Hello World! Twenty Years Later...
Posted on: 28 May '10

I wrote the following bit of code for the first time about twenty years ago:

#include <stdio.h>

int main ()
{
printf ("Hello World!\n");
}


I had encountered elementary programming in middle school in the form of Logo (a rather quaint variation of Lisp), and GW-BASIC (a rather awkward variation of BASIC). But this was C. This was the real deal! I couldn't believe my luck when my parents somehow agreed to spend a small fortune on a state-of-the-art Intel 386 machine with 1Mb of RAM and a giant 40Mb (yes, mega-bytes!) hard-drive. It ran the latest MS-DOS 4.0 as well - none of that clunky old DOS 3.2. So, with bated breath I typed in this bit of code from Kernighan and Ritchie's fabled The C Programming Language and fired up the Borland Turbo C compiler. Sure enough, after a brief flutter of the hard drive, my terminal said "Hello World!" - welcome to programing.

It was around the same time that the Text Encoding Initiative was established to develop standards for digitizing texts, although I wasn't aware of it then. But there was no lack of excitement for someone discovering the brave new worlds of programming in the nineties. The emergence of the world wide web opened new frontiers, the GNU project was finding its voice in Richard Stallman and some kid named Linus Torvalds had put together a free Unix kernel! If C was exciting, C++ and object-oriented programming were mind-boggling. Just as we were dipping into Linux, and dabbling in Assembler, Sun came out with a language that ran on a virtual machine - Java!