Welcome!

Java IoT Authors: Dana Gardner, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Igor Drobiazko

Related Topics: Java IoT, Microservices Expo, IBM Cloud, Microsoft Cloud

Java IoT: Article

The History of Programming

Programming really starts back around 2500 B.C. with the introduction of the Abacus

I've been programming since around 1982, first using an Apple in high school and then finally getting my first computer, the Timex Sinclair 1000 (2k of ROM and 2k of RAM), that same year. Both computers came with a form of the BASIC programming language and it was the start of my lifelong pursuit of trying to understand computers.

A few months ago, one of my good friends called and asked if I had a PowerPoint presentation on the history of programming. When I checked my extensive list of presentations, I noticed that I didn't have one, so that led me on a journey to create a presentation on that very subject.

However, where to start? Maybe 1940 or 1950? After thinking about it for a while I realized that's really not where programming started. You need to go way, way back to really understand the programming concept and where it came from. This led me to envision the world as a dark, almost black place with a small white light in the center... really the only light around was the small white light in the center and that light represented the idea: there has to be a better, more accurate, way to count and keep track of things for commerce.

Prehistoric Programming
To be honest, programming really starts back around 2500 B.C. with the introduction of the Abacus. It was the first mechanical calculator that had more capabilities than most people realize. Did you know that the Abacus was used to help the blind count? I guess it could be said that it was the first 508-compliant device, and it was also used to explain things like ASCII that came many years later.

I know what you're thinking - that this is "hardware" not "software," which is 100% correct, but it's also the start of thinking and implementing in a mechanized fashion. Remember, the use of zero (0) was not introduced for another 2000 years, binary was still 2200 years away and almost 2400 years away from having a mechanical machine to predict astronomical events such as eclipses.

It took many years after that to get things like a machine to do control sequences (60 AD), the first real program, the first Cryptography (850 AD), the first security, the first mechanized mechanical calculator (1640 AD) from Blasé Pascal, and the first use of punch cards (1725 AD) for use with looms.

As history points out, there were a lot of things that had to happen to get us to the point where we could start thinking of the concept of "programming." This concept of "programming" was really nothing more than the idea of a repeatable process for counting and manufacturing.

The Leap...
This lead to Charles Babbage's "Analytical Machine," which was a huge, and I mean monumental, leap of what was before and what would come after. Many books and articles have been written on the Babbage machine, but a few reminders are in order:

  • Used a concept of a program
  • Had read-only memory
  • Had the concept of a CPU
  • Used a form of punch cards
  • Could do conditional jumps
  • Would be powered by steam

This change was on the order of going from black and white television to the high definition, millions of colors, televisions of today. The only problem was the machine never worked! However, the thoughts of where it could go sparked a revolution in ideas around such machines.

The great philosopher Plato said it best; "Necessity... is the mother of invention." No truer statement was applied when in 1880 the U.S. Census needed a better way to count the population of the U.S. At that time, it took seven years to complete the counting for that Census and it was predicted that it would take over 10 years to count the next one. The problem was the U.S. Census is supposed to happen every 10 years, hence the problem.

The Census department held a contest to find a better method of counting and it was won by an employee called "Herman Hollerith" who went on to create the Tabulating Machine Company, which later became known as IBM. Now back to the 1880 Census. It counted the 62,622,250 people with the famous line: "finished months ahead of schedule and under budget." The idea for the punch cards that were used came not from history or the loom, but from the observation of railroad conductors who categorized passengers with a code when they punched the ticket.

The Birth of Programming
Things continued to progress with the German Z3 in 1943 that could do three to four additions per second. Then along came the IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, which was a massive machine that was 51 feet long, weighed about five tons, and was made up of 750,000 parts. What kind of processing power did you get from this machine you may ask? It could handle numbers up to 23 digits with a plus sign and could process more than three or four add or subtracts per second, it could multiply in six seconds, divide in 15 seconds, and could do a logarithm or trig function in just over a minute, and by the by, this was all done on 24 column paper tape.

Finally in 1946, a real speed breakthrough occurred in processing with the ENIAC, which could do 5,000 simple add or subtracts per second. It could do real processing like Loops, Branches, and Subroutines and was programmed by six women moving cables and manipulating switches, and was one of the first machines to offer a debug process for a "single step" process.

The Dawn of Modern Programming
We started to get machine language that could be executed with switches and levers, but then came the dawn of SOAP. I'm not exactly talking about today's concept of SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), I'm talking about 1957's SOAP, and you know the one, Symbolic Optimal Assembly Program. While not as hip as today's SOAP, the 1957 version did add a lot for the programming world. Things like remembering numeric codes and addresses, large programs, and Assemblers are still used today; think about the Java JVM for example, which is written almost entirely in Assembler.

Around the same time as SOAP, a new language from IBM came onto the scene - Formula Translation or FORTRAN as it became known. This was really the first "general-purpose" language to hit the market. It was designed for numeric and scientific computing, but it could do a lot more and did. Today, Fortran 2008 (capitalization was removed in a later language specification) is the latest standard and still widely used, and it has influenced other, more modern languages used today, many that you most likely use from time to time.

A year later (1958), LISP (LISt Processing) came online and changed the way we think about data by introducing concepts of tree data structures, dynamic typing, and many others. It was originally designed to run on specialized LISP machines and has inspired another multitude of languages, for instance JavaScript.

Next came the dinosaur of languages, not because it's old, or extinct, but because it was and still is a giant when it comes to the number of people who have been exposed to it. I can only be writing about COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language). Developed by IBM, the U.S. Government, and many others, this became the standard language used by businesses around the world. It's estimated that over a quarter of a trillion lines of COBOL are still in production today.

The Great Expanse in Software Language
The 1960s, from both general historical and a computer science point of view, were a radical time. New computer languages were being developed at a record pace. Take for example ALGOL, which spawned other languages such as B, Pascal, C, and Haskell. New thoughts like the introduction of Scripting languages like PL/1 that led to REXX and to the first DSL (Domain Specific Language) RPG for report generation were all new approaches to programming.

A culmination of things learned were put into a general programming language called BASIC (Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code), which ironically was way ahead of its time by releasing the compiler for free. It was also the first language to really be "snobbed" by the highly respected computer professionals around its approach to many things, with the biggest offense being the use of the GOTO statement.

Most likely the biggest addition to computer programming came in 1967 with the invention of Object-Oriented (OO) programming. OO programming was introduced with Simula, which introduced concepts of Objects, Classes, virtual methods, garbage collection, and many others. It took a very large step in helping abstract the complexities of the world into known items and simplified system decomposition. This paradigm alone is responsible for the most popular language in use today, C++. Thinking about C++, just how many other similar languages and constructs were invented or introduced?

There are many great languages that were introduced over the next couple of decades, languages that many of us use day-in and day-out. Some caught on while others faded into obscurity.  But it should be said that with the advent of development environments or IDEs, more code was written and generated and generally allowed the programmer using an environment to flourish. We are currently at a low-point for IDEs, but this too will most likely pass as new environments are introduced to remove or, at a very minimum, reduce the amount of code that needs to be written for the demanding customers of today.

Of course with the advent of Visual Basic, Delphi, C++, and Java, the world became a much easier place in which to program. Remember before Java, and way before .NET, the world was a much more diverse place in regards to programming languages. I have trade magazines from the early '90s where the discussion wasn't on Java or .NET but on the fastest compiler, the best GUIs, the best way to scale software. It was a different time.

The Land of the Mixers
Welcome to the land of mixers... what are mixers you might ask? Today we live in a world where one programming paradigm is not good enough for us to do our jobs. To be honest, there really has not been a new idea in programming since the early 1970s.

Most of the ideas were already thought of back in the 1960s. For a language to "catch" on today it has to, at a minimum, give a nod to the past or it will be labeled extreme and it needs to be somewhat familiar or it won't be understood. So languages like PHP, Ruby, Erlang, F#, and even GO really don't do anything that new or special.

I proclaim the current time, the land of mixers, because instead of coming up with something new, we now add from all different languages to create a new language. My current favorite example of a mixer language is Falcon (http://www.falconpl.org/). It states it is the following:

...an Open Source, simple, fast and powerful programming language, easy to learn and to feel comfortable with, and a scripting engine ready to empower mission-critical multithreaded applications.

Falcon provides six integrated programming paradigms: procedural, object oriented, prototype oriented, functional, tabular and message oriented. And you don't have to master all of them; you just need to pick the ingredients you prefer, and let the code to follow your inspiration.

Wow, I could not have said it better myself. Falcon is a true mixer language. There are dozens of other languages just like Falcon and many have less constraints, and Falcon has very few. On the one hand I can program any way I like, on the other I can program any way I like and that may not be good for the next person who will become responsible for my code someday. So this invariably leads to the next question...

What's Next?
Maybe a language that's different and based on Computational Theory is next, or maybe something completely off the wall is right around the corner and will change the way we develop software, change the way we think about software or maybe it will be another repackaging of the same things we do in other languages, just presented differently.

For over the past 50 years, we have been rehashing the same ideas over and over. Requirements are not shrinking and customer expectations are not withering, so whatever language you choose to complete a project, make sure you like it and it gets the job done.

Due to the size limitation of this piece, I had to leave out a lot of other languages. Some really cool ones, some really boring ones, and some I totally forgot to include. Keep an eye out as I plan on taking the presentation on the road to a conference here or there to get feedback, and most likely a recording of the full presentation in the future. I'm sure I forgot your favorite language, or I need to drop one of mine, but one thing is for sure, the history of programming is always morphing and that makes things really interesting.

More Stories By Mike Rozlog

Mike Rozlog is with Embarcadero Technologies. In this role, he is focused on ensuring the family of Delphi developer products being created by Embarcadero meets the expectations of developers around the world. Much of his time is dedicated to discussing and explaining the technical and business aspects of Embarcadero’s products and services to analysts and other audiences worldwide. Mike was formerly with CodeGear, a developer tools group that was acquired by Embarcadero in 2008. Previously, he spent more than eight years working for Borland in a number of positions, including a primary role as Chief Technical Architect. A reputed author, Mike has been published numerous times. His latest collaboration is Mastering JBuilder from John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
JulesLt 08/16/11 09:56:00 AM EDT

Few thoughts - I've always thought knitting patterns were an early form of programming language, complete with loops - and presumably pre-dating loops, which automated them with cards.

(And unlike, say, a recipe, it's a formal abstract language)

Secondly, we now know ENIAC was predated by work done throughout WW2, in both the US and UK, that was only declassified much later. But as far as I know, Manchester claims the title for the first computer to execute a program stored in memory - which was a major advance from calculating machines to computers.

Lastly - there was a good paper published in the 80s which made an interesting observation - which was that the leap from punched card/tape to VDU based programming was huge, but each additional leap (higher-level programming languages, interactive compilers, IDEs) has seen a smaller improvement in developer productivity.

He predicted that visual programming environments would not result in a massive leap forward - or enable non-programmers to program - because they were making a mistake about what the actual difficulty with programming was.

The author pointed out that most of the improvements have been around removing accidents (mistyping, referencing methods that do not exist) and in standardised code libraries - 15 years ago we wrote C at the TCP socket level - now we generate proxy objects against a WSDL and everything below that is taken care of.

In doing so, we get closer and closer to spending our time on the actual inherent complexity of the problem we are trying to solve. That the errors become increasingly errors in business logic or architectural, not code.

Or put another way - anything that can generate code IS a form of high-level programming language (and a general purpose CASE tool may be less productive that a DSL).

@ThingsExpo Stories
We’ve worked with dozens of early adopters across numerous industries and will debunk common misperceptions, which starts with understanding that many of the connected products we’ll use over the next 5 years are already products, they’re just not yet connected. With an IoT product, time-in-market provides much more essential feedback than ever before. Innovation comes from what you do with the data that the connected product provides in order to enhance the customer experience and optimize busi...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Klein, CEO and Co-founder of Rachio, will discuss next generation communities that are using IoT to create more sustainable, intelligent communities. One example is Sterling Ranch, a 10,000 home development that – with the help of Siemens – will integrate IoT technology into the community to provide residents with energy and water savings as well as intelligent security. Everything from stop lights to sprinkler systems to building infrastructures will run ef...
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, will provide tips on how to be successful in large scale machine lear...
Digital payments using wearable devices such as smart watches, fitness trackers, and payment wristbands are an increasing area of focus for industry participants, and consumer acceptance from early trials and deployments has encouraged some of the biggest names in technology and banking to continue their push to drive growth in this nascent market. Wearable payment systems may utilize near field communication (NFC), radio frequency identification (RFID), or quick response (QR) codes and barcodes...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Stratoscale, the software company developing the next generation data center operating system, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Stratoscale is revolutionizing the data center with a zero-to-cloud-in-minutes solution. With Stratoscale’s hardware-agnostic, Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) solution to store everything, run anything and scale everywhere...
Angular 2 is a complete re-write of the popular framework AngularJS. Programming in Angular 2 is greatly simplified – now it's a component-based well-performing framework. This immersive one-day workshop at 18th Cloud Expo, led by Yakov Fain, a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay, will provide you with everything you wanted to know about Angular 2.
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
Increasing IoT connectivity is forcing enterprises to find elegant solutions to organize and visualize all incoming data from these connected devices with re-configurable dashboard widgets to effectively allow rapid decision-making for everything from immediate actions in tactical situations to strategic analysis and reporting. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Shikhir Singh, Senior Developer Relations Manager at Sencha, will discuss how to create HTML5 dashboards that interact with IoT devic...
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to massively disrupt IoT. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, AJ Abdallat, CEO of Beyond AI, will discuss what the five main drivers are in Artificial Intelligence that could shape the future of the Internet of Things. AJ Abdallat is CEO of Beyond AI. He has over 20 years of management experience in the fields of artificial intelligence, sensors, instruments, devices and software for telecommunications, life sciences, environmental monitoring, process...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ericsson has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Ericsson is a world leader in the rapidly changing environment of communications technology – providing equipment, software and services to enable transformation through mobility. Some 40 percent of global mobile traffic runs through networks we have supplied. More than 1 billion subscribers around the world re...
There is an ever-growing explosion of new devices that are connected to the Internet using “cloud” solutions. This rapid growth is creating a massive new demand for efficient access to data. And it’s not just about connecting to that data anymore. This new demand is bringing new issues and challenges and it is important for companies to scale for the coming growth. And with that scaling comes the need for greater security, gathering and data analysis, storage, connectivity and, of course, the...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DatacenterDynamics has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. DatacenterDynamics is a brand of DCD Group, a global B2B media and publishing company that develops products to help senior professionals in the world's most ICT dependent organizations make risk-based infrastructure and capacity decisions.
Machine Learning helps make complex systems more efficient. By applying advanced Machine Learning techniques such as Cognitive Fingerprinting, wind project operators can utilize these tools to learn from collected data, detect regular patterns, and optimize their own operations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stuart Gillen, Director of Business Development at SparkCognition, will discuss how research has demonstrated the value of Machine Learning in delivering next generation analytics to im...
This is not a small hotel event. It is also not a big vendor party where politicians and entertainers are more important than real content. This is Cloud Expo, the world's longest-running conference and exhibition focused on Cloud Computing and all that it entails. If you want serious presentations and valuable insight about Cloud Computing for three straight days, then register now for Cloud Expo.
IoT device adoption is growing at staggering rates, and with it comes opportunity for developers to meet consumer demand for an ever more connected world. Wireless communication is the key part of the encompassing components of any IoT device. Wireless connectivity enhances the device utility at the expense of ease of use and deployment challenges. Since connectivity is fundamental for IoT device development, engineers must understand how to overcome the hurdles inherent in incorporating multipl...
The increasing popularity of the Internet of Things necessitates that our physical and cognitive relationship with wearable technology will change rapidly in the near future. This advent means logging has become a thing of the past. Before, it was on us to track our own data, but now that data is automatically available. What does this mean for mHealth and the "connected" body? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Lisa Calkins, CEO and co-founder of Amadeus Consulting, will discuss the impact of wea...