When reading Programmers at Work (by Susan Lammers), they often refer to code as "listings". Why is that?

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    The question as is sounds like it belongs to english.SE instead...
    – user7043
    Mar 3, 2011 at 19:05
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    She's probably referring to specific chunks of code used as examples in the text of the book. They could also be called "snippets" or "chunks" or "samples"... Mar 3, 2011 at 19:06
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    "Listing" is pretty common terminology. The LaTeX package for source code is called Listings. Mar 3, 2011 at 19:12

4 Answers 4


It was more common when we read code on paper - long lists of code from a line printer.

Remember the green ruled paper ... arghh the nostalgia!

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    Yup. Once upon a time it was fairly common practice to actually print your code out on paper, as laughable as that seems today. Mar 3, 2011 at 19:23
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    @Adam Crossland - Why laughlable? When I'm working on an algorithm (or something that reasonably fits within a page or two) I usually print it out. Better than staring at it on screen watching where you missed that one index. ... Although, I grant it's not so common approach anymore.
    – Rook
    Mar 3, 2011 at 19:43
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    @Rook: I thought of it as being laughable largely because the reason that I did it back in the days that I was working on PDP-11s and later VAXen was that it was sometimes the only way to get a handle on a non-trivial bit of code. The displays were 80 characters across and 24 lines down, and that just wasn't a whole lot of code. Today, I can rotate my widescreen monitor 90 degrees, change fonts and see a whole bunch of code at one time. Mar 3, 2011 at 19:52
  • I remember those days. Dot matrix and all churning out MSBasic and RMCobol. Ahaaa. Mar 3, 2011 at 20:02
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    A long time ago, in a shop not really far away, the codebase was in a primitive version control system (based on virtual punch card decks), and also printed out and sitting in bindings (this was before we all had terminals). We had a "lock to edit" process that consisted of writing "See <name> before changing" on the program listing. I prefer local computers with two monitors and Subversion, on the whole. Mar 3, 2011 at 20:12

The term dates back to a time when programs were stored on eighty-column Hollerith-encoded punch cards. I am old enough to remember those days. All of my early programs where entered via a keypunch machine and debugged via printed compiler output "listings."

As an aside: early terminals were eighty columns wide because that line size mapped well to "card image" data. Most of the early on-line systems were merely data collection and presentation subsystems for card-image batch systems. This information processing model was known as "deferred batch."


It refers to printed out code.

Actually, in a food manufacturer that I've been to in the last few years, they still print out all code from their PLC's and keep them in hanging files. Part of the procedure for updating a program always involves updating the paper copies.

Maintenance people regularly come in and pull a binder to look at it. In some ways it's handy, especially when you can look at it on big plots (it's a graphical programming language) rather than on a tiny screen.


In old line oriented basic system there was an interpreter command LIST to show the programmcode

So LIST produces a source code LIST-ing

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    Not only that, but in these old languages (mostly BASIC), lines of code were numbered (numbers = labels), so a program was really an ordered list of instructions, like a shopping list. Jul 1, 2018 at 1:11

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