# Computer languages tend to be transient

George Jones
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
HUH ??? Perhaps you mean that you don't need to be a touch typist but surely you can't really believe that you can, or ever could, write computer code without typing?
I wrote my first programs (which used Fortran) without typing. I posted the following in a restrict forum, so I'll share it more widely here.

My "back in the day" story.

Fortran was my first progamming language, which I leaned in two high school computer science courses from '76 to '78. My high school teacher was a CS grad from the University of Waterloo, so we did some good stuff, e.g., introductory numerical methods.

Running programs was quite an experience. "Back in the day", my high school didn't have computers. We penciled in bubbles on computer cards, and then sent out our cards by Geyhound bus to the nearest university, which would run our programs and send the cards and hard-copy results back by bus. Each program had an effective run-time of two to four days! After three days, you would find out that your program hadn't even run, because you penciled in a wrong bubble, causing a fatal syntax error. Result "Execution suppressed."!

Our teacher, Mr. Fennell, managed things well, making sure that we were working on multiple projects and getting results back every day. A very positive experience for (the then young) me.

Wrichik Basu, jedishrfu and Keith_McClary
jedishrfu
Mentor
My early days circa 1970 were very similar but we met only once a week for about 90 minutes at the GE Computer Center Explorer Scout meeting. I was luckier than most as I got two to three runs in on a night with the help of one of the off-shift computer supervisors. Others would only get one run. We all fought for the keypunch machine or used the sheets for the keypunchers to type it for us. I would get there early do my edits and get a run done.

In the end, my project was to plot some math functions using the line printer. The frustration was that while it worked my plots were always on a field of zeros. Years later as a trained programmer for GE, I learned that I needed to initialize the printed array with spaces.

The one positive of the experience was that I was immediately hired right out of college by GE as a poster child for the success of the Explorer Post Program as I was the very first graduate of the program that came back to the fold.

anorlunda
Staff Emeritus
Also in the 70s, I once caught a malfunctioning punch card reader. The cards did not always come out in the same order as they went in.

Imagine the angst of those poor programmers who were trying to debug their programs on that machine. Every time they made a new run, the symptoms would worsen.

jedishrfu
jedishrfu
Mentor
That’s a very sad story. I think though for source code they would have gotten a listing that would show card order and possibly a compile error depending on the physical malfunction. But for object decks maybe a checksum would catch it.

Klystron
Tom.G
The cards did not always come out in the same order as they went in.
In the 70's it was already standard (CYA) practice to use a marking pen to put an angled stripe on the edge of a card deck. Priceless when you dropped an inch thick deck!

Patches triggered a different color stripe, not unusual to see a deck with a
4- or 5-stripe rainbow.

Those punch card coding sheets that @Keith_McClary showed in post #23
(https://www.physicsforums.com/posts/6392751)
Came in handy in the late 70s as layout sheets for the 80x24 CRT displays of the time. I think I still have a pad of them around here ... somewhere.

Going back to @Mark44 s post 20
(https://www.physicsforums.com/posts/6392734)
those keypunch machines look like the IBM-029 machines I used when learning Fortran. Of course there were more students than machines, so there were a few of the predecessor IBM-026 keypunches also available. That was a good incentive to get to class early, otherwise you were stuck on the ornery, clumsy -026's!

Back in 1975 my wife and I build an ALTAIR 8800 computer from a kit. Eight bit 8080 CPU with 2MHz clock, program entry by flipping switches on the front panel. Last year, just for the heck of it and after replacing all the filter caps, we fired it up and it worked!

Tom

(have yet to figure out how to copy the pictures from a post)

Keith_McClary
phinds
Gold Member
Hunt'n'peck with lots of copy'n'paste.

Perhaps filling out these was "coding"?
View attachment 269464
Well, filling those out was just passing the typing on to someone else. SOMEONE has to do the typing, unless you are talking about one of the really early hobby machines that could be programmed through switches on the front panel.

phinds
Gold Member
In the 70's it was already standard (CYA) practice to use a marking pen to put an angled stripe on the edge of a card deck. Priceless when you dropped an inch thick deck!
You bet'cher bippy. Saved my butt more than once with that (I'm talking about decks a foot long or more in a carrier tray.

Keith_McClary
I have nothing special to add to a lot of the real good perspectives here on a very interesting question. Language is "organic" and I think best understood in the context of biology and the theory of evolution, rather than a perspective of "programmers" and "language aficionados". Not that the pros don't have great insights and aren't worth reading on this issue. But like life: We learned a lot more from the scientists than from mythology or religion. That does not mean one is wise to "kill the old gods" as Nietzsche indicated had been done and was leaving a fertile ground for the "new man" like Hitler, or Mao, or Stalin. Jettisoning the Pope does not mean you are now in Paradise!!!

harborsparrow
Gold Member
That video used a strange measurement for "popularity": ' popularity is defined by percentage
of programmers with either proficiency in specific language or currently learning/mastering one. '

That is not what I would use. Much better to look at one of: 1) installed code base (needing maintenance), or 2) job ads (what people are hiring for)

Certain languages such as Ruby are wildly hyped and their reputation guarded but, being unstandardized and not having high performance, they are useless for a lot of realworld high performance applications. I think by using a different criterion for "popularity", those numbers would look quite different.

If you are a student and have access to the online library of a good university (I am retired and no longer have such access), take a look at the Gartner Research reports on language popularity. I'm certain you'll see very different results that the video above gave, and Gartner has been the go-to source for such information for decades now.

Staff Emeritus
Ruby and Java have one enormous strength. There is usually one best way to do something, and while it's possible to deviate from this, it's definitely swimming upstream. Makes your code much more understandable to others. Ruby and Java also have one enormous weakness. There is usually one best way to do something, and while it's possible to deviate from this, it's definitely swimming upstream.

pbuk and Tom.G
Unoptimized compiled code dutifully replicates transient variable usage designated by the programmer and common optimization practices tend to introduce further usage

Paul Colby
Gold Member
Like nearly everything, computer languages evolve each having it's own ecological niche.

cobalt124
Gold Member
Perhaps filling out these was "coding"?
View attachment 269464
Ha, used to fill these out at High School in Computer Studies, send them off to the local Polytechnic to get punched and run, wait a week for the errors to come back and repeat the process.

Hardware and computer languages can change so fast, even hardware like the cpu and peripheral chips keep on changing. They are not hard to learn to design and program, but they keep changing and changing. You can be expert one day, and the next day you are obsoleted. Sure, it's not hard to learn new ones, but the idea that you have to keep learning and learning. It's ok when you are young, you are excited and brain is working great. How about when you get to 50+? Your brain slow down, you have family to think about, you get tired.......and those young kids come and kick your butt!!!

I started out in 1979 doing test programming on Z80, then got into designing cpu controller stuffs. By 1983, I started to see the trend. I was aggressive, hard working, I could learn and be on top. But I was thinking what if one day I am not as excited about learning when I get old, I don't want to keep learning and learning and keep having a horse race with the young and enthusiastic people. I change to analog RF design. Analog and RF are very hard to learn, a lot of overhead. BUT once you learn, it really doesn't get obsoleted. So I switched starting in 1984 and never look back.

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jedishrfu and Keith_McClary
Staff Emeritus
It would be foolish to become the world's expert on Just One Chip, but I can't help but point out the Z80 is still around. They run toasters and not personal computers these days, but they are easy enough to come by. I could have one on my desk tomorrow. They start at around $5. jedishrfu phinds Science Advisor Gold Member It would be foolish to become the world's expert on Just One Chip, but I can't help but point out the Z80 is still around. They run toasters and not personal computers these days, but they are easy enough to come by. I could have one on my desk tomorrow. They start at around$5.
God, I LOVED the Z80 when it came out. I thought it was an Intel killer but that was not to be. Still, it was in really widespread use for many years and as you point out, it's still around.

jedishrfu
rcgldr
Homework Helper
I was lucky, as in 1968, my high school had an IBM 1130 computer, and on Saturdays, we could go to the IBM data center to run programs on an IBM 360 model 30, mostly Fortran, some assembly, and a little bit of Cobol. In 1969 / 1970, I also spent some time with a CDC 3150. In college, most of my programming was done on an IBM 370, and also a Wang 720 with printer. My first job in 1973 was with a multi-tasking, multi-system online database running on HP 2100 mini computers (with ten 11 platter 80 MB hard drives, each one bigger than a HP 2100 mini), where we used paper tape (via teletype) to enter or batch edit source code kept on 5 MB removable hard disks (think 14 inch diameter hard case floppy), mostly assembly, with some Fortran used for offline processing. I also did some APL programming, starting in high school, but mostly during the 1970's at a college computer center where I was tutoring. Most of my early early work was on mini computers, but did a few jobs using Z80 and also Z8 (256 registers). I didn't start C programming until 1985 when I got an Atari ST. I also did some 6502 programming for the Atari 8 bit series of "computers". Most of my PC programs are C / C++ or assembly. My last couple of jobs before I retired involved ARM V4. I'm not a fan of Java (issues with the language), or Pythons very slow speed, but I help out others at programming forums with Java and/or Python questions.

.Scott
Homework Helper
My bad ; my brain tends to drop bits these days.

My point was that you actually didn't have to be able to type in order to be a programmer.
And you never had to (IBM 402 Accounting Machine - 1940's):

hmmm27
Gold Member
And you never had to (IBM 402 Accounting Machine - 1940's):
View attachment 271881
1940's ? I was using something like that in the 1980's (I think). Walked in for a temp job (I don't recall what, pink collar something), saw a couple of IBM card sorters, and just had to play with them. Repatched a few of the boards to work with the control dials up top (so the operator didn't have to remove and repatch a board for each level of sorting, 5 or 6 times per run), and demonstrated the new and improved method.

And, they said "oh, that's nice"... and immediately went right back to manually repatching everything.

Government, of course.

.Scott
Homework Helper
1940's ? I was using something like that in the 1980's (I think). Walked in for a temp job (I don't recall what, pink collar something), saw a couple of IBM card sorters, and just had to play with them. Repatched a few of the boards to work with the control dials up top (so the operator didn't have to remove and repatch a board for each level of sorting, 5 or 6 times per run), and demonstrated the new and improved method.
I was working on this equipment in 1969. The high speed card sorters were fun, but the 402 was more "programmable". You could examine card columns and use them as criteria for accumulating values that appeared in other columns or determining how to print and where to print it.
I used to it to prepare the 3-columns per page absentee list for Lowell High School.