Early Programming Books

Paul Koning paulkoning at comcast.net
Mon Jun 21 09:33:41 CDT 2021

> On Jun 21, 2021, at 5:03 AM, Paul Birkel via cctalk <cctalk at classiccmp.org> wrote:
> Well, utility depends on the objective.  One that immediately springs to mind in an era when "computing" had a dearth of practitioners would be to inform various audiences "what is involved".
> The Dekker (1957) reference seems to be targeted at an audience interested in expressing mathematical statements in terms of the von Neumann model, generally building up to the idea of algorithms and their general reduction to a sequence of computational steps in that model of computation.  This would be a pre-ALGOL 58 world and one can see the paper as a motivation for an ALGOL- (or FORTRAN-) like language.  (Caveat:  I've just skimmed a poor translation; more careful study required!)
> The McCracken (1957) book seems to be targeted at an audience of future practitioners, giving a feel for how a hypothetical instruction set would be employed "in daily practice" to solve problems.  Perhaps answering the question of "would I like to become [or could I handle becoming] a 'programmer' " in an era when that was about to become a new specialty and career path.
> A numerical analyst (e.g.) might find the Dekker text more accessible; an engineer might find the McCracken book more to their liking.

Given the MC's mission that fits.  In their early days they did computation (numerical methods) on a contract basis for customers.  At first this involved one set of people to design the algorithms, and another set of people (called "computers", or if you wants to capture the essence of the Dutch word, "computresses") to execute them on mechanical desk calculating machines.  Around 1948 they started an effort to create a computer, in the modern sense of the word, to automate that manual labor.  But all along, numerical methods was a particular focus.


More information about the cctalk mailing list