For questions about the history of programming and computing.

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23
votes
8answers
2k 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
306 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 ...
22
votes
2answers
4k 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 ...
22
votes
12answers
4k 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 ...
36
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 ...
17
votes
4answers
2k 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 ...
8
votes
3answers
681 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 ...
88
votes
14answers
17k 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
305 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
1k 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
594 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, ...
1
vote
3answers
2k 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
168 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
728 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 ...
83
votes
10answers
19k 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
538 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 ...
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
1k 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
2k 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 ...
17
votes
1answer
4k 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
4k 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 ...
4
votes
4answers
5k 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
497 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
716 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
346 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, ...
25
votes
2answers
5k 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
860 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? ...
4
votes
3answers
771 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
302 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 ...
14
votes
3answers
896 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 ...
9
votes
3answers
669 views

First languages with generic programming support

Which was the first language with generic programming support, and what was the first major staticly typed language (widely used) with generics support. Generics implement the concept of ...
12
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
353 views

Why has the accessor methods from the JavaBean specification become the standard for Java development?

The JavaBeans Specification describes a JavaBean as A Java Bean is a reusable software component that can be manipulated visually in a builder tool Since the majority of the lines of code ...
12
votes
6answers
4k 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 ...
8
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...
13
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
327 views

How were Fortran's original control structures insufficient?

In my Programming Language Concepts class it was mentioned in passing that Fortran's original control structures were insufficient. It was alluded that they were too similar to machine instructions ...
28
votes
14answers
4k views

Why isn't rich code formatting more common?

I was reading Code Complete and in the chapter on layout and style, he was predicting that code editors would use some sort of rich text formatting. That means, instead of code looking like this ...
8
votes
4answers
343 views

Origin of structures and classes

What design and implementation issues did programmers have to solve when they decided first to use structures and classes? When did this happened and who were the pioneers behind these ideas? Note, ...
2
votes
2answers
2k views

Why is 24 lines a common default terminal height?

80x24 characters seems to be a very common default for terminal windows. This answer provides a very good historical reason as to why the width is 80 characters. But why is the height commonly 24 ...
2
votes
4answers
1k views

Why is a database represented as a cylinder in architecture drawings? [closed]

I'm a young upstart programmer and I've never actually seen a database. But computers in large part come in boxes, not in cylinders so I was wondering why they are always represented as a cylinder ...
4
votes
3answers
3k views

What was the most used programming language before C was created? [closed]

C is a language written between '69 and '73 according to WIkipedia. I imagine it made programming a whole lot easier and opened the gate for other programming languages. My question, however, is what ...
7
votes
1answer
203 views

Strategy for restoring state via URL in web apps

This is a question about modern web apps, where a single page is loaded, and all subsequent navigation is done by XHR calls and modifying the DOM. We can use libraries that manipulate the hash ...
55
votes
6answers
3k views

Why the Select is before the From in a SQL Query? [closed]

This is something that bothered me a lot at school. 5 years ago, when I learned SQL, I always wondered why we specify first the fields we want and then where we want them from. According to my idea, ...
2
votes
4answers
767 views

Which applications have driven the mass spread of floating point units? [closed]

Floating point units are standard on CPUs today, and even desktops might use them today (3D effects). However, I wonder which applications have initially driven the development and mass adoption of ...