Monday, March 28, 2011

Origins of a Few Programming Language Names

In the Python documentation, it explicitly states that the name "Python" comes from "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and has nothing to do with snakes. This got me thinking about the origins of other programming languages' names. A few of the stories I know, but by no means do I know all of them. There's a lot of languages out there, so this will be nowhere near complete, but hopefully I'll cover the basics.

B: Unclear, but probably from BCPL--a previous language whose initialism stood for "Basic Combined Programming Language"--or from Bon, either deriving from Ken Thompson's wife's name--Bonnie--or an obscure religion whose practitioners murmur magic formulas.

C: C was an upgraded version of B.

C++: In C, as well as many other languages now, adding "++" to the end of a variable increments it by one. Naturally, then, "C++" is C incremented by one. Originally, C++ was called "C with Classes" because that's effectively what C++ is.

COBOL: "COmmon Business Oriented Language." Naturally, it was created by a committee.

BASIC: "Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code."

ALGOL: "ALGOrithmic Language."

Java: It was originally called "Oak," but there was problems with trademarking that name. Effectively, the developers locked themselves in a room, spit out random words, and sent a list to the trademark lawyers. "Java" was fourth on a list of twelve, and the first to pass the test.

JavaScript: It was orignally called "LiveScript." The name was changed, some believe, to exploit the buzz surrounding Java at the time of its release. The selection has, at least, resulted in plenty of confusion.

MATLAB: "MATrix LABratory."

Lisp: "LISt Processing," since the entire language is parenthesized lists.

Pascal: Named for Blaise Pascal.

Perl: Originally, Larry Wall named "Pearl" for the Parable of the Pearl in the Gospel of Matthew. He discovered there was another language called "PEARL," so he changed the name to "perl." Later, the Camel Book changed the name to "Perl" because it looks better capitalized.

PHP: Orignally stood for "personal home page," though it has since been changed to be a recursive initialism: "PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor."

Ruby: The birthstone of a colleague of one of the developers.

Edit: Fortran: IBM Mathematical FORmula TRANslating System