Fun with Primordial Computer Languages - Your Experiences (1 Viewer)

Steve R.

Retired
Local time
Yesterday, 23:20
Joined
Jul 5, 2006
Messages
2,402
Besides giving us more "free" time, the COVID-19 pandemic has generated a lot of reflective media coverage over the existence of "old" computer languages, principally COBOL. One recent headline in Digital Trends: The world would fall apart if it weren’t for these ancient programming languages. I was also surprised, as I was looking for background material prior to COVID-19, that this topic has been explored. Here's a LiveMint headline from 2015: The old coding languages that refuse to die.

Intrigued, I ended-up spending a good part of one day following the internet links on
ADA. As an interesting footnote, ADA is named after Ada Lovelace, who circa 1842 conceptually developed the concept of a computer program. I have not done it, yet; but ADA is available for installation on Linux. (I'm supposed to be studying Python, PHP, HTML, but I'm easily distracted by a new shiny object.)

Unfortunately, I never had to really dig into these programming languages. While, I have had a long working working relationship with computers, it was incidental to my "day-time" job (Environmental Planning) and I was more orientated towards system administration (Unix System V and yes Access). So I never had had an in-depth experience with these programs.


The University of Maryland got a new mainframe while I was there (late 60s). I was able to experiment with FORTRAN and Basic. I had punch in my FORTRAN programs on Hollerith punch cards. Also my first basic programs were typed on an RTTY Terminal. In those "old" days the computer was batch orientated, meaning you submitted your job, then picked-up the results the next day. I had a few print-outs that accidentally generated a lot of blank pages. :oops: These blank pages turned out to be really useful for writing study notes.

Have any fun filled stories to share?
 

kevlray

Registered User.
Local time
Yesterday, 20:20
Joined
Apr 5, 2010
Messages
861
I still have punch cards from a PL/1 program that I had to make for a class in college. I do not remember what the code does. There was a special class that they had in college (I did not take it). If I recalled correctly it covered some less used languages. The only one that I recall they talked about was LISP, that is only because I talked to someone who took the class.
 

Minty

AWF VIP
Local time
Today, 04:20
Joined
Jul 26, 2013
Messages
7,516
Back in the 80's, I was an apprentice and worked on an HP emulation system that plugged a "POD" into a prototyping board and let you emulate it having a processor in. I was programming 68000 processors on a development system worth about £70,000! in Basic or Fortran. I did quite a bit of machine code as well.

On reflection, if was absolutely bleeding-edge technology, but being young and stupid I didn't realise the enormity of what they let me loose on. Hey ho...
 

The_Doc_Man

Immoderate Moderator, Former MVP, Retired SysAdmin
Staff member
Local time
Yesterday, 22:20
Joined
Feb 28, 2001
Messages
18,349
Actually, speaking of ADA, the Navy temporarily had a requirement that we use ADA for developing any new projects that were neither Web-based nor SQL-based. Granted, there were not THAT many projects doing that, but I had to support the requirement. That meant I had to install ADA on our OpenVMS/Alpha platforms. Whompin' fast machines, 64-bit base data size, ran rings around any other processors we had at the time, until some VM boxes came on board with silly numbers of processor cores and a memory bus that was enough like greased lightning that even Thor would be proud.

My memory of Ada was that it was a powerful but persnickety language. For instance, if you were passing a string to a subroutine, not only did the string declarations have to match in type but also in size. A 20-byte string was not the same type as a 30-byte string. There was a way to make the subroutine not care about string length mismatches, but if you didn't take that step, Ada was the strictest of strict-typing language I had ever seen, even worse than PL/1-G. You couldn't even code a subroutine to take a shorter variable as an actual parameter. On the other hand, when you were done compiling, you knew there were no data type errors.

Two languages I never learned were COBOL and anything in the C family. I learned several dialects of FORTRAN, BASIC, ALGOL, Pascal, and some early "advanced" command line languages that could be used for programming with a vengeance. However, my start was as a device-driver person who worked in assembly languages. Therefore I learned IBM 1620, PDP-10, PDP-11, VAX-11/780, Motorola 68x family, and even the Intel 80xx family. Of them all, I was most comfortable in VAX-11/780 assembler, perhaps because I really liked the VAX instruction set.
 

Steve R.

Retired
Local time
Yesterday, 23:20
Joined
Jul 5, 2006
Messages
2,402
Success. Ran the ADA "Hello World Program". Now I can claim to be an expert in ADA. ;) (Just joking)
 

kevlray

Registered User.
Local time
Yesterday, 20:20
Joined
Apr 5, 2010
Messages
861
Even though I never really used it. In a computer lab at my college. They had a mini-computer where you could re-write the mico code and thus make it act like almost any computer. Some of the other students re-wrote the microcode to make it look like a IBM machine (I do not recall the name of the mini-computer). Another cool thing about the computer it had a removable 16 MB hard drive.
 

The_Doc_Man

Immoderate Moderator, Former MVP, Retired SysAdmin
Staff member
Local time
Yesterday, 22:20
Joined
Feb 28, 2001
Messages
18,349
Technically, the first VAX-11/780 was "faceless" as well, allowing you to load microcode for any machine. It was one helluva box, I'll give it that.
 

kevlray

Registered User.
Local time
Yesterday, 20:20
Joined
Apr 5, 2010
Messages
861
As my memory slowly returns. I think the mini-computer was called the Microdata 1600. But I could be way off.
 

Steve R.

Retired
Local time
Yesterday, 23:20
Joined
Jul 5, 2006
Messages
2,402
The articles keep on coming: ALGOL 60 at 60: The greatest computer language you've never used and grandaddy of the programming family tree.
They are fun read.
Alas, those seeking a handy-dandy "HELLO WORLD" example will be disappointed. The Achilles' heel of the language that would go on to inspire so many others was that it lacked standard input/output capabilities.

Here is one that is "off" topic, but may been motivated by the number of articles concerning the old programming languages:

The 14 most loved programming languages, according to a study of 65,000 developers.
I'm quite surprised by the number of programming languages cited in the article that I never heard of, such as "Scala".
 
Last edited:

kevlray

Registered User.
Local time
Yesterday, 20:20
Joined
Apr 5, 2010
Messages
861
I have heard of Scala, but I do not remember anything else about it.
 

The_Doc_Man

Immoderate Moderator, Former MVP, Retired SysAdmin
Staff member
Local time
Yesterday, 22:20
Joined
Feb 28, 2001
Messages
18,349
I went through that list and have to say its results CANNOT be correct. I very strongly suspect an inherent sampling bias there. Just my opinion, of course, but it looks skewed.

Everyone KNOWS that the only language worth knowing is COBOL. ;) :giggle:
 

kevlray

Registered User.
Local time
Yesterday, 20:20
Joined
Apr 5, 2010
Messages
861
Two semesters of COBOL back in the late 70's. The last time I did anything with COBOL. Of course it did not help I was not the best typist using punch cards.
 

Steve R.

Retired
Local time
Yesterday, 23:20
Joined
Jul 5, 2006
Messages
2,402
Two semesters of COBOL back in the late 70's. The last time I did anything with COBOL. Of course it did not help I was not the best typist using punch cards.
In college (In the 60s), I experimented with Fortran and Basic. I used to use a chisel to punch the holes.😉 Fortunately I never dropped my cards. The basic programs were entered on an RTTY terminal (Teletype). The keys were hard to press and had to be pushed in a considerable distance. Never did much computer programming after college.

PS: Fortunately the internet doesn't forget and it amazes me on how some people get involved in obscure projects. I finally remembered that the main frame computer at the University of Maryland was the Univac 1108. I typed that in as a search term and up popped the paper: "Beginning of Computing and Computer Science at the University of Maryland". According to the paper, the Univac 1108 was installed in 1967. The Department of Computer Science, according to the paper, was founded in 1973. So I just missed-out on a potential career path. It's great that Mr. Minker was able to memorialize the founding of Computer Science at the University of Maryland.
 
Last edited:

Users who are viewing this thread

Top Bottom