The Evolution of Software: A Brief History of Computer Programs and Applications

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We’ve gotten used to modern technologies so much that it may be hard to remember what everything started with. Just imagine how many stages of development it took for you to read this article right now. Not just in Internet Explorer with no image but from your phone through a browser set to night mode, for example! 

Or, imagine how much had to be done for anyone with the internet to be able to work or study just by turning on Skype or Zoom and opening docs with guidelines from cloud storage. Add to that the ability to get rid of written assignments by sending a ‘pay for essay writing’ request to a custom essay writing service and you get an almost effortless life!

However, all the tools making it possible, like SaaS, AI, and even the internet are predecessors of something much more meaningful but forgotten. Yet, just like with any kind of evolution, the evolution of software development is something we owe a lot today. We are able to drive smart cars, connect to people across the ocean in seconds, and many more. So, let’s go through a brief history of how it all started and evolved!

40s – Infancy

Back then, one didn’t have the internet or a phone with a calculator. You couldn’t write your lecture notes on a tablet or scroll your feed or look at the PowerPoint presentation projected on the wall. Neither could you open your browser and google ‘the best dissertation writing services‘, choose a writer who is miles away from you, and order a paper that you would later submit through your university portal. 

All that programming was focused on is developing machine language for:

  • complex calculations
  • military applications
  • basic data processing

The high-level code had to be converted into binary code – the only format machines could understand. All of that had to be done manually, which is the main downside along with the fact the programs were incompatible with other machines. Also, it took a lot of time and led to numerous errors.

50s – High-Level Programming Languages and OSs

In the 50s, programmers saw the opportunity to code in what we can see these days – languages that were closer to human ones. For instance, COBOL could be easily read even by non-technical personnel. Fortran (Formula Translation), on the other hand, significantly aided in engineering calculations.

The newly emerged languages offered several advantages over machine language like increased productivity and portability to other computer systems. Also, they helped to develop early operating systems that provided basic functionalities. Yeah, file management and input/output operations were a rare thing then!

60s – Pascal and C

This is when structured programming was born, which helped to maintain the code and make it readable rather than a wall of messy text. The C language gave birth to C++ (e.g. Adobe Photoshop), C# (e.g. Windows apps), and Objective-C (used for macOS before Swift was invented). Pascal, in turn, became the training ground for programmers and promoted numerical computing. It still benefits numerous Legacy projects that serve as the foundation for software.

70s – Object-Oriented Programming

OOP is a major milestone that led to the efficient use of code written before. It allowed code to be organized into modules called objects, which made both data and functionality transferrable. These objects could be reused in different parts of a program or even in entirely separate programs. This significantly reduced code duplication and improved overall efficiency. It has also aided in reducing the number of errors in code.

Languages like Simula, Smalltalk, and C++ played a significant role in popularizing OOP concepts. The approach became widely adopted and became the foundation for numerous programming languages, frameworks, and software development methodologies used these days.

80s – The Beginning of the Era of Graphical User Interfaces

This is the point where user experience has become central to later kept this status in software and app development. GUIs replaced text-based interfaces with visual elements such as:

  • windows
  • icons
  • menus
  • pointing devices like the mouse

This shift led to improved user experience and increased accessibility to computing resources.

Popular software applications of the 80s, such as the Apple Macintosh operating system, Microsoft Windows, and Xerox Star, introduced GUIs to a broader audience. As a result, it opened up new possibilities for software development, including the areas of productivity software, multimedia, and graphic design.

90s – Open-Source

Nowadays, Linux and other open-source programming software are an ordinary thing, but before the 90s, it simply didn’t exist. The project started by Richard Stallman aimed to develop a free and open-source operating system called GNU. It laid the foundation for the development of the Linux kernel by Linus Torvalds. Later, it became one of the most prominent examples of open-source software.

Together with the Linux operating system, Apache web server and the MySQL database management system became widely adopted. As a result, they powered critical infrastructure and web services. 

2000s – AI, Machine Learning, and Cloud Computing

AWS and Salesforce are the most popular examples of this niche. The former, launched in 2006, provided developers with a wide range of services such as computing power, storage, databases, and analytics. The latter offered businesses a platform to manage customer data, sales processes, and marketing campaigns in the cloud. In other words, it introduced CRM.

The combination of AI, cloud computing, SaaS, and ML helped to advance many domains like natural language processing, data analytics, and automation. These technologies produced smart systems, personalized recommendations, virtual assistants, and so on. AI in particular helped to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence such as speech recognition, image understanding, and decision-making. 

The examples include but are not limited by:

  • Amazon Alexa
  • Apple Siri
  • Google Assistant
  • streaming services like Netflix and Spotify
  • chatbots

Final Word

hello displayed on a monitor

The evolution of software has been a continuous journey driven by tech development. It has changed and shaped user needs as well as spurred the innovative spirit of developers. From the early days of machine language to the era of GUIs, these developments played a crucial role in making programming more accessible, productive, and portable. They set the stage for further advancements, thus leading to the modern programming landscape we have today.

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