For questions about the history of programming and computing.

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55
votes
13answers
8k views

Why is 0 false?

This question may sound dumb, but why does 0 evaluates to false and any other [integer] value to true is most of programming languages? String comparison Since the question seems a little bit too ...
19
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 ...
218
votes
9answers
36k views

Why is 80 characters the 'standard' limit for code width?

Why is 80 characters the "standard" limit for code width? Why 80 and not 79, 81 or 100? What is the origin of this particular value?
26
votes
4answers
2k views

What language was “standard” for Apple development before Objective C?

I don't think Objective C was in use from the beginning of Apple hardware development. What languages did app developers use for the earlier Apple computers, such as Apple II or Mac Classic?
0
votes
1answer
60 views

How did the “abnormal” options in shell commands appear?

These options which obscure me are like ps aux, route -ee, gcc -fPIC xxx, find . -name xxx and so on. The examples above aren't comprehensive. I.e., I don't think that the argument handle ...
7
votes
2answers
149 views

What are the origins of the Public/Private function declarations?

The Question What are the origins of the Public/Private function paradigm? Background A question came up in chat about Header files in C, and their usage being mainly to help the compiler, not the ...
1
vote
3answers
316 views

Why did the Sun engineers decided to make Java only call by value? [closed]

Is there any specific reason they decided to go with Call by value? Is it for simplicity?
2
votes
2answers
138 views

Can the Jacquard loom be considered stateless?

Can the Jacquard loom, pictured below complete with its chains of paper cards be considered stateless? As far as I can tell I can tell, each operation is not dependant on the previous. Or did it ...
25
votes
3answers
1k views

Why does the boolean type in C++ support `++` but not `--`?

Why does the operator -- not exist for bool whereas it does for operator ++? I tried in C++, and I do not know if my question apply to another language. I will glad to know also. I know, I can use ...
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?
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 ...
15
votes
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 ...
5
votes
3answers
370 views

Is there a web-specific reason for the design choices behind the JavaScript language?

With the advent of "the web is the platform", JavaScript is fast becoming the most widely used programming language in the world. However, many tasks that are easy to accomplish in other modern ...
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?
5
votes
2answers
184 views

Is Lisp the first language to adopt structured programming?

I couldn't find any links or books claiming that Lisp is the first programming language to adopt structured programming (actually, most of them don't even mention Lisp at all), but if conditionals ...
22
votes
7answers
2k views

What were the Design Patterns of the procedural programming era? [closed]

Similar: How was programming done 20 years ago? OOP is quite fashionable nowadays, having its roots in Simula 67 in the 1960s, and later made popular by Smalltalk and C++. We have DRY, SOLID, many ...
-1
votes
4answers
241 views

(Is there | Why isn't there) a programming language that allows 'inline' arguments to a function? [duplicate]

What is the reason for 'trailing' arguments to functions in most programming languages? That is, we do something like this: def subtract(x, y): return x - y subtract(10, 5) ...rather than the ...
4
votes
1answer
178 views

What is the historical reason why Python uses the double underscore for Class Private members

In python a module private function or variable is named _foo. If it is private to a class it is names __foo, The mechanics behind how these work are different, however that is of little relevance to ...
250
votes
4answers
95k views

What software programming languages were used by the Soviet Union's space program?

I got interested in the Soviet space program and was interested to discover that the software on the Buran spacecraft circa 1988 was written in Prolog. Does anyone know what languages might have ...
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 ...
3
votes
6answers
3k views

Why was Objective-C popularity so sudden on TIOBE index?

I'd like to ask a question that is pretty similar to the one being asked here, but for Objective-C. According to TIOBE rankings, the rise of popularity of Objective-C is unprecedented. This is ...
-1
votes
5answers
178 views

Is there a history behind the placement of code block markers? [closed]

When I started learning programming, I noticed that everybody (lecturers, authors, brainwashed fellow students, et cetera) placed code block markers in the following way: if(userIsBest==true){ ...
2
votes
2answers
391 views

I need some help with defining a shell syntax

I'm trying to understand more about shells. I'm looking to implement one and want to look at what's been done in the past. In a regular shell, you have features like aliases and relative paths, and ...
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", ...
22
votes
5answers
2k views

When did the standard for packaging Linux source code become .tar.gz?

When browsing open-source projects that are primarily developed for Linux systems and downloading the latest packages, the source code is always stored in a .tar.gz or .tar.bz2 file. Is there any ...
24
votes
5answers
2k views

Why doesn't Java 8 include immutable collections?

The Java team has done a ton of great work removing barriers to functional programming in Java 8. In particular, the changes to the java.util Collections do a great job of chaining transformations ...
41
votes
8answers
3k views

Why a static main method in Java and C#, rather than a constructor?

I’m Looking for a definitive answer from a primary or secondary source for why (notably) Java and C# decided to have a static method as their entry point, rather than representing an application ...
1
vote
3answers
198 views

History of vendor css prefix

When and how did this process of prefixing css with vendor specific prefix begin. Which browser/org start this and why was this started. I searched the web but found no details on this.
0
votes
1answer
186 views

Where does the tradition of shell prompts in code snippets come from?

Most code samples I see that demonstrate shell code preface each command with $. Having a prefix makes sense, but I'm confused as to why $ is used in particular. Some other symbol, like !, that can be ...
11
votes
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 ...
2
votes
2answers
205 views

When did current source control management emerge? [duplicate]

The use of source control management tools is nowadays a standard practice in the software industry. Furthermore, it seems that there is quite a strong consensus (for deliverables) to have an ...
25
votes
1answer
900 views

The Inglish parser (for The Hobbit 1982)

Was fascinated to read about the text adventure game The Hobbit which featured an incredibly robust parser called "Inglish": ...Inglish allowed one to type advanced sentences such as "ask Gandalf ...
1
vote
2answers
137 views

history and application areas of 'pull'/'push' programming paradigm

Recently reading a lot materials on Reactive Programming, one thing frequently mentioned is the 'PUSH' versus 'PULL' style of application. Event driven ( Reactive programming ) Some of the authors ...
1
vote
5answers
361 views

What is the advantage to using a factor of 1024 instead of 1000 for disk size units?

When considering the disk space of a storage medium, normally the computer or operating system will represent it in terms of powers of 1024 - a kilobyte is 1,024 bytes, a megabyte is 1,048,576 bytes, ...
4
votes
2answers
685 views

Why was ASCII needed?

With an encoding such as EBCDIC being in existence already (and being 8 bit to boot), what was the need to invent yet another encoding and a 7 bit one at that? Why was ASCII invented and what ...
5
votes
2answers
414 views

Earliest use of Comments as Semantically Meaningful Things in a Program?

In certain corners of the PHP meta-programming world, it's become fashionable to use PHPDoc comments as a mechanism for providing semantically meaningful information to a program. That is, other code ...
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 ...
64
votes
8answers
27k views

Why did Alan Kay say, “The Internet was so well done, but the web was by amateurs”?

OK, so I paraphrased. The full quote: The Internet was done so well that most people think of it as a natural resource like the Pacific Ocean, rather than something that was man-made. When was the ...
6
votes
1answer
223 views

The Lisp in Gnu

Since the GNU project is celebrating its anniversary, and the initial announcement for GNU is linked to (http://www.gnu.org/gnu/initial-announcement.en.html) all over the place, I reread it and I ...
36
votes
14answers
10k views

How have languages influenced CPU design?

We are often told that the hardware doesn't care what language a program is written in as it only sees the compiled binary code, however this is not the whole truth. For example, consider the humble ...
64
votes
3answers
21k views

Why do programming languages, especially C, use curly braces and not square ones?

The definition of "C-Style language" can practically be simplified down to "uses curly braces ({})." Why do we use that particular character (and why not something more reasonable, like [], which ...
27
votes
6answers
6k views

What is the history of why bytes are eight bits?

What where the historical forces at work, the tradeoffs to make, in deciding to use groups of eight bits as the fundamental unit ? There were machines, once upon a time, using other word sizes, ...
5
votes
3answers
250 views

Writing a bootloader with no bootloader

I have a question that I really can't find a straight answer to. Let me start by saying I'm not asking for a step by step tutorial, or even plan on doing anything. I'm just curious. I've been ...
-1
votes
2answers
212 views

What is the origin/meaning of the name 'NHibernate'?

Been poking around the web because I was curious as to why they called it that but haven't found anything yet. Anyone know? (I checked the FAQ and it wasn't clear if questions on history/origins were ...
1
vote
0answers
139 views

Who invented the otpauth:// URI scheme?

It seems really simple, but who invented the commonly-used otpauth:// scheme (used by Google Authenticator and other TOTP soft tokens by scanning QR codes)? When?
3
votes
3answers
2k views

C Flexible Arrays: When did they become part of the standard?

I learned to program in C many years ago, and used C steadily for about 10 years. These days, I occasionally have to look at C code, because our Informix 4GL RDS customized runners also contain C ...
1
vote
1answer
474 views

Why was F# created?

For my current class, I have to pick and research a Programming Language (or popular scripting language) and answer quite a few questions about it, write a paper, and do some example programs ...
44
votes
3answers
3k views

So what *did* Alan Kay really mean by the term “object-oriented”?

Reportedly, Alan Kay is the inventor of the term "object oriented". And he is often quoted as having said that what we call OO today is not what he meant. For example, I just found this on Google: ...
20
votes
2answers
1k views

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

Many people use the term Snake Case to describe variables or other symbols with_the_form_of_underscores. When did this term enter into use?
45
votes
6answers
9k views

Who created the idea(s) of the first loop constructs?

while (1) { if (1+1==2) { print "Yes, you paid attention in Preschool!"; } else { print "Wait... I thought 1+1=2"; } } As a developer, we all have to use ...