A column in Sigplan Notices

As from February 2002, I edit a column "How things were" in Sigplan Notices. It's ostensibly about the old days in programming languages, but I hope it will be more than a nostalgic stroll down memory lane. I learnt a great deal from my early contacts with many different, and very diverse, programming languages, and I think it's unfortunate that many students today meet only a few languages, and those commonly quite tame ones.

I hope that the column will not be a one-man band, and welcome contributions from other people. I know that there is a vast resource of anecdotes about programming languages of times past - all you have to do is start a conversation among computing academics of a certain age, and they come pouring out. It is true that not all such anecdotes are notably edifying, but some bring interesting lessons with them, and we can always be selective.

Therefore, if you have a story about the recognisably old days ( no strict definition - just so long as it feels old ) in programming languages ( no strict definition - just so long as it feels like a programming language ! ), consider sharing it with the world through How things were. As a guide, I hope that any article presented in the column will satisfy these tests :

  1. It's true;
  2. It has a bit of a story;
  3. It's mildly entertaining ( though not played for laughs );
  4. It makes an interesting point which is a bit out of the ordinary;
  5. It's about four pages long.

If you have something that fits the criteria, please send it along to me ! - or, if you're not quite sure about it and would like to discuss possibilities, let's discuss it.

PLEASE if you send me any electronic mail, make sure that the SUBJECT line contains "SIGPLAN". No doubt you will understand why I make this request; unless it has a significant subject, most mail I receive - about 80% of it - is immediately deleted.

Obviously, I can't undertake to print everything that happens to come along, and I might want to suggest changes which I think would make an article fit my criteria better. That said, I would wish to meddle as little as possible; I do want to get other people's views and experience - it would be a pretty boring column if restricted to my own history - so I'm not going to create difficulties for the fun of it.

( That includes spelling. I have my own reasons for preferring "programme" and "disc", etc., but I won't change your preferred form if it's different - unless it's obviously wrong ! )

Alan Creak,
2003 May.

Go to me ( Alan Creak, in case you've forgotten ).