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Special Issue on Programming Languages

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129827D
Original Publication Date: 1994-Dec-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 2 page(s) / 17K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

THOMAS J. BERGIN: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

Although most articles on the history of computing focus on computer hardware, it can be argued that there is something special about the evolution of software, the element which brings life and value to an inanimate machine. It is through software that we communicate with the machine, it is software that processes our requests, and it is software that writes responses to our inquiries. All forms of software have contributed to computing; however, programming languages are the stuff from which all other forms of software have evolved. It is fitting, therefore, that we devote this special issue to programming languages. The lead article, by Brian Randell, examines ";The Origins of Computer Programming"; and describes some of the early developments that can, in hindsight, be viewed as early approaches to program-controlled machinery. Although Randell ";has no pretensions to advancing the state of historical investigations into the origins of programming,"; his treatment provides us with a marvelous window through which to view programming-language development. Indeed, given the importance of Charles Babbage's contributions, Randell's article provides a perfect introduction to the other articles in this special issue. Randell first examines early automata, and we see in the pegged cylinder (still used in music boxes) one of the earliest attempts to ";program"; machinery, by storing retrievable and changeable information. Another familiar method is the punched card that Jacquard used to control the weaving of cloth in the 1830s. Babbage knew of these and other developments when he began work on difference engines in 1821, and used both technologies in his Analytical Engine. Indeed, Randell points out that it was the flexibility of the punched card which allowed for conditional branching. This article concludes with a discussion of other contributors: Percy Ludgate, who envisaged the use of subroutines; Torres y Quevedo, who produced devices capable of conditional branching; and the realization of the potential of the ";stored-program concept,"; by the ENIAC/EDVAC team.

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This record contains textual material that is copyright ©; 1994 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Contact the IEEE Computer Society http://www.computer.org/ (714-821-8380) for copies of the complete work that was the source of this textual material and for all use beyond that as a record from the SPI Database.

Special Issue on Programming Languages

THOMAS J. BERGIN

Although most articles on the history of computing focus on computer hardware, it can be argued that there is something special about the evolution of software, the element which brings life and value to an inanimate machine. It is through software that we communicate with the machine, it is software that processes our requests, and it is software that writes responses to our inquiries. All forms of software have contributed to computing; however, programming languages are the stuff from which all other forms of software have evolved. It is fitting, therefore, that we devote this special issue to programming languages.

The lead article, by Brian Randell, examines "The Origins of Computer Programming" and describes some of the early developments that can, in hindsight, be viewed as early approaches to program-controlled machinery. Although Randell "has no pretensions to advancing the state of historical investigations into the origins of programming," his treatment provides us with a marvelous window through which to view programming-language development. Indeed, given the importance of Charles Babbage's contributions, Randell's article provides a perfect introduction to the other articles in this special issue.

Randell first examines early automata, and we see in the pegged cylinder (still used in music boxes) one of the earliest attempts to "program" machinery, by storing retrievable and changeable information. Another familiar method is the punched card that Jacquard used to control the weaving of cloth in the 1830s. Babbage knew of these and other developments when he began work on difference engines in 1821, and used both technologies in his Analytical Engine. Indeed, Randell points out that it was the flexibility of the punched card which allowed for conditional branching. This article concludes with a discussion of other contributors: Percy Ludgate, who envisaged the use of subroutines; Torres y Quevedo, who produced devices capable of conditional branching; and the realization of the potential of the "stored-program concept," by the ENIAC/EDVAC team.

The next article, "The Early History of REXX," by Mike Cowlishaw, provides a unique look at the birth and growth of a language through the eyes of its developer. What makes the evolution of REXX especially interesting is that Cowlishaw developed the language with numerous inputs via email from users of the language. This article provides some glimpses into "an essentially complete historical record of the...