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Compiling SIMULA: A Historical Study of Technological Genesis

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129830D
Original Publication Date: 1994-Dec-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 22 page(s) / 84K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

JAN RUNE HOLMEVIK: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

This article traces the history of the programming language SIMULA from the 1950s into the 1970s, focusing in particular on the formative years between 1962 and 1967. It offers no technical appraisal of the language per se. Rather, it is a sociotechnical analysis aimed at exploring the broader history of the SIMULA project. The article asserts that technological change should be studied in a contextual perspective. Thus the politics surrounding the project and the prehistory of SIMULA are given ample attention. The SIMULA programming language was designed by Ole-Johan Dahl and Kristen Nygaard at the Norwegian Computing Centre (NCC) in Oslo between 1962 and 1967. It was originally implemented as a language for discrete event simulation, but was later expanded and reimplemented as a general-purpose programming language. Although it never became widely used, the language has been highly influential on modern programming methodology. Among other things, SIMULA introduced important objectoriented programming concepts like classes and objects, inheritance, and dynamic binding. This article seeks to explore the wider history of the SIMULA project. By means of a contextual approach to history, it attempts to weave together the technical development of the language with what is normally seen as its social, economic, and political context. Thus, this article is a sociotechnical analysis, where the main concern is to investigate the heterogeneity of technological genesis.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

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.

Compiling SIMULA: A Historical Study of Technological Genesis

JAN RUNE HOLMEVIK

This article traces the history of the programming language SIMULA from the 1950s into the 1970s, focusing in particular on the formative years between 1962 and 1967. It offers no technical appraisal of the language per se. Rather, it is a sociotechnical analysis aimed at exploring the broader history of the SIMULA project. The article asserts that technological change should be studied in a contextual perspective. Thus the politics surrounding the project and the prehistory of SIMULA are given ample attention.

The SIMULA programming language was designed by Ole-Johan Dahl and Kristen Nygaard at the Norwegian Computing Centre (NCC) in Oslo between 1962 and 1967. It was originally implemented as a language for discrete event simulation, but was later expanded and reimplemented as a general-purpose programming language. Although it never became widely used, the language has been highly influential on modern programming methodology. Among other things, SIMULA introduced important objectoriented programming concepts like classes and objects, inheritance, and dynamic binding.

This article seeks to explore the wider history of the SIMULA project. By means of a contextual approach to history, it attempts to weave together the technical development of the language with what is normally seen as its social, economic, and political context. Thus, this article is a sociotechnical analysis, where the main concern is to investigate the heterogeneity of technological genesis.

As the historian of technology Thomas Hughes 2 has shown in his remarkable studies of Edison and others, technologists often pay little attention to commonly accepted knowledge categories or professional boundaries. He observes that they, in order to accomplish their aims, frequently transcend the limits of what is normally considered technical or scientific, and that they habitually amalgamate matters commonly labeled social, economical, or political with matters technical and scientific. Thus, for Hughes, technologists are heterogeneous professionals, and their interaction with the wider sociotechnical context to which they relate their work becomes the prime focus of interest. His principal argument, in effect, is that one cannot fully comprehend the complex processes of technological and scientific change unless one recognizes that problem-solving technologists see the above analytical categories as going together as a thoroughly integrated whole -- that is, composing a se...