History

A Conversation with Manfred von Thun

Sketchpad: A man-machine graphical communication system

Ivan Sutherland's famous thesis has been rereleased in a new electronic edition. This is a freely downloadable and high-quality PDF version created by Alan Blackwell and Kerry Rodden.

Simulators: Virtual Machines of the Past (and Future)

SIMH, the Computer History Simulation system, is a behavioral simulator for obsolete systems of historic interest. Originally intended as an educational project, it is increasingly being used in long-lived production environments as a substitute for real systems. SIMH is continuously being extended to simulate new machines.

This item isn't directly PL related, but since many LtU regulars are fond of programming language history, I assume there is interest in other apsects of computing history. On top of that, if and when you try to rescue an obsolete language implementation, there's a good chance you are going to need something like SIMH.

This ACM Queue article describes the design issues invloved in building SIMH, and the problems the arise when simulating old hardware systems.

Alan Kay: The Early History of Smalltalk

by way of lispmeister
(PDF scan or HTML)

Smalltalk's design--and existence--is due to the insight that everything we can describe can be represented by the recursive composition of a single kind of behavioral building block that hides its combination of state and process inside itself and can be dealt with only through the exchange of messages.

Really double-extra good.

Early history of Fortran

A very rich site devoted to tracking down the source code for the original Fortran compiler:

My name is Paul McJones. I hope to use this weblog to discuss software history among other topics. For several months I’ve been studying the early history of Fortran, and trying to track down the source code for the original Fortran compiler. Although I just set up this weblog recently (June-July 2004), I’ve created back-dated entries to document my quest in chronological order

It seems most items recently are about programming language history... This site describes an interesting quest, which makes me wonder if the evolution of more recent languages will be easier to document, given the Internet and so forth. It would be rather amusing if LtU will once be used as an historical resource ;-)

The idea of preserving classic software is a good one. I think programming languages (and programming technology in general) are very good indecators of the state of the art and the major issues of the day (e.g., Java and the Net), so building a timelime by considering PLs sounds like a good idea.

We should also keep in mind that John Backus of FP fame was famous even before that for his work on compilers, and was involved with the Fortran team at IBM.

An interactive historical roster of computer languages

A very interesting site dedicated to the history of programming languages.

The navigation is a bit clunky, and I am still not sure I understand all the features of the site, but the database is impressive (use the "search" button on the right hand side of the window to open the search frame).

The site includes amusing statistics (e.g., which decade produced the most programming languages?)

It would be interesting to see what LtU readers think about the taxonomy used here. It's quite fine-grained.

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