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Can you name the Programming Language if You Know The Creators? (sporcle.com)
81 points by fogus on Nov 30, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 57 comments

Grace Hopper invented FLOW-MATIC. She wasn't even on the COBOL design committee.

If I were to choose a single inventor for Scheme, I would have chosen Sussman, not Steele.

Hmmm... I don't know much about COBOL, but Wikipedia tells me that she wrote the initial specification of the language, and given that it doesn't look to me as such a big stretch to name her at least as one of the main inventors of the language. Although it might be the case that after the committee there wasn't much left of the initial spec. But as I sayd, I hardly know anything about COBOL.

Wikipedia's attribution of the work that took place in late 1959 on COBOL to Grace Hopper is incorrect. Note that it was made anonymously by someone who was fixing obvious vandalism. See

I will summarize what I think is the correct story. I have "The Early History of COBOL" by Jean Sammet, 1978, which can be downloaded from http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=808378 for $15. Sammet was on the short-range design committee which did the work that Wikipedia mentions occurring in late 1959. I also have a photocopy of the April 1960 CODASYL report on COBOL which I acquired from the Charles Babbage Institute.

There was a meeting of various people at the University of Pennsylvania in April 1959. They thought a "machine independent" language for data processing could and should be developed and they suggested that the Department of Defense lead the effort. In May 1959 there was a meeting at the Pentagon which outlined high level goals for the language. It also said that the existing languages FLOW-MATIC and AIMACO as well as the specified but unimplemented language COMTRAN should be studied to determine what is wrong and right with them. The May 1959 meeting also established a short-range committee, an intermediate-range committee, and a long-range committee to develop the language. The long-range committee would never actually meet. There was also an executive committee for coordinating the other committees. Grace Hopper was appointed as an advisor to the executive committee, but the executive committee was political in nature and wasn't involved in design.

Most of the design work for COBOL was done by the short-range committee, which met from June through December 1959. These people served on the short-range committee:

Col. Alfred Asch, Robert Barton, Howard Bromberg, William Carter, Ben Cheydleur, Miss Deborah Davidson, Norman Discount, William Finley, Charles Gaudette, Roy Goldfinger, Dan Goldstein, Mrs. Mary K. Hawes, Duane Hedges, Mrs. Frances E. Holberton, Miss Sue Knapp, Karl Kozarsky, Roy Nutt, William Logan, Rex McWilliams, Vernon Reeves, Gerald Rosenkrantz, Miss Jean E. Sammet, William Seldon, Edward Somers, Mrs. Nora Taylor, Miss Gertrude Tierney, Capt. Erwin Vernon, J..H. Wegstein (Chairman)

After the short-range committee dissolved, work was carried on by the intermediate-range committee at a slower pace. The following individuals are mentioned as participating in the intermediate-range committee (though Sammet thinks this list may be incomplete):

A. Eugene Smith (Chairman), Lester Calkins, Gregory Dillon, Roy Goldfinger, Jack Jones, William Keating, Colonel Gerald Lerner, Robert Rossheim

As for the influence of FLOW-MATIC on COBOL, I am not aware of any FLOW-MATIC manuals that are available online, unfortunately. Sammet's article lists 5 influences of FLOW-MATIC on COBOL, however. It also lists 6 influences of COMTRAN on COBOL. Sammet says the FLOW-MATIC influences are

1) It worked! 2) Full data-names unlike FORTRAN (though limited to 12 characters in length) 3) It used full English words for commands 4) It used less than a full machine world for each data item. 5) It separated data description and commands.

>If I were to choose a single inventor for Scheme, I would have chosen Sussman, not Steele.

Yes, I was disappointed too. Sussman should be there. He is one my personal favorites.

Apart from a few the actual years of creation helped me more than the names of the creators.

Missed Groovy. No regrets.

Groovy and Scala but no Clojure?

Yeah, and I kept guessing Clojure on all the ones from the 2000s that I didn't know.

Yeah, I was looking for Rich Hickey after answering the obvious and popular ones.

I can't believe I missed basic and javascript! I'm banging my head against the wall thinking "I know the name Brendan Eich, but where?"

18/19 can't believe I missed BASIC! Should have been process of elimination of programming languages I've heard of at that point.

Most I got from the creators, managed to narrow down the others based on the year.

Same here, I was guessing on a couple of the other ones though.

I was thinking that it was Algol or Simula or one of the other ones that is super important in terms of influence but isn't used at all any longer.

I thought James Strachan was the creator of Groovy.

I wonder how many of those other languages also really had a different creator to that listed in the quiz, but had its official history rewritten.


15/19, missed Groovy (also no regrets), BASIC, COBOL and Ada Lovelace (put Babbage)

Same, missed basic, cobol, scheme and JS. :(


Consolation points: Did BASIC and Ada which many seemed to miss.

Old memories refreshed, LOGO followed by BASIC. When I first read about C, I wondered how things ever worked without 'goto'. What the hell is this thing known as recursion. :)

Did BASIC and Ada which many seemed to miss

There was no Ada in the list. You couldn't list Ada's authorship and still keep the entry-box above the fold.

17/19. Missed Erlang and Groovy.

The ones which came to me quickest upon seeing the name(s) were Python, Lisp, C, Java, C++ and Go (because of the year). The one which was the hardest to recall was Scala.

And the bonus was quick to memory, too.

Scala was easy for people like me who took a compiler design class given by Odersky at EPFL. We actually wrote a compiler for a simplified version of Scala. I would have never thought to see that language again after university. (That was about 6 or 7 years ago.)

anybody else put 'emacs' for Guy Steele?

Missed Groovy...

I would like to see other very important people on this list, e.g., where is Niklaus Wirth? or Alain Colmeraurer? or Chuck Moore?

15/19, but only because I wrote the back-end for this app: http://flashcards.educationlabs.com/#/Play/?deckid=0 and the Language Creators deck was the very first test deck I made early in development. I'm very impressed with those who actually knew all of them!

Sigh, I see no language with type inference. Nor any concatenative one. Nor any non-strict one. So unfair.

Yeah I was searching for Haskell or ML.

C#'s `var` too weaksauce?

When I said "type inference", I actually had system F in mind. And I didn't see ML (not even F#), nor Haskell, nor Miranda, nor Clean… So yes, `var` is too weaksauce.

16/19: No surprise that I missed php and groovy, but I should have guessed fortran. I read somewhere that Backus was involved in the early stages of the functional programming language movement, and got sidetracked by that. He is also the B in BNF, of course.

Got em all except BASIC, Groovy, Scala, C# & Fortran. Not very interested in those languages anyway. I would have liked to see Haskell & Smalltalk on there. Apparently I do as much reading _about_ programming languages as I do _of_ them!

Tip: use *'s for italics, not _'s.

One they did not ask: Alan Kay

I feel ashamed that I didn't realize Guy Steel did Scheme nor that he is the current Chairman of Common Lisp. Go figure.

Anything Lisp related just immediately makes me think of McCarthy.

A little more info on Ada (which I missed): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ada_Lovelace

Missed groovy, scala and basic. Actually surprised I missed the latter, but then again I never sat down and thought, "who invented basic?"

Got 17/19. I did not get Rasmus Lerdorf PHP. I also did not get the Ada Lovelace one, but I should have, I just couldn't recall it.

19/19, but I struggled a bit with the Basic one.

Same here.

I only got three, coicidently all "C". C, C++ and C#. Dont ask me why I know those three right away but struggle with the rest.

I feel like I cheated on BASIC: I didn't know the creators, but it was the only big one from that era I didn't have yet.

3. Bonus (how many didn't get this one?), Perl (everything Perl mentions Larry), and Ruby (because his name is Japanese).


I got the bonus, I didn't get many others besides Perl, C++ and a couple others

14/19 How the hell did I get perl from larry wall? Never heard about those the creaters of php, Groovy or basic.

15/19. Missed JS (wow), Groovy, BASIC, and Erlang. That was a bit harder than I thought it'd be, honestly.

17/19. I didn't know groovy or scala.

18/19 groovy was out of my radar.

No smalltalk or erlang but a question about ada and not actually the language?

16/19, 2 minutes, got bonus for Ada, missed Groovy, PHP, and (sigh!) Erlang.

14/19. Got many from the names, but a few I could guess just from the year.

13. got all the old langs and the bonus. Missed Scala and Php, oh well...

14/19, missed BASIC, C#, Groovy, Scala, and Ada Lovelace.

15/19; missed JavaScript, Groovy, Scala, and Erlang.

12/19. Oh well, at least I had Ada Lovelace. :)

16/19, missed Javascript, COBOL, and Groovy.

17/19 - missed javascript and groovy.

I got 4.

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