For questions about the history of programming and computing.

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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 ...
3
votes
2answers
380 views

How did the term “hypervisor” come into use?

I've read about the "hypervisor" in hardware virtualization. VMs are not my area, so I can't quite see where the term came from. THe wikipedia article talks about how "the hardware's supervisor ...
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 ...
11
votes
2answers
7k 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 ? ...
4
votes
6answers
2k views

Programming using an old computer(s) [closed]

Anybody still programming using old computers, e.g. ZX Spectrum BASIC, Amiga BASIC, dumb terminals? If so, do you find it useful for programming using today's technologies? Lastly why do you do it? ...
4
votes
3answers
746 views

First dedicated IDE?

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 ...
11
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...
6
votes
3answers
402 views

What's the first language that had the 'Unless' conditional/loop built into itself?

What's the first (oldest) language that had the 'Unless' conditional/loop built into itself? Where an example could be unless (myVar) == if (!myVar) until (myVar) == while (!myVar)
2
votes
1answer
205 views

Why did Aiken decided to separate data and instructions in the Harvard Mark I?

When Aiken devised the Mark I, why did he decided to separate data and instructions? It was not mentioned in Wikipedia (or in any other searches I've looked) on how or why Aiken separated data and ...
23
votes
8answers
1k views

What is the etymology of the phrase “Source Code”? [closed]

With the movie "Source Code" just coming out today, I have had to explain the meaning of the phrase to non-techies. Then I was asked why source code is called source code and couldn't really answer. ...
2
votes
1answer
245 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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
21
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 ...
34
votes
1answer
2k views

Where does the term “Red/Black Tree” come from?

A Red/Black Tree is one way to implement a balanced binary search tree. The principles behind how it works make sense to me, but the chosen colors don't. Why red and black, as opposed to any other ...
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 ...
16
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.
30
votes
5answers
2k views

How much of original code is left in modern software products? [closed]

Many of you out there work for large companies that ship well-known software. I was wondering, how much of original code (basically, code that was "v1.0" release) is left in modern massive ...
9
votes
3answers
660 views

Have there been disputes when software identifies genders with a boolean? [closed]

I remember that in our first programming class with Java, while explaining data types, the following occurred (kinda): Professor: So, what data type would you choose if your program needs to ...
87
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 ...
7
votes
2answers
278 views

Who first coined the term Higher Order Function and/or First Class Citizen?

I've come to understand that long before Haskell, O'Caml or LISP, higher order functions were an academic research subject and in mathematics, Schönfinkel (in 1967) and Haskell Curry (in 1968) already ...
-4
votes
2answers
869 views

Why aren't there modern C IDEs? [closed]

Why weren't the features present in modern IDEs for Java & C# (Intellij IDEA, Visual Studio, eclipse) developed in (earlier) IDEs for C language? I mean I don't know any IDE which has modern ...
3
votes
2answers
450 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, ...
44
votes
3answers
21k views

Is there any evidence that drugs can actually help programmers produce “better” code? [closed]

I just read this quote from Steve Jobs: "Doing LSD was one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life." Also a quote from that article: He was hardly alone among computer ...
0
votes
3answers
176 views

What was the first consumer-oriented hardware/software solution? [closed]

We all know the story of the personal computer as a consumer-oriented product. But I just thought that real end user solution should have appeared before that time. So a product that was probably ...
1
vote
3answers
1k views

How did Python become popular as a scripting language? [closed]

I looked at it in my field of work, which is film and pretty much every software we use comes with python as a scripting language: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Python_software That made me ...
0
votes
1answer
153 views

Did “Viaweb” work in the browser without JavaScript and somehow use only Lisp?

I just read Beating the Averages, and Mr. Graham writes that they had a significant advantage over competitors because they used Lisp. From what I understand, Viaweb was a WYSIWYG editor that ran in ...
8
votes
5answers
711 views

What is the historical basis of using Javascript in web programming?

I come from a scientific biology background where we also use Python a lot. Now that I've begun to start with Web development, I've consistently found myself wondering just why it is that JavaScript ...
82
votes
11answers
18k views

Why is the sudden increase in number of Git submitters on Debian popcon graph in 2010-01?

Almost every article I've read 1 comparing Git and Mercurial it seems like Mercurial has a better command line UX with each command being limited to one idea only (unlike say git checkout). But at ...
5
votes
3answers
513 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 ...
25
votes
9answers
3k views

Why didn't “cloud computing” offer appear earlier?

Cloud computing is a model of renting resources - servers and data storage. Both servers and data storage have been around for much more than a decade so far. Yet cloud computing offers only appeared ...
82
votes
2answers
6k views

What is JavaScript, really?

All this started when I was looking for a way to test my webpage for JavaScript conformance like the W3C HTML Validator. I have not found one yet. So let me know if you know of any... I looked for ...
67
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 ...
11
votes
1answer
792 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
917 views

Why is the code section called a text section?

The section of an executable that contains code is sometimes called the .text section. In segmented memory architectures, a segment mapped as code is sometimes called a text segment. The unix error ...
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 ...
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 ...
2
votes
4answers
3k views

Why does Java have a “bad rap” [closed]

I hear a lot of people speak poorly of Java, especially the ones coming from C/C++. Is there a historical reason why? Is it because it used to be machines were too slow to run the JVM without lag?
3
votes
2answers
467 views

Google Closure Compiler - what does the name mean?

I am curious about the Google Closure Compiler. Why did they name it that? Does it have anything to do with lexical closures? EDIT: I tried researching it in the FAQ and documentation, as well as ...
17
votes
6answers
687 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
326 views

Which language came first with parallel assignment?

When I discovered that python has parallel assignment I thought is pretty cool. Recently I discovered parallel assignment works also in ruby. For people that don't know it: x,y = y,x in ruby, ...
0
votes
1answer
731 views

Where can I find a punched card simulator? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Learning to program on punchcards I wasn't born in the era, but I'd like to experience writing a program with punch cards. Does anyone know of a program or an online ...
25
votes
2answers
3k views

Why was the percent sign (%) chosen as the format specifier for the printf family of functions?

Everyone knows that, at least in C, you use the printf family of functions to print a formatted string. And these functions use a percent sign (%) to indicate the beginning of a format specifier. For ...
4
votes
3answers
542 views

What was the first server-side language [closed]

I was thinking about different server-side languages and this question immediately cropped up in my mind. What was the first server-side programming language using which websites were being created? ...
5
votes
5answers
2k views

False friends? Keyword “static” in C compared to C++, C# and Java

To me, the use of the keyword static in C and languages like C# and Java are "false friends" like "to become" in English and "bekommen" in German (= "to get" in English), because they mean different ...
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 ...
4
votes
3answers
670 views

In what specific ways did Pascal and or Delphi influence Java?

I was reading in the side bar of the Java language wiki page and it says it was influenced by Pascal and Delphi. this isn't the fact anymore, there are no references to Delphi on the entire referenced ...
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 ...
5
votes
1answer
279 views

What was the first commercial open-source software?

According to the Wikipedia article on open-source, the philosophy of sharing code has been used in projects since the early computer days (mostly through Universities sharing code). However, I'm ...
13
votes
3answers
811 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 ...