Questions tagged [history]

For questions about the history of programming and computing.

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-3
votes
0answers
31 views

Where does the term 'bit rot' (or similiar digital rot-variants) come from?

As the title says, does anyone have any info where those -rot terms originated? By now it seems to be a somewhat common term, having its own wikipedia-entry, being used in media, literature and ...
2
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2answers
173 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 ...
26
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2answers
5k 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 ...
38
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2answers
18k 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?
0
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3answers
268 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, ...
45
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9answers
16k views

What did people do before templates in C++? [duplicate]

I am not new to programming, but I am one that started a few years ago, and I do love templates. But in the before times, how did people deal with situations where they needed compile-time code ...
3
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3answers
483 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 ...
16
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4answers
2k 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 ...
8
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2answers
618 views

When was Java's 'qualified this' introduced?

I've only recently learned about the qualified this, and was curious as to when was it introduced in the language, as I've been using Java here and there for around 18 years. Oracle keeps only the ...
5
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7answers
4k views

How did programmers implement Linked list ideas before the object oriented paradigm?

Linked lists, as far as I have seen, are largely implemented using object-oriented ideas. (having an object that holds some information and the address of the next link). How were Linked-lists ...
138
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6answers
50k 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 ...
50
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9answers
12k views

Why was the Itanium processor difficult to write a compiler for?

It's commonly stated that Intel's Itanium 64-bit processor architecture failed because the revolutionary EPIC instruction set was very difficult to write a good compiler for, which meant a lack of ...
73
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10answers
41k views

Why has C prevailed over Pascal? [closed]

My understanding is that in the 1980s, and perhaps in the 1990s too, Pascal and C were pretty much head-to-head as production languages. Is the ultimate demise of Pascal only due to Borland's neglect ...
4
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2answers
687 views

What was the date of the Java Alpha and Beta releases

The date of the public 1.0 release of Java is easy to find: January 23, 1996. But there were public Alpha and Beta releases before that, and in December 1995 Java already appeared on the list of Time ...
612
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9answers
223k 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?
1216
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12answers
213k views

Where did the notion of “one return only” come from?

I often talk to programmers who say "Don't put multiple return statements in the same method." When I ask them to tell me the reasons why, all I get is "The coding standard says so." or "It's ...
25
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4answers
6k 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.
33
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8answers
3k views

How did version control work on microcomputers of the day in the 80s and 90s?

I'm curious to know how programmer teams typically managed their software development back in the 80s and early 90s. Was all the source code simply stored on one machine which everyone worked on, or ...
12
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1answer
703 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 ...
-5
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1answer
70 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 ...
44
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3answers
5k 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
327 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 ...
17
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1answer
2k views

Books and stories on programming culture, specifically in the 80's / early 90's [closed]

I've enjoyed a number of (fiction/non-fiction books) about hacker culture and running a software business in the 80's, 90's. For some reason things seemed so much more exciting back then. Examples are:...
9
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1answer
457 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 ...
-1
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1answer
122 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 ...
562
votes
2answers
208k views

What is the Mars Curiosity Rover's software built in?

The Mars Curiosity rover has landed successfully, and one of the promo videos "7 minutes of terror" brags about there being 500,000 lines of code. It's a complicated problem, no doubt. But that is a ...
9
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1answer
369 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 ...
6
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2answers
275 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 ...
25
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2answers
5k views

When was the earliest time that the term “snake case” was used? [closed]

Many people use the term Snake Case to describe variables or other symbols with_the_form_of_underscores. In the past week, I've launched several broad searches. I can't find anything about the origin ...
4
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5answers
2k 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 & ...
38
votes
4answers
12k views

Why can't `main` return a double or String rather than int or void?

In many languages such as C, C++, and Java, the main method/function has a return type of void or int, but not double or String. What might be the reasons behind that? I know a little bit that we ...
12
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3answers
9k views

Who are the 1st and 2nd parties?

So, this is pure curiosity. I've heard the term 3rd party, as in, "3rd party library" for quite a while. I wonder why we say 3rd and not 2nd (or 4th)? Who are the first and second parties and where ...
82
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3answers
84k views

Why is Python written in C and not in C++?

In Python's tutorial one can read that Python's original implementation is in C; On the other hand, the Python implementation, written in C, (...) I'm very curious why was Python written in C and ...
13
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2answers
2k views

Why did programming languages start using = for assignment?

In most early algorithms books, <- referred to assignment and = referred to comparison. But nowadays the only languages that don't use = for assignment are Pascal (:=) and toy languages like COOL. ...
107
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11answers
19k 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'...
90
votes
7answers
62k 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, ...
31
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2answers
2k views

What is the origin of the C Preprocessor?

The C preprocessor is attached to C, but it has a completely different syntax from the main language: syntactically significant whitespace (end of line terminates a statement, gap after the macro ...
5
votes
4answers
648 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 ...
53
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4answers
4k views

What is the exact ingenuity of Unix pipe

I have heard the story of how Douglas Mcllroy came up with the concept and how Ken Thompson implemented it in one night. As far as I understand, pipe is a system call which shares a piece of memory ...
1
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0answers
85 views

Build automation tools before make? [closed]

I realized that make was "only" invented in 1976 and seems to be one of the first build automation tools (at least it's probably the oldest still in use). But we already had a history of large ...
120
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4answers
82k views

IPv4 to IPv6. where is IPv5?

As all of us know that after IPv4 it came IPv6. How this transition happened? I just want to know was there any IPv5 also? or there is any other logic in naming this version of IP as IPv6?
0
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1answer
119 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, ...
0
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1answer
1k 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 ...
5
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5answers
5k views

Why was Fortran never used to develop an Operating System?

I'm not a Fortran developer myself, but I'm about to use it a little and found myself wondering why, if it is much older than C but equally as performant as C, was it never used to develop any ...
1
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0answers
70 views

How and why did so many different systems of Regex develop differently? [closed]

In Notepad++ * stands for an arbitrary string and . for one arbitrary character (optionally including newlines). In the Linux console * stands for an arbitrary string and ? for one arbitrary character....
4
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5answers
4k views

How did the “Rails can't Scale” meme start?

One meme about Rails is that Rails can't Scale. Is it known how this meme started? Was there a particular blog post that argued this is the case?
7
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3answers
983 views

How did people write end-user software in Smalltalk?

There is something I've never understood about Smalltalk, since reading about it in a book when I was a child, tho' I have never used it "in anger". I know that it is turtles-all-the-way-down, that ...
6
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2answers
173 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(...
48
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4answers
29k views

How could the first C++ compiler be written in C++?

Stroustrup claims that Cfront, the first C++ compiler, was written in C++ (Stroustrup FAQ). However, how is it even possible that the first C++ compiler be written in C++? The code that makes up the ...
-2
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2answers
277 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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