Go To: The Story of the Math Majors, Bridge Players, Engineers, Chess Wizards, Maverick Scientists, and Iconoclasts, the Programmers Who Created the Software Revolution

By Steve Lohr | Go to book overview

6
The European Influence:
From Algol to Pascal to C++

THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL TOOLS OF SOFTWARE - programming languages - come in many varieties, covering a spectrum of styles and structure. But the mainstream languages, from FORTRAN and COBOL to Visual Basic and Java, do share a common geography: they were all created in the United States. America was by no means the only wellspring, but the programming languages that came from Europe, such as Algol, Simula, and Pascal, have been significant intellectually, though not commercially. A broad generalization, perhaps, but it does seem that the Americans typically brought an engineering mentality to the task of designing programming languages - compromises were made to solve the computing problem at hand. The Europeans, by contrast, often took a more theoretical academic approach to language design; the American mindset was more attuned to the marketplace.

The explanation is more nuanced than merely the obvious - that the United States was where the market for computing developed first, and the "animal spirits of capitalism" have always been found in greater measure in America. The practical bent of software development in the United States during the early postwar years was partly a product of other forces, and government largess played a big role. So much of the direction of computing in America at the time came from government and the emerging aerospace industry, working hand in glove, especially on military projects. At its peak in the 1950s, for exam

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Go To: The Story of the Math Majors, Bridge Players, Engineers, Chess Wizards, Maverick Scientists, and Iconoclasts, the Programmers Who Created the Software Revolution
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