At least we’re not using punch cards

June 23, 2008 at 11:22 PM | Posted in history | Leave a comment
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Punch cards were used as early as the 1700s to program textile looms or player pianos.  By the early 1900s, they were used to store and process data in the precursors to modern computers. In fact, IBM was originally called the Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation and produced machines for creating and manipulating punch cards well into the 1970s.

Programmers using punch cards either used a keypunch to enter their programs one line at a time or would send handwritten sheets to an operator for entry.  The stack of cards they received after this painstaking process was completely untested.  The programmer would then have to give their deck to another operator and wait until computer time was available for the program to be run.  Once it did run, they got a paper print out of any output, often an error.

How different punch card codes work.

Check out a cultural history of the punch card.

Write out your own cards using different codes.

There’s even art made of punch cards.


Programming languages

June 20, 2008 at 9:22 AM | Posted in sub-fields | Leave a comment
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Although most computer scientists and programmers consider programming languages to be mere tools, someone has to create the languages!  Programming language design is about pushing the limits of what languages can represent as succinctly as possible, about finding ways to help programmers make fewer mistakes, about taking advantage of advances in hardware… and so much more.

We use Java in 142 for a number of reasons, but it’s not the only language there is.

For a humorous look at around 1200 of the languages out there, check out 99 bottles of beer written in each of them.

You might be interested in an illustrated list with links of a few of the commonly used or historically important languages.

There’s also a timeline which shows how over 50 popular languages are related to each other — Java borrows from many of them.

All these languages may seem overwhelming, but it’s not like going from Chinese to Spanish.  The cool thing here is that once you know the concepts of programming, you’ll be able to look at programs in many different languages and understand what’s going on.

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