“Hello World!”, you’ll often see this chirpy piece of text in relation to computer programming and I think it’s highly appropriate that my first post on this blog is in keeping with that tradition, but where does this come from?
Before I started to write this post I thought I knew the answer with a laser-like certainty, but as is usually the case in these situations, when we’re at our most certain, we’re also at our most mistaken. Though the exact origins of Hello World remain lost in the mists of time, its use as a test phrase is widely believed to have begun with Brian Kernigham’s 1972 book, A Tutorial Introduction to the Language B. In which, the first known version of the program was used to illustrate external variables.
But I, as many of you was introduced to this expression back when I, albeit unknowingly, started on my journey to becoming a software developer. I can’t remember the exact year but I was definitely under the age of 10 when my mother suggested I might want a computer as my Christmas present. I wasn’t sure about this and I suspect I was persuaded into the idea. I’ll have to check with my mum here to get the facts, but this is how I remember it.
Roll on Christmas day, and I was confronted with my very first computer, a Sinclair ZX Spectrum as shown in all of it’s glory above. This was the very cutting edge of what would become Personal Computers and I won’t bore you with the history or details, beyond knowing that in order to even do anything with a Spectrum, you had to start typing code. Yup that’s right, if you ever owned a Spectrum, an Amstrad, Commodore or BBC Micro, you were basically being groomed into a career as a software developer without even knowing it.
I imagine that confronted with such a thing, you would be turning straight to the manual, and this is where the magic starts. After some extensive blurb about connecting up the myriad of wires, the first thing your manual tells you to do is get your new friend to say “Hello”.
Again, I’m surprised here, I would have bet a large portion of my fortune that the first thing I typed was “Hello World”, but having dutifully tracked down the very same manual on the internet, it turns out the first program I ever wrote was not “Hello World”, but in actual fact it was “Hello”.
The rest as they say is history: you quickly learned how to Load/Run games from cassette and that’s where most left it. Yet the more inquisitive in our midst would have absorbed that manual and been writing their own programs in short order and that is essentially the story of how I wrote my first program and set my feet upon the path of becoming a software developer.
These days, “Hello World” (See? I do get back to the point eventually) is used as the standard first piece of code written in computer languages, in fact there was a strong trend for a language to be judged on how simple it was to send this innocent and chirpy piece of text to the screen. Funnily enough, there are very few languages that can match the BASIC of the 80s for simplicity of this code.
I’ll leave you with what was probably my second program: