For questions about the history of programming and computing.

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8
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3answers
707 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 ...
93
votes
14answers
18k 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
414 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
695 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, ...
2
votes
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
180 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
757 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
574 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 Merriam-...
27
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 ...
69
votes
19answers
5k 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 ...
8
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 ...
20
votes
1answer
5k 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 ...
5
votes
4answers
6k 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
532 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
736 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
361 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
8k 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 ...
5
votes
3answers
1k 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
845 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
3k 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
325 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
1k 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 ...
11
votes
11answers
12k views

Is MUMPS alive? [closed]

At my first workplace we were using Digital Standard MUMPS on a PDP 11-clone (TPA 440), then we've switched to Micronetics Standard MUMPS running on a Hewlett-Packard machine, HP-UX 9, around early 90'...
9
votes
3answers
809 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 ...
13
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
386 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
5k 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
370 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
352 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, ...
5
votes
2answers
4k 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
224 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 string,...
58
votes
6answers
4k 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
999 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 ...
19
votes
5answers
5k 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 ...
3
votes
2answers
360 views

What is the origin of sessions, by whom and when were they created?

I know sessions are in PHP, ASP, ASP.NET and probably in many other languages. In most cases session solve a problem which the language itself fails to solve. I am wondering Who created sessions and ...
4
votes
1answer
393 views

How to explain the history of programming to non-programmers? [closed]

Sorry if this question is not appropriate for this stack exchange site, I've never used this one before. I am doing my senior project on computer programming. I'm going to be presenting the project ...
8
votes
2answers
661 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 pointless,...
16
votes
6answers
9k views

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

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 ...
9
votes
1answer
1k views

Who first created or popularized the original XMLHTTPRequest / MSXML?

I'm trying to understand the origins of AJAX, and think MSXML and XMLHTTPRequest were the objects that started it all. Which came first, and/or became the defacto way to create dynamic pages?
3
votes
3answers
633 views

strcpy memcpy reason for parameter order

Answering a question about order of parameters it struck me that strcpy (and family) are the wrong way round. Copy should be src -> destination. Is there a historical or architectural reason for the ...
6
votes
2answers
4k views

Do any languages use =/= for the inequality operator?

Wikipedia says: Not equal The symbol used to denote inequation — when items are not equal — is a slashed equals sign "≠" (Unicode 2260). Most programming languages, limiting themselves ...
15
votes
5answers
828 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.
66
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 ...