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Questions tagged [history]

For questions about the history of programming and computing.

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What is the origin of #pragma once? [closed]

Although not part of the C/C++ standard, #pragma once is widely used in place of include guards. I personally find it to be a great feature (for how it prevents nasty copy-paste errors between headers,...
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  • 107
6 votes
4 answers
489 views

What was the original purpose of C strncpy() function?

C standard library has strncpy function, declared as: char *strncpy(char *dest, const char *src, size_t n); It's a strange beast, as it fills n bytes of memory pointed to by dest. It does this by ...
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  • 3,694
2 votes
1 answer
259 views

Why is the 4+1 architecture model view named "4+1"?

Why are use-cases counted separately from the other views in the 4+1 architecture? How are use-cases different from others views?
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  • 139
8 votes
4 answers
953 views

How did Python come to be so popular amongst data scientists? [closed]

I've been curious about why Python seems to be so popular amongst data scientists. Firstly I needed to check there was some truth to this assertion so I wrote a query on the StackExchange data ...
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10 votes
7 answers
858 views

Are there historical problems with non-ASCII identifier characters in code?

I frequently encounter recommendations to specifically keep to ASCII characters in field and function names in documentation, even though non-ASCII (modern Unicode) generally works perfectly. An ...
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0 votes
3 answers
144 views

Would it be possible to create a browser that runs container images?

My understanding of a "browser" as a means of consuming software over the web: Browsers isolate web application execution to an environment which greatly reduces end user vulnerability. ...
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7 votes
2 answers
152 views

Historic APL glyphs and their meanings

Unicode has the following APL characters that don't seem to be used in modern APL. What functions or operators did they represent? Are they still supported for backwards compatibility, but ...
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  • 299
3 votes
1 answer
256 views

What does "alloca" stand for?

The alloca() function allocates memory in the stack frame of the caller. What did alloca originally stand for? Are there any sources regarding the etymology of the name?
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  • 519
0 votes
2 answers
65 views

What are the anchor's "name" attributes on history's first website?

History's first webpage is still online and functional. I was looking at its source out of interest and noticed that anchors consistently have a name attribute containing a stringified number, for ...
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3 votes
0 answers
74 views

Origin of the strftime %c format field order in POSIX locale

In standard POSIX locale strftime(buf, size, "%c", time) will format the date and time in an order that has confused me a number of times because it has month and day precede the time, but ...
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  • 382
2 votes
1 answer
200 views

Why the names Omega and Theta in Big Omega and Big Theta?

There was a question asking what the "O" stands for in "Big O", the answer to which seems to be "Ordnung von"/"order of". I wonder what's the origin of the ...
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  • 731
2 votes
2 answers
200 views

When was native debugging first used

I believe this is still on topic. This question comes from a mixture of curiosity and exasperation. A colleague refuses to use native debugging; whether in a stand-alone debugging tool or in an ...
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  • 235
1 vote
3 answers
1k views

What are programming languages written in?

This is my first question so be nice lol... Think of it this way. Python is written in C, which is written in an older C compiler, which is written in an even older C compiler, which is written in B, ...
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  • 135
3 votes
3 answers
490 views

Do I need to know about the history of the web and .NET?

As a .NET developer (for 5+ years) some times I think I should know all about the history of the dot net and also how the web was formed. However, I overlook the question by some justifications which ...
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-5 votes
1 answer
81 views

Novelty of relational model in historical context

The question/title might be ambiguous, so please feel free to improve (or even migrate if necessary) it. My primary concern is what are the innovations of relational model/theory/databases? (In ...
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  • 107
9 votes
1 answer
1k views

Why is Assembly Language called "Assembly"?

Why is assembly language called "assembly"? I was just watching the 1st video in the "Crockford on JavaScript" series. In it, Douglas says, ". . . the first program to make programming easier was ...
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  • 307
2 votes
1 answer
651 views

What is the origin of TDD?

I have seen people point me to many different "origins" of TDD. Some will point me to Kent Beck's rediscovery in the late 1990s with XP. Others will mention the 1960s best practice of annotating the ...
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-1 votes
1 answer
152 views

Inline HTML elements don't allow setting "width" - why is that?

In HTML/CSS, inline elements, such as <span>, do not support explicitly setting their width via the width CSS property. This is confusing to many developers, as questions like "Setting the ...
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9 votes
1 answer
570 views

Which was the first language to allow underscore in numeric literals?

Java 7+ allows to use underscores in numeric literals,which do not affect the value of the literal, yet are useful for grouping. Examples from the Java 7 documentation, entitled "Underscores in ...
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6 votes
2 answers
346 views

What was the first language to allow Unicode in function names?

People often get excited about JuliaLang supporting Unicode function names. But it's not new at all,it's just that the Julia community decided that it was sometimes appropriate, and built tooling to ...
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14 votes
1 answer
769 views

Why was "self" chosen over "this" for the name of the first parameter of python methods?

What was the rationale for choosing the name self instead of this when defining class methods in Python? Yes, of course, you can name it whatever you want - but the widely agreed-upon name for the ...
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0 votes
1 answer
201 views

What was the distinction between module interface files and module implementation files before Oberon?

I'm reading the book "The Go Programming Language" and this sentence in the preface section "The Origins of Go" has me puzzled: One major stream of influence comes from languages by Niklaus Wirth, ...
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1 vote
1 answer
2k views

What is the original reason JSON used `null` and not `undefined` to represent missing values?

In Javascript, there seems to be or have been an idea that undefined represents a missing primitive OR object value, while null represents just a missing object value. See, for example, this section ...
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  • 393
-2 votes
2 answers
432 views

Why was the caret used for exponentiation in BASIC?

As far as I have been able to find, the first language to use ^ for exponentiation was BASIC, in 1964. Earlier languages, such as Fortran, used other symbols such as ** for exponentiation (although in ...
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33 votes
2 answers
8k views

Who did async/await first?

Python added the async/await constructs in 3.5 in 2015. The Javascript community made steps towards it for a bazzillion years and finally added a very similar implementation to the draft in ES8 ...
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7 votes
2 answers
255 views

The programming paradigm behind beginFill/endFill

The only place I have really noticed this sort of programming style is with the graphics engines. Essentially like this: graphics.clear() graphics.setStrokeStyle(myStrokeWidth) graphics.beginStroke(...
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45 votes
8 answers
13k views

Before OOP, were data structure members left public?

When a data structure (for example, a queue) is implemented using an OOP language, some members of the data structure need to be private (for example, the number of items in the queue). A queue can ...
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153 votes
7 answers
27k views

Was the C programming language considered a low level language when it came out?

Currently C is considered a low level language, but back in the 70's was it considered low level? Was the term even in use then? Many popular higher level languages didn't exist until the mid 80's ...
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4 votes
2 answers
508 views

Was Java the first programming language to support inner classes?

The Wikipedia article on the subject of inner classes enumerates a number of programming languages that support nested class definitions. Historically speaking, which programming language first added ...
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  • 221
0 votes
1 answer
548 views

Why "typeof null == object" will stay in javascript?

I was reading a article about front-end development on Medium, when I stumbled upon an interesting piece of information, which is as follows: The type of a variable can be determined by using the ...
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-1 votes
3 answers
306 views

How did scientists "source control" hardware switches?

I'm putting together a talk of the history of best practices in software development and we're trying to put together a bit of a timeline of how good practice has evolved. This question talks about ...
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11 votes
2 answers
2k views

How did the custom of using square brackets for array elements develop?

Many programming language use the syntax a[i] to refer to the i'th element of an array, sequence, or vector a - specifically, C and Pascal (from the late 1960s and early 1970s) do this. On the other ...
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4 votes
5 answers
3k views

Why is the ampersand (&) a HTML Entity?

I understand the rationale behind why most of the HTML character Entities were created, but I don't understand the purpose behind the ampersand HTML entity. &amp; contains more bits than a & ...
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66 votes
10 answers
8k views

How and why did modern web application frameworks evolve to decouple URL routes from the file system?

Compared to about 10 years ago I have noted a shift towards frameworks using the style of routing that decouples the URL path from the filesystem. This is typically accomplished with the help of a ...
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  • 8,021
3 votes
0 answers
1k views

Why does GNU AS use different characters for single-line comments depending on the architecture?

The GNU Assembler as uses different characters depending on the architecture to specify single-line comments, such as # on x86, ; on 29k, or @ on ARM. Moreover, regardless of platform, C-style ...
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2 votes
1 answer
4k views

Does i in for loops means iteration or index? [duplicate]

Does i in for loops means iteration or index? How could I know the original meaning? Some programmers say it's iteration, some say it's index. It seems to me more of an index we start from --- we go ...
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1 vote
1 answer
223 views

Has the profession of programming gentrified over the years? [closed]

I have the vague sense that programming now is a more high-status job than it was in previous decades; that it used to be looked upon as more rote, manual work. The sense is that, while today fresh ...
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  • 393
18 votes
3 answers
2k views

When & why did pointers start to become viewed as risky?

It seems that there has been a gradual shift in thinking about the use of pointers in programming languages such that it became generally accepted that pointers were considered risky (if not outright "...
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3 votes
4 answers
554 views

Why is it common for naming 2 axis dimensions as width and height instead of length and width?

Pretty much almost all frameworks I use in programming uses the height and width when identifying a flat dimension (without Z axis), but when in math, a 2 axis object is always measured by length and ...
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5 votes
4 answers
690 views

Why is there both logical operators <> and !=?

The are two operators '<>' and '!=' used in programming languages with the same general meaning. '<>' can be used in PHP, SQL, and Pascal. '!=' seems to be more commonly used. What is the ...
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  • 161
1 vote
4 answers
401 views

Why do we prepend the "A" in "API"?

I'm writing some pedagogic material and when I started explaining what an API is I realized I didn't know why we say "application programming interface" instead of just "programming interface". Does ...
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-1 votes
1 answer
639 views

Why are we using mutable collections but immutable strings

In three popular platforms I'm familar with(.NET, java, python) strings are immutable but lists are by default mutable. In all languages there is some functional support(linq, streams, list ...
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2 votes
0 answers
383 views

What programming language first used the 'Safe navigation operator' (?.)?

What programming language first used / invented the 'Safe navigation operator' (?.) ? Unfortunately, the Wikipedia page on this subject does not have information on it and googling yielded no readily ...
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  • 136
0 votes
2 answers
627 views

How did software engineers test their code in 19xx? [closed]

There is a plethora of tools available for engineers to test their code these days. However, frameworks like Mocha.js came around only in 2011 with the ascent of NPM. So I wonder what were the ...
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  • 125
1 vote
2 answers
143 views

Is artificial complexity commonplace the larger a company or community gets?

It always seemed normal to me that the larger a company gets the less amount of work is put by its employees into making the company profitable. There are obviously no clear marks for this, but I ...
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  • 119
3 votes
1 answer
2k views

When was STL formally introduced into C++ standard?

I fail to infer the exact point of historical introduction of STL into actual C++ standard library from the wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_Template_Library It appears to me ...
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0 votes
1 answer
339 views

When were unsigned types first introduced in programming languages?

Recently I learned that standard Fortran does not support unsigned integers. Fortran is a language with a very long history. I suppose that when Fortran was first designed, there simply wasn't any ...
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  • 990
1 vote
1 answer
267 views

What computers did the original Mac team use for development?

There's a passage in Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs where Jobs moves Andy Hertzfeld to the Mac team by unplugging his computer and driving it over to the Mac building. This got me ...
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  • 972
0 votes
1 answer
89 views

What is the best way to store author of change and display changes of every column in temporal table in SQL Server?

I would like to store history of changes in table and also remember author of change. I created temporal table. This table contains ChangeAuthorId column which value I update every time when table is ...
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107 votes
11 answers
20k views

What kind of bugs do "goto" statements lead to? Are there any historically significant examples?

I understand that save for breaking out of loops nested in loops; the goto statement is evaded and reviled as a bug prone style of programming, to never be used. Alt Text: "Neal Stephenson thinks it'...
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