Wednesday, July 15, 2015

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History of Computer Programming

If it’s the history of programming that has to be retold, then it is safe to begin an account with the difference engine of Charles Babbage way back in 1822. Even from the time when computers were so simple, they still needed to have instructions so that they will be able to perform tasks that are inputted to them. This set of instructions is what is known today as computer programming.

During the difference engine’s era, the gears needed to be changed manually which would then result into the calculations being made. All of that was changed when signals of electricity replaced physical motion with the US Government’s 1942 machine named ENIAC. The concept of accepting programming was also followed by this machine.

To make programming faster, two vital concepts which directly influenced programming languages were developed in 1945 by John Von Neumann, who was then with the Institute for Advanced Study. The first concept was known as the shared-program method. This concept dictated that the hardware had to be non-complex and need not be hand-wired for every program. Intricate instructions were used to control this type of hardware which made reprogramming quicker.

The second concept called the ‘conditional control transfer’ gave birth to code blocks which can be used even in different orders or the so-called subroutines. The next part of the concept was logical branching. With this, the concept of having code blocks that can be used and reused was born.

By 1949, the Short Code language came out. It became the mother of electronic device computer language. With this language, the programmer was required to use 0’s and 1’s instead of the usual statements. 1951 marked the appearance of compiler named A-0 by Grace Hopper. This program translated all the 0’s and 1’s for the computer. This gave way to much quicker programming.

FORTRAN (FORmula TRANslating System) was introduced in 1957 which was also the first key language. It was designed for IBM for scientific computation. This language included the GOTO, DO and IF statements. FORTRAN’s forte was not business computing, though. It was a good program for number handling but not for business computations.

COBOL was then developed in 1959. It was designed as a businessman’s language. The COBOL’s program was comparable to an essay where there are 4-5 sections comprising a major whole. This made it easier to study.

The LISP language (developed for artificial intelligence study) also known as the Cambridge Polish was developed in 1958 by John McCarthy. This programming language is highly abstract and specific that is why it is still being used today. The LISP can store lists and modify them on its own.

In that same year, the Algol language was produced. This became the mother of the Pascal language, C and C++, and also Java. Algol also had the first proper grammar called the Backus-Naar form or BNF. Algol 68, which was the next version, was a harder version to use. Due to this difficulty, Pascal came into existence.

Niklaus Wirth introduced the Pascal language in 1968. It was a necessary means of teaching then. It was a combination of the following languages: ALGOL, FORTRAN and COBOL. It was also Pascal that improved the pointer data form. Its downfall was caused by its lack of variable groups. Modula-2 then appeared but C was already popular among many users.

C by Dennis Ritchie (1972, used by Unix) was comparable to Pascal but its precursors were the B and BCPL. It is also being used in Windows, Linux and Mac OS. OOP (Object Oriented Programming) was developed in 1970’s until the 80’s. This developed into the C++ language in 1983. This language can manipulate many tasks all at the same time. This is also the chosen language courses in AP Computer Science. In 1987, Perl (Practical Extraction and Reporting Language) was developed.

Java soon followed in 1994. Microsoft has also developed VB or Visual Basic which uses widgets and these are now widely used.

The future holds many more developments for computer programming. It may have started on a crude method but looking at the languages in use today, there were so many developments that we can only wonder what ‘impossibilities’ could be made possible very soon.

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