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How was Computer Coding Invented?
We use computers every day, but not everyone knows how they work. The magic happens in something called coding. Coding is the process of transforming human language into instructions a machine can understand. Let’s look at how computer coding was invented and how it has changed over time.
The Beginning Of Computer Coding
The journey of computer coding begins in 1883 with the English inventor and mathematician, Charles Babbage.1 Babbage conceptualized a machine that could be programmed to perform certain tasks. He called it the Analytical Engine.
Ada and the First Computer
Ada Lovelace, a mathematician, wrote the first computer program. She wrote this program for the Analytical Engine while working with Babbage. The purpose of the program was to calculate a sequence of Bernoulli numbers.2
The First Program
It wasn’t until 1941 that the first actual computer program was run. This machine, called the Z3, was created by German engineer Konrad Zuse. It was used for aerodynamic calculations. The first electronic computer created in 1943 was called the Colossus.3
The First Modern Computer Codes
In 1949, Assembly Language was developed. This was a type of code that computers understood. The code soon saw large-scale adoption in Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculators.4
A few years later, in 1952, Alick Glennie developed the Autocode programming language. This was one of the first high-level programming languages based on assembly language.5
The big breakthrough came in 1957 when John Backus and a team of IBM researchers developed FORTRAN. This was the first truly successful high-level programming language. It is still in use today!6
Other languages during this early period of computer coding include:
ALGOL: ALGOL was developed in 1958.7 It stands for algorithmic language and can be credited as the foundation for modern-day programming coding languages like Java, C, and Pascal.
COBOL: COBOL was developed in 1959 and was designed for business applications. It was created by Dr. Grace Murray Hopper and could work with all types of computers. Today, the code is used in various operations like ATMs and automotive systems.8
Lisp: Lisp was developed in 1960. It was created by John McCarthy and is used in artificial intelligence and machine learning application research.9
Soon, various coding languages were developed for specific purposes by big tech companies. Let’s take a look at them.
BASIC: Developed in 1964, BASIC was designed as a beginner’s coding language. It was created by John G. Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz.10 The name is an acronym for Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. Paul Allen and Bill Gates modified the language. BASIC became the first product ever made by Microsoft.18,19
Pascal: While Microsoft focused on BASIC, their competitor, Apple, developed a different language. In 1970, Apple released Pascal. They hired Niklaus Wirth to develop the code for them. Pascal was based on the ALGOL code.11
The 1970s saw the development of other important languages like:
C: C was developed in 1972 by Dennis Ritchie. C was based on the code of an earlier language called BCPL.12
SQL: SQL was developed in 1974. It was developed by Donald D. Chamberlin and Raymond F. Boyce for viewing and changing data stored in databases.13
Smalltalk: Smalltalk was developed in 1972. It is an object-oriented language that influenced many other languages, such as Java, Python, and Ruby.14
MATLAB: In 1978, MATLAB was developed for math and engineering projects. The code was written by Cleve Moler and is still used today for scientific computing.15
The 1980s saw the development of computer code languages like Objective C, C++, and Perl. These languages are still in use today and have influenced the development of many of the languages we use today.20,21
Python is used in AI and machine learning. R is used for statistical computing. Java is used for Android development, web development, and more. PHP is used for server-side scripting.
The Recent Ones
Since the 2000s, a few more programming languages have been developed, such as C#, Scala, Java, Go, and Swift.22,23,24
Computer Coding Today
Currently, there are hundreds of different programming codes and languages in existence. Each has been developed for a specific purpose. While some are more popular than others, all coding languages play an essential role in computers and technology.
As you can see, the history of computer coding is long and complex. It started with a few simple codes and has since grown into a vast world of languages. It will be interesting to see the future of computer coding.
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- Fifty Years of BASIC, the Programming Language That Made Computers Personal. (2014, April 29). Time. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from https://time.com/69316/basic/
- The History of Computing: The PASCAL Programming Language on Apple Podcasts. (n.d.). Apple Podcasts. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-pascal-programming-language/id1472463802?i=1000444185936
- A programming language called C: The C programming language is claimed to be compact, efficient, and expressive, to the point of supplanting assembly language on Unix. (n.d.). A Programming Language Called C: The C Programming Language Is Claimed to Be Compact, Efficient, and Expressive, to the Point of Supplanting Assembly Language on Unix | IEEE Journals & Magazine | IEEE Xplore. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/6499601
- Donald Chamberlin & Raymond Boyce Develop SEQUEL (SQL) : History of Information. (1974, January 1). Donald Chamberlin & Raymond Boyce Develop SEQUEL (SQL) : History of Information. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from https://www.historyofinformation.com/detail.php?id=910
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- The Ruby Story. (n.d.). The Ruby Story. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from https://twobithistory.org/2017/11/19/the-ruby-story.html
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