20 votes
Accepted

What happened to analog computers?

Rutherford journal gives a nice chronology of analog computing up to 1970, when they went out of mass use. "The demise of the analogue computer was a gradual process. Apart from reductions in size and ...
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  • 66k
16 votes
Accepted

Did Turing know of Babbage's work?

See: Alan Turing, Collected works: Mathematical Logic (R.O. Gandy & C.E.M. Yates editors, 2001). [page 10, regarding Turing's paper On computable numbers... (1937)] It should be remarked that ...
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16 votes

Did amateurs ever produce important proofs or similar?

A case from this year is that of Aubrey de Grey. Aubrey de Grey, a biologist known for his claims that people alive today will live to the age of 1,000, posted a paper to the scientific preprint site ...
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15 votes

Was object oriented programming influenced by the mathematical category theory?

I'm not a programmer, but I'll try to post a coherent answer. One of the major developers of OOP was Alan Kay. Kay himself has mentioned that LISP had an influence on him when he was developing the ...
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  • 8,082
15 votes
Accepted

Is anything known about part II of John McCarthy's Recursive Functions of Symbolic Expressions and Their Computation by Machine Part II?

In "History of Programming Languages" by Richard L. Wexelblat page 178: Part II was never written but was intended to contain applications to computing with algebraic expressions. Note that this ...
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11 votes

What happened to analog computers?

The USS Iowa has mechanical analog computers for firing that survived the 1980-refit of the ship. An analog computer of everyday use in the XXIst century are the flight computers used on a wide range ...
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11 votes
Accepted

Why would Margaret Hamilton and her team at NASA print the code on paper?

This is how computer programming was done in those days. There was no such thing as a modern terminal with a screen, and no keyboards. A programmer would write her code first on paper (handwritten), ...
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10 votes

The Abacus vs. the Electric Calculator (Nov 12, 1946): Why did the latter lose?

With this kind of "why?" question, one can only speculate. However, it's interesting that Feynman had a similar experience, as recounted in Surely, You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! Feynman was sitting in ...
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10 votes
Accepted

Does Blum's speedup theorem have any conceptual predecessors?

The resemblance is not superficial. There is a precise relation between computer programs and formal proofs known as the Curry–Howard correspondence that took shape in 1960s. And Godel's results on ...
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  • 66k
9 votes

When was the first command-line interface developed?

According to a wikibook Operating System Design: "A command line interface or CLI is a method of interacting with a computer by giving it lines of textual commands (that is, a sequence of characters) ...
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9 votes
Accepted

What is the first historical reference to the binary search algorithm?

In "The Art of Computer Programming, Vol 3, second edition, p422", it is said: Binary search was first first mentioned by John Mauchly, in what was perhaps the first published discussion of ...
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9 votes

Did amateurs ever produce important proofs or similar?

A well-known example is the work of Marjorie Rice on pentagonal tilings of the plane. Wikipeidia: In December 1975, Rice came across a Scientific American article on tessellations. Despite having ...
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  • 8,367
9 votes
Accepted

How did Lenna become the most used image in image processing?

Speaking as someone who worked in imaging tech and related fields from '79 to whenever, I can offer a little more. This image does contain a wide range of spatial frequencies as well as intensity ...
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9 votes
Accepted

What is the first reference to a nondeterministic Turing machine?

According to SEP, non-determinism was introduced by Rabin and Scott in Finite Automata and their Decision Problems (IBM Journal of Research and Development, 3(2) 114–125, 1959). Their main result was ...
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8 votes

Why did Norbert Wiener break off relations with Walter Pitts?

Amanda Gefter's recent article in Nautilus takes a very unambiguous position on the question: There was just one person who wasn’t happy about the reunion: Wiener’s wife. Margaret Wiener was, by ...
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8 votes

Why were so many artificial intelligence founders so optimistic?

I suggest that the tacit assumption in the question---that all founders of A.I. were optimistic about the goal being reached very soon---is historically false. Some were optimistic, but just as many ...
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8 votes

Who created Agile programming and why?

A tiny bit of research is all it takes to find who and when. Agile was conceived between February 11-13, 2001 by Kent Beck, Mike Beedle, Arie van Bennekum, Alistair Cockburn, Ward Cunningham, Martin ...
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  • 1,687
8 votes

What is the first historical reference to the binary search algorithm?

In Jataka, there's a story about Losaka http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/j1/j1044.htm So in time it came to pass that the people fell into a wretched plight. Reflecting that such had not been their ...
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7 votes

Was the computer invented through the influence of the printing press or through the influence of the calculator?

I am immediately reminded of a great 2010 documentary called Top Secret Rosies: The Female 'Computers' of WWII. The word "computer" has had a definition since at least the 17th century. In the ...
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  • 1,248
7 votes

What's the etymology of an engineering/software bug?

This first sourcing I take directly from my paper copy of the The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology (c. 1966, 1996 reprint) Here we have two etymologies for the word bug. The less appropriate ...
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  • 1,248
7 votes
Accepted

Was Charles Sanders Peirce aware of Charles Babbage's difference engine?

Not only was Peirce aware of the difference engine, he was also aware of the analytic engine, that was never built, of Jevons's 1870 machine, and was later personally involved with designing its ...
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  • 66k
6 votes

The origin of logic gate symbols

The "distinctive shapes" specified in IEEE Std 91/91a-1991 derive from MIL-STD-806 Graphical Symbols for Logic Diagrams, which was originally a US Air Force standard. This in turn was based on a 1960 ...
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  • 1,134
6 votes
Accepted

How certain is it that Lucas invented the Towers of Hanoi puzzle?

The Tower of Hanoi – Myths and Maths gives a detailed historical account of the game, its predecessors and myths surrounding it, with references to original sources, it also goes in-depth into ...
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  • 66k
6 votes

Why were so many artificial intelligence founders so optimistic?

According to Generations, by William Strauss and Neil Howe (S&H), the so-called World War II, or "Greatest" Generation, born 1901-1924 in America, were a particularly optimistic generation, in ...
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  • 2,124
6 votes

Why so hard to find references to pictures of Raymond Boyce?

I think the answer to the main question is clear from his Wikipedia biography: Boyce died in 1974 aged 27, the same year SQL was released. He was a young researcher working for IBM in a pre-digital ...
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  • 1,134
6 votes
Accepted

How did von Neumann come up with his merge sort algorithm?

Donald Knuth's The Art of Computer Programming (TAOCP) Vol. 3 "Sorting and Searching" gives a detailed account on the history of ideas, including the sorting by merging, in Chapter 5.5. ...
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5 votes

What was the first programming language that implemented hash maps / dictionaries as a base type?

Not sure if there is a definitive answer but Smalltalk certainly had dictionaries (hash maps) built into the language (as such it can be given an OO language) and Smalltalk predates Perl.
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  • 1,069
5 votes

Who coined the term “machine learning”?

The earliest reference appears to be: ... it is easy to see how a machine could be programmed so that it appeared to learn... whether it would in principle be possible to construct a generalized ...
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  • 400
5 votes

Did amateurs ever produce important proofs or similar?

There was a peculiar case when an anonymous forum commenter made significant progress on a problem. They could well have had substantial formal training (reading their posts I think this is likely). ...
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