“Any fool can write code that a computer can understand. Good programmers write code that humans can understand.” - Martin Fowler

Are you interested in learning how to code? Would you like to become a web developer or programmer?

For a lot of professionals, learning how to develop apps or websites isn’t complicated.

Around 204 billion apps were downloaded in 2019, an increase of 45% over 3 years.

Knowing how to program is becoming more common for employers.

Do you know anything about programming languages?

Let’s have a look at the history of programming languages!

The History of Programming Before the 1940s

Coding, regardless of the programming language (HTML, CSS, C, PHP, Java, JavaScript, Python, etc.), is about telling a computer what to do in a language it understands.

How were old computers programmed?
The very first machines read information from cards with holes punched on them! (Source: WikiImages)

Knowing how to program will help you create web and mobile apps, websites, user interfaces, or even code for robots!

The history of programming began fairly recently. However, programming technically predates computers! The first program in the world is said to have been created in 1842.

In 1840, Ada Lovelace outlined the idea of the first computer program.

The word algorithm was an came from from the name of the mathematician Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, whose name when Latinised became Algorismus. Al-Khwarizmi is famous for introducing algebra in Europe.

Ada Lovelace translated the work of Italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea’s work on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine into English. The machine would use perforated cards on which information would be encoded. She details a method for calculating Bernoulli numbers on said cards which was considered the first computer program in the world.

Ada Lovelace detailed calculating machines which included the following elements:

  • A device for encoding digital information (perforated cards, indented wheels, etc.).
  • A memory for recording numerical values.
  • A control unit for the user to indicate which tasks the machine to execute.
  • Disks for completing the calculations.
  • A device allowing you to see the results.

The first electronic computers wouldn’t appear for another century in the early 1940s. The problem was that the calculations would take a long time and programmers would have to write the code by hand in machine-code.

Between 1943 and 1945, the German Konrad Zuse created Plankalkül, the first high-level programming language to be designed for a computer but it was never used.

Find out about becoming a programmer.

Programming the First Computers

It wouldn’t be until the Second World War that the first computer, the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), would be invented. It was the first computer programmed to solve, in theory, all calculations.

Which were the first modern computers?
The cars in the 1950s looked much better than the computers, which would fill entire rooms. (Source: JillWellington)

By the 1950s, computing was taking off. Grace Hopper, a United States Navy rear admiral, created the first compiler, the A-0 System. It allowed the creation of a binary program from a source code.

The Fortran (Formula Translator) language was later invented by John Backus, an engineer at IBM. This is the first high-level programming language that worked and was used for scientific calculations.

Other languages created in the 1950s include LISP (for lists) and COBOL (for business use). ALGOL (Algorithmic Oriented Language) was the first programming language to allow problems to be described algorithmically.

Fortran and Cobol accompanied the development of transistor computers and COBOL was the most common programming language for nearly 20 years.

In the 1960s, computers further developed.

Discover how to plan a programming project.

The 1960s to 1980s: Computing’s Adolescence

During the time of the Cold War, the amount of research into computing and programming exploded. The first object-oriented programming language Simula 67 was created.

When did desktop computers become popular?
Though clunky and slow by today's standards, having a "personal" computer was huge at the time. (Source: andreas160578)

C was also created between 1969 and 1973. This low-level language was invented to rewrite UNIX and, 50 years later, it’s still one of the most commonly used programming languages.

Pascal was developed in 1970 as a follow-up to Algol. It was used on the operating systems of the Apollo computers, Macintoshes, and the very first version of Adobe Photoshop!

SQL (Structured Query Language) was created in 1974. Nowadays, it’s commonly used for databases.

In 1983, C++ was created by Bjarne Stroustrup.

Objective-C was invented by Brad Cox.

This was the first object-oriented language that allowed reflection and was used by NeXTSTEP, founded by Steve Jobs, and then by Apple’s OS.

Languages like Dbase, C++, Eiffel, Mathematica, Perl, Tcl/Tk were commonly used in the 80s.

Find out why you should study programming.

Programming Languages for Web Servers

By this time, programming languages were still in their infancy.

When did HTML come about?
With the proliferation of the internet, everything changed! (Source: jamesmarkosborne)

The 1990s saw the proliferation of the internet and the World Wide Web. Many “experts” at the time doubted the potential of the net but we now know how it developed and how often we use it for work and in our everyday lives!

The economist Robert Solow quipped “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”.

In the late 80s, very few recognised the potential that computing and programming would have in the 90s. The 90s and early 00s marked the era of the internet.

With the web came scripting or script languages. These novel languages allowed small and simple programs to function.

Some of the languages created during this time are still commonly used today:

  • Python (1991)
  • PHP, JavaScript, Java (1995)
  • Ruby (1993)
  • C# (2000)

Python was invented to create an object-oriented multi-platform high-level language that could optimise programmers’ productivity with simple syntax. Thirty years later, many students still learn to code in Python, especially in scientific research. Python is good for getting started with certain fundamentals of programming. Guido van Rossum named the language after Monty Python as he was a fan.

PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) was created in 1994 by Rasmus Lerdorf aged just 26 to create his website. A few years later, the majority of sites, including Wikipedia, Facebook, and YouTube, were coded in PHP.

Learning programming also may involve learning some JavaScript. This can be used to create dynamic web pages. Don’t confuse Java and JavaScript, they’re not the same language.

Find out more about different programming languages.

21st-Century Programming Techniques

Most of the programming languages used today were invented in the 1990s. However, the web has changed a lot since then (for better or worse) and not every programming language remains compatible with the internet we know today.

Digital technologies are involved in the production of goods and services and everything we consume is under the control of an algorithm. The future of life on earth, the climate, and biodiversity are under threat. Economic and technological growth could destroy everything we know. Paradoxically, the internet and computing have made information more accessible to almost everyone. And from the very beginning, women have played a pivotal role. You could consider programming and computer anarchical, in a way...

From the 2010s, technology has only continued to advance and general knowledge of coding has improved.

Are you looking for programming lessons?

There are plenty of online resources where you can get started with coding and different programming languages for free. After all, it’s only by programming that you can become a programmer.

If you'd like to learn more about coding, programming, or web development, consider getting help from one of the many talented and experienced private tutors on Superprof!

You can learn about a variety of different skills and subjects from private tutors and there are various ways to get private tutorials: face-to-face, online, or in groups. Each type of private tutorial comes with pros and cons so think carefully about which would be right for you and your budget.

Face-to-face tutorials allow the tutor to focus on you as you'll be the only student in the class. This also allows them to plan every session with you in mind, ensuring that they're tailored to you, your preferred learning style, and your level. Of course, this high level of service isn't free and face-to-face tutorials will usually be the most costly option as you'll be paying for the tutor's time and expertise. However, since all the time and expertise is focused on teaching you in the best way possible, these tutorials are often the most cost-effective, too.

For those on a budget, group tutorials are an effective way to reduce the cost of private tutorials. By sharing the cost of the tutor's time and expertise, you can save money on private tutoring. Of course, this does mean that the lessons won't be tailored to you but rather the group as a whole. Similarly, you'll have less overall control over the course content as there'll be other students each with their learning objectives.

Finally, if you can't find any suitable tutors in your local area, you can always broaden your search. You can find online tutors all over the world ready to teach you about programming and coding as long as you have a webcam and a decent internet connection.

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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.