
13
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5answers
3k views

Why pointer symbol and multiplication sign are same in C/C++?

I am writing a limited C/C++ code parser. Now, multiplication and pointer signs give me really a tough time, as both are same. For example, int main () { int foo(X * p); // forward declaration ...
13
votes
5answers
770 views

Why is $ in identifier names for so many languages?

A lot of scripting languages like Perl, Awk, Bash, PHP, etc. use a $ sign before identifier names. I've tried to look up why but never had a satisfactory answer.
13
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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 ...
13
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3answers
880 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 ...
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 ...
12
votes
4answers
648 views

Why is mod (%) a fundamental mathematical operator in many programming languages?

Is there a reason, historical or otherwise, why the modulus operator is part of a small set of standard operators in what seems like many languages? (+, -, *, / and %, for Java and C, with ** in Ruby ...
12
votes
1answer
510 views

What did network programs use to communicate before sockets was invented (around 1983?)

Sockets were invented in Berkeley around 1983, but how did networked computer programs work before this? These days, pretty much everything uses sockets, so it's hard for me to imagine how else ...
12
votes
3answers
398 views

Historical origins of Scala implicits

Scala has been called complex with its rich feature set by many of my colleagues and some even blamed all those new features of it. While most programmers are aware of the OO-features, and at least ...
12
votes
3answers
593 views

Why is the copying instruction usually named MOV?

In quite many assemblers, a value copying instruction is usually named "MOV" and its description in manuals usually also contains "move" (however, other words can be used, like "load", "store", ...
11
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14answers
1k views

Is it true that first versions of C compilers ran for dozens of minutes and required swapping floppy disks between stages?

Inspired by this question. I heard that some very very early versions of C compilers for personal computers (I guess it's around 1980) resided on two or three floppy disks and so in order to compile ...
11
votes
5answers
1k views

In what programming language did “let” first appear?

I was wondering about the origins of the "let" used in Lisp, Clojure, and Haskell. Does anyone know which language it appeared in first?
11
votes
6answers
3k views

What does Jamie Zawinski's Law mean?

I need a proper explaination of Jamie Zawinski's Law of Software Envelopment: Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones ...
11
votes
7answers
1k views

What was Java enterprise programming like before Eclipse? [closed]

I'm your standard Java/Oracle developer at a large software firm and Eclipse 3.6 is what I spend most of day in. Java is incredibly verbose and that can be painful (but we don't need another blog post ...
11
votes
1answer
593 views

Why is the Unix linker called “ld”

Tried to search the web and couldn't find an answer. It might have something to do with "load", but that doesn't make much sense to me. Obviously, "ln" was already taken, but where does that "d" come ...
11
votes
1answer
703 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 ...
11
votes
2answers
867 views

Which programming language first introduced 'Hello World'

Which programming language first introduced 'Hello World' as a first program to code for beginners?
11
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2answers
627 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 ...
11
votes
2answers
583 views

Where does the the term “feature creep” come from?

There is a decent Wikipedia article on the "Feature Creep", but it doesn't state an origin. A Google search only leads to some vague article claiming "Earl Rich" coined the term, but there isn't much ...
11
votes
3answers
679 views

Why didn't the C++ Standard adopt expression templates?

It's my understanding that expression templates as a technique were discovered significantly prior to the original C++ Standard in 1998. Why weren't they used to improve the performance of several ...
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 ...
10
votes
5answers
1k views

Who invented pointers?

Pretty simple question, but something I haven't been able to find out. Who was the first person to describe the idea of a pointer? The abstract concept itself?
10
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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 ...
9
votes
3answers
384 views

What is the first published reference to test-first programming?

I am rereading Refactoring by Martin Fowler. In Chapter 4, Building Tests, I came across the following passage. In fact, one of the most usefull times to write tests is before you start programming. ...
9
votes
3answers
1k views

Why there are no compound assignment operators for logical operators (such as ||, && etc)?

According to ECMA-262, part 11.13, following is the exhaustive list of compound assignment operators: *= /= %= += -= <<= >>= >>>= &= ^= |=. According to the part 11.11, var c ...
9
votes
3answers
357 views

Where can I read the original C# introduction paper by Microsoft? [closed]

When Microsoft presented .NET Framework and C# language in 2002, what was the first article to introduce C#? I'm looking for some paper published on MSDN or Microsoft website that would explain the ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

Is the 14th line of The Zen of Python a reference to Dijkstra?

Python's Zen states on line 14 that: Although that way may not be obvious at first unless you're Dutch. Is this a reference to the famous Dutch computer scientist Edsger W. Dijkstra?