For questions about the history of programming and computing.

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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 ...
21
votes
4answers
534 views

How did programmers use networking to share expensive computer resources in the 60's and 70's?

I'm young and wasn't alive during the 60's and 70's to experience networking and programming as it once was. I have been watching some talks by Van Jacobson on Content Centric Networking, and in ...
20
votes
11answers
1k views

Is there a reason for initial overconfidence of scientists and engineers working on artificial intelligence in the 1960s?

I just started an AI & Data Mining class, and the book. AI Application Programming, starts off with an overview of the history of AI. The first chapter deals with the history of AI from the 1940s ...
20
votes
5answers
2k views

How did they debug segmentation faults before protected memory?

Now, when I make a programming mistake with pointers in C, I get a nice segmentation fault, my program crashes and the debugger can even tell me where it went wrong. How did they do that in the time ...
20
votes
2answers
2k views

When did the term “snake case” come into use? [closed]

Many people use the term Snake Case to describe variables or other symbols with_the_form_of_underscores. In the past week, I've launched several broad searches. I can't find anything about the origin ...
20
votes
2answers
3k 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 ...
19
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 ...
19
votes
6answers
873 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 ...
18
votes
6answers
2k 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 ...
18
votes
5answers
3k 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 ...
18
votes
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 ...
18
votes
5answers
1k 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 ...
17
votes
6answers
696 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 ...
17
votes
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 ...
17
votes
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
votes
1answer
697 views

Where did the notion of 'calling' a function come from?

I've always wondered why one calls a function as opposed to, for example, executing it. A Google search for function call etymology and similar terms turns up nothing useful, Wikipedia doesn't ...
16
votes
13answers
2k 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
votes
3answers
2k 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
votes
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
votes
5answers
707 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? ...
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 ...
15
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 ...
15
votes
5answers
797 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.
15
votes
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
votes
2answers
2k 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
750 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
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
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 ...
14
votes
2answers
876 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 ...
14
votes
4answers
859 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 ...
14
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 ...
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
5answers
2k 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?
13
votes
3answers
835 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
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 ...
13
votes
8answers
740 views

Why does C have no competitors in low level stuff? [duplicate]

As far as I know, C is by far the most widely used language for low level stuff such as systems programming and embedded. Sometimes assembly is used, but that's when you really need to be close to the ...
13
votes
5answers
4k 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
3answers
972 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
13answers
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 ...
12
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 ...
12
votes
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 ...
12
votes
2answers
1k views

Which programming language first introduced 'Hello World'

Which programming language first introduced 'Hello World' as a first program to code for beginners?
12
votes
1answer
556 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
2answers
734 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 ...
12
votes
3answers
810 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
659 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
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
6answers
4k views

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

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 ...
11
votes
2answers
8k views

Why is C so high in TIOBE index of popularity, while C++ is just under here too, but not as popular? [closed]

I can't get my head around this. If C is so much used, but C is not C++, can someone explain to me the most important reasons that makes C more used than C++ ? Where is all this C code written for ? ...
11
votes
1answer
836 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 ...