Early Programming Books

Norman Jaffe turing at shaw.ca
Sun Jun 20 12:19:22 CDT 2021

Basically, pre-1960, there couldn't be a 'general book on programming', since every system was a unique environment - the only languages that could even be remotely considered to be common were ALGOL 60 and FORTRAN II... and they were 'extended' by every manufacturer to provide, at least, some form of I/O beyond line printers and punch card readers / punches or to support different character sets. 
Algorithms could be written in ALGOL or FORTRAN, but usually had to be 'translated' to the particular flavour of the language provided by the manufacturer... 
[Even well past 1960, FORTRAN implementations drifted from standards... for example, FORTRAN on the Data General Nova supported recursive functions, something that was would cause massive problems on other systems...] 

From: "General Discussion, On-Topic Posts Only" <cctech at classiccmp.org> 
To: "General Discussion, On-Topic Posts Only" <cctech at classiccmp.org> 
Sent: Sunday, June 20, 2021 9:34:18 AM 
Subject: Re: Early Programming Books 

Aside from the very general Algol report and the Iverson book on APL, I 
have to admit that most of my programming knowledge came out of 
manufacturer's manuals, specific to a maker's systems. 

The APL book was, at the time, pretty much useless for writing any sort 
of serious code until you got hold of the manual for a particular system 
that you were going to use. Even the early McCracken books on FORTRAN 
had a section in the rear that attempted to gloss over different 
manufacturer's features and "extensions" (e.g. What does "B" punched in 
column 1 of a FORTRAN statement card mean--and for what system?) 

Lest anyone forget, that in the pre-1960 world, a lot more of production 
code was written in the assembly code/autocoder of a particular system. 
Even the DEC "Introduction to Programming" dealt specifically with the 
PDP-8 and was useless for the PDP-10. 

ACM CALGO back then accepted algorithm submissions in FORTRAN or Algol, 
but that's hardly an instructional text. 

I guess the question boils down to 'In the world before 1960, how 
*useful* was a general book on programming?" 


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