Computer coding is essential in today’s society for the proper functioning of the ubiquitous systems and devices we rely on daily. The ability to communicate with computers and instruct them to carry out certain tasks is made possible by programming languages. The gap between human and machine information processing can be bridged through programming languages.

When did the First Computer Programming Machines Appear?

  • Clockwork mechanisms are likely the earliest programmed machines ever discovered. The Antikythera mechanism was the first such device discovered (200 BC–70 BC).1 That’s why it’s hard to pin down a single individual as the first to ever use computer code to control an automated system.
  • Human and mechanical computers, as well as clockwork machines, existed before electronic computers. Intricate clockwork machines might be trained to carry out a sequence of simple or sophisticated actions, such as dancing or writing.
  • Most notably, the automaton (mechanical doll) known as The Writer was created in the 1770s by Swiss watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz.1

The Binary Number System and the Beginning of Computer Coding

  • Possibly the first known case of the binary system is the Jacquard Loom punch card system, which was patented in 1804.²
  • This technology allowed for the mechanization of the weaving of a variety of designs into fabric.

Coded Messages in Morse

  • Despite popular belief, the binary system was not invented with Morse code. The only symbols in a binary system are on and off.
  • The dots, dashes, and spaces between them are the building blocks of Morse code. People also typically use somewhat longer spaces between letters and considerably longer spaces between sentences when sending Morse code.³

Origins of Computer Coding

  • A group of human calculators at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering, Pennsylvania, in 1945, were hired as full-time computer programmers and charged with the ENIAC (the first electronic general-purpose digital computer).9,10, 11
  • Women had a hard time in life being acknowledged for their accomplishments and were often derisively called refrigerator ladies.11
  • Due to the lack of a suitable programming language, these women had to learn the machine’s schematics by heart and then program it using a set of external dials and switches to make it work.4,11

Early Forms of Computer Language

  • When Grace Hopper, a computer scientist from America, set out to create a system that would translate natural language into machine language, she succeeded in 1952. The computer code later evolved into the computer language called the Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL). It is still in use today.
  • COBOL was one of the first large-scale electronic computers. Hopper was the target of criticism, just like other pioneers of the computer industry. She was met with skepticism and critique when she originally proposed the concept.⁵

First Malicious Code

  • A malicious code is a harmful application sent with a wrongful purpose.⁶ Back in 1971, the Creeper virus was the first of its kind. Bob Thomas created the plan.
  • The Creeper was much less dangerous than today’s computer viruses. The malware just replicated itself across discs and popped up an “I’m the creeper: catch me if you can” dialogue window. It did not corrupt any of the preexisting files on the hard drive.7

A First Attempt at Anti-Virus Software

  • As a direct result of the Creeper, the first antivirus program, the Reaper, was developed in 1972.7 
  • In his own words, “Ray Tomlinson conceived and designed it” (the man who also designed the first email system). The Reaper was an antidote program that scurried from computer to computer, wiping Creeper files from hard drives.7

The Next Generation of Computer Coding

  • It’s difficult to conceive of modern life without some form of computer or software program. 
  • Everything we use, from smartphones to the computer-aided design software tools, was made possible by computer programming. Amazingly, the first computer programmers had to worry about being attacked for their work.
  • It’s shocking to hear that by 2020, only a small percentage of computer programmers were women, even though women played a major role in the early days of computer programming.,

The foundation of the modern digital age is the art of computer programming. A programming language is an unseen mastermind behind every action you take online, from liking a post to sending an email to setting an alarm on your phone. The history of computer coding is brimming with talented individuals who have helped revolutionize how we live. If you like this article, you can find more such intriguing articles on BYJU’s FutureSchool Blog. 


  1. Edmunds. (2022, October 4). Antikythera mechanism | Description, Purpose, & Facts. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from
  2. Programming patterns: the story of the Jacquard loom | Science and Industry Museum. (2019, June 25). Science and Industry Museum. Retrieved November 13, 2022, from
  3. Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2020, August 20). Morse Code | Invention, History, & Systems. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from
  4. Ferguson, A. (2004). A History of Computer Programming Languages. A History of Computer Programming Languages. Retrieved November 13, 2022, from
  5. Poole, S. (2016, November 4). Grace Hopper: The Most Important Female Computer Pioneer You’ve Never Heard Of. The Vindicated. Retrieved November 25, 2022, from
  6. Landesman. (2021, March 9). A Brief History of Malware. Lifewire. Retrieved November 13, 2022, from
  7. Team, P. F. (2018, October 10). Creeper and Reaper, the First Virus and First Antivirus in History. Pandora FMS Monitoring Blog. Retrieved November 13, 2022, from
  8. Why Are There So Few Female Software Developers? (2021, January 26). BlueOptima. Retrieved November 25, 2022, from
  9. The Modern History of Computing (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). (n.d.). Retrieved December 23, 2022, from 
  10. Winegrad, D., & Akera, A. (n.d.). A Short History of the Second American Revolution. Retrieved December 23, 2022, from 
  11. Meet the “Refrigerator Ladies” Who Programmed the ENIAC | Mental Floss. (n.d.). Retrieved December 23, 2022, from 

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