Evolution of Software Development Languages: Quirky Tales of Pioneers and Progress

Jan Feliciano

July 12, 2023

Share this post:

An old computer unit from the early 1990s with a logo of HTML on the screen.

Table of Contents


The world of software development languages is a fascinating realm that has witnessed remarkable transformations over the past five decades. Behind the code and syntax, there are stories of ingenious individuals, their unconventional approaches, and the unexpected twists that have shaped the evolution of these languages. In this blog, we delve into the history of software development languages, tracing their enduring or declining relevance to societal changes, while shining a light on the quirky and interesting personalities that have contributed to their development.

From the early days of punch cards and mainframes to the age of cloud computing and artificial intelligence, software development languages have evolved in tandem with the rapidly changing landscape of technology. However, it is the people behind these languages who have truly left their indelible mark.

A Quick Glance Into The Past

The 1970s

Let’s venture back to the 1970s, when the pioneers of programming languages emerged, driven by a desire to tame the power of the digital frontier. Meet John Backus, the visionary responsible for creating FORTRAN (Formula Translation), the first high-level programming language. Backus sought to make programming accessible to scientists and engineers, allowing them to focus on problem-solving rather than the intricacies of machine code. His creation sparked a revolution, enabling rapid advancements in scientific computing.

The 1980s

As the 1980s dawned, a young and eccentric programmer named Richard Stallman took center stage. Stallman’s unwavering belief in software freedom led him to found the Free Software Foundation and develop the GNU Project. His brainchild, the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC), introduced the concept of a free and open-source compiler, challenging the dominance of proprietary languages. Stallman’s dedication to preserving users’ rights has had a lasting impact on the ethos of the software development community.

The 1990s

Fast forward to the 1990s, a decade that witnessed the rise of object-oriented programming (OOP). Here, we encounter the idiosyncratic personality of Bjarne Stroustrup, the creator of C++. Stroustrup, known for his love of quirky humor, combined the power of the C programming language with object-oriented principles, unleashing a language that offered unparalleled flexibility and reusability. C++ became the language of choice for developing complex systems, earning Stroustrup a place among the pantheon of programming legends.

The 2000s

The turn of the millennium brought with it the internet revolution, paving the way for a new breed of programming languages. Enter Brendan Eich, the enigmatic developer responsible for creating JavaScript. Originally conceived as a simple scripting language, JavaScript soon became the backbone of web interactivity, powering dynamic websites and revolutionizing user experiences. Eich’s unexpected creation forever changed the landscape of web development, cementing his place as a visionary in the software world.

These are just a few glimpses into the intriguing lives and eccentricities of the individuals who have shaped the evolution of software development languages. Their quirks, audacity, and passion for innovation have left an indelible mark on the history of programming.

Join us as we embark on a journey through time, exploring how these languages have endured or declined while celebrating the remarkable individuals who transformed the world of code into a vibrant tapestry of human ingenuity.

The Early Years (1970s-1980s)

The early years of software development languages, spanning the 1970s and 1980s, laid the foundation for the digital revolution that would follow. During this era, a handful of pioneers introduced languages that would shape the course of computing history. These languages made a significant impact on various industries, scientific advancements, and even popular culture.

One language that played a crucial role during this period was FORTRAN (Formula Translation). Developed by a team led by John Backus at IBM in the 1950s, FORTRAN became widely adopted in the scientific and engineering communities in the 1970s. Its high-level constructs and mathematical capabilities made it instrumental in areas such as numerical analysis, weather forecasting, and aerospace research.

The impact of FORTRAN extended beyond the confines of the laboratory. In 1976, when the United States celebrated its bicentennial, NASA used FORTRAN to control the onboard computer of the Viking 1 lander, which successfully touched down on Mars. This achievement marked a major milestone in space exploration and demonstrated the power of software development languages in enabling groundbreaking missions.

Another influential language of the era was COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language). Developed in the late 1950s, COBOL gained popularity in the business and administrative sectors. Its English-like syntax and focus on data processing made it well-suited for handling large-scale business applications. COBOL’s impact on society was profound, enabling the automation of banking, payroll systems, and other essential business operations.

In 1983, the world witnessed a unique demonstration of the capabilities of computer languages when a graduate student named Fred Cohen coined the term “computer virus” while working on his doctoral dissertation. His research on self-replicating programs led to the birth of a new kind of threat, forever altering the landscape of computer security. The emergence of viruses and malware necessitated the development of new programming techniques to combat these threats, shaping the evolution of programming languages and security practices.

While the early years saw the rise of established languages like FORTRAN and COBOL, it also saw the birth of BASIC (Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code). Developed in the mid-1960s by John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz at Dartmouth College, BASIC aimed to introduce computer programming to non-technical users. Its simplicity and accessibility made it a popular language for hobbyist programmers, leading to the proliferation of personal computers in the 1980s. BASIC played a pivotal role in the success of early home computers like the Commodore 64 and the Apple II, democratizing computing and sparking a wave of innovation.

The early years of software development languages left an indelible mark on history. They facilitated scientific breakthroughs, revolutionized business operations, influenced popular culture, and even paved the way for new challenges in computer security. These languages set the stage for the rapid advancements that would follow in subsequent decades, laying the groundwork for the interconnected digital world we inhabit today.

The Rise of Object-Oriented Programming (1990s)

The 1990s witnessed a paradigm shift in software development with the rise of object-oriented programming (OOP). Object-oriented languages introduced a new way of organizing and structuring code, emphasizing modularity, reusability, and encapsulation. This transformative approach to programming had a profound impact on software development practices, enabling developers to create complex systems with greater efficiency and maintainability.

One of the most influential languages of this era was C++, created by Bjarne Stroustrup. Building upon the foundation of the popular C language, Stroustrup introduced object-oriented concepts to create a powerful and flexible programming language. C++ became widely adopted in industries such as finance, gaming, and system-level programming, as its capabilities allowed developers to build large-scale applications and harness the full potential of the underlying hardware.

The impact of OOP extended beyond the technical realm. Java, developed by James Gosling and his team at Sun Microsystems, emerged as a transformative language that took OOP to new heights. Released in 1995, Java gained popularity for its “write once, run anywhere” philosophy, enabling developers to create platform-independent applications. This played a vital role in the burgeoning internet era, where the ability to deploy software on various devices and operating systems became paramount. Java’s versatility and wide adoption propelled it to become one of the most widely used programming languages to this day.

The 1990s also witnessed the emergence of Python, a dynamic and versatile language created by Guido van Rossum. Python’s focus on simplicity, readability, and ease of use attracted developers from various backgrounds. It gained traction in fields such as web development, scientific computing, and artificial intelligence, where its rich ecosystem of libraries and frameworks contributed to its popularity. Python’s success can be attributed to its ability to adapt to the changing demands of the software industry, from web applications to data analytics and machine learning.

During this period, OOP languages facilitated significant advancements in software development methodologies. The concept of code reusability, enabled by inheritance and polymorphism, led to the development of libraries and frameworks that accelerated development cycles. Additionally, OOP languages promoted the separation of concerns and modular design, facilitating collaborative development and enabling teams to build complex systems with ease.

The rise of OOP languages in the 1990s marked a turning point in software development practices. The emphasis on modularity, reusability, and encapsulation laid the foundation for modern software engineering principles. These languages not only facilitated the development of robust applications but also paved the way for the creation of libraries, frameworks, and ecosystems that continue to thrive and evolve to this day.

As the 1990s drew to a close, OOP languages set the stage for further advancements in software development, acting as a catalyst for the technology-driven society that would define the decades to come.

Web Revolution and Dynamic Languages (2000s)

The turn of the millennium marked a transformative period in software development, as the world witnessed the dawn of the web revolution. The internet became a ubiquitous presence, connecting people, information, and services in ways previously unimaginable. This era saw the rise of dynamic languages and innovative frameworks that shaped the landscape of web development and propelled the internet to new heights.

Amidst this revolution, a quirky and interesting story unfolded around the creation of the Python programming language. Guido van Rossum, affectionately known as the “Benevolent Dictator for Life” within the Python community, found inspiration in an unlikely source – the British comedy series “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

In the late 1980s, van Rossum, a fan of the surreal and comedic sketches of Monty Python, decided to create a new programming language. He wanted a language that was not only powerful and efficient but also fun and easy to use. Drawing from his love for Monty Python, van Rossum named the language “Python,” a playful homage to his favorite comedy group.

Python’s quirky beginnings extended beyond its name. Van Rossum, known for his penchant for Easter eggs and inside jokes, infused Python with a unique sense of humor. For instance, if you type “import antigravity” into a Python interpreter, it opens a webcomic depicting a stick figure flying away on a propeller beanie hat.

The quirkiness of Python extended to its design principles as well. Van Rossum aimed to create a language with a clean and readable syntax, famously favoring whitespace indentation over explicit delimiters like braces or semicolons. This decision, often referred to as the “Pythonic” way, has sparked countless debates among developers and given rise to humorous memes and jokes within the Python community.

Python’s quirkiness, combined with its simplicity and versatility, contributed to its meteoric rise during the web revolution of the 2000s. The language’s ease of use, coupled with its extensive library ecosystem and frameworks like Django and Flask, made it an ideal choice for web development, data analysis, and artificial intelligence.

The story of Python exemplifies how a language with a quirky origin can captivate the hearts and minds of developers worldwide. Guido van Rossum’s love for Monty Python and his desire to create a fun and intuitive programming language sparked a movement that continues to thrive to this day.

As the 2000s drew to a close, dynamic languages, including Python, had firmly established themselves as integral components of web development. Their quirkiness, ease of use, and powerful frameworks opened doors to endless possibilities, from e-commerce platforms to social networking sites. The web revolution, fueled by the likes of Python, set the stage for the interconnected digital landscape we navigate today, where dynamic languages continue to evolve and shape the future of software development.

Modern Era and the Rise of Go (2010s)

The modern era of software development, particularly the 2010s, witnessed the continued evolution and diversification of programming languages. One language that emerged during this period with a quirky and fascinating story behind it is Go.

Go, also known as Golang, was developed by a team at Google led by Robert Griesemer, Rob Pike, and Ken Thompson. The origins of Go can be traced back to frustration experienced by the team while working with other programming languages. Determined to address the challenges they faced, they embarked on a mission to create a language that would be efficient, concurrent, and simple.

The story behind the birth of Go takes an interesting turn when it comes to choosing its name. The team initially referred to the language as “Goo,” but soon realized that searching for “Goo” on the internet would yield results related to baby talk and slime, rather than their programming language. In an effort to find a new name, they considered a variety of options but ultimately settled on “Go.” The simplicity and brevity of the name reflected their vision for the language itself – concise, powerful, and easy to use.

One of the quirkiest aspects of Go is its mascot – a cute, anthropomorphic gopher named Gopher. The gopher quickly became an iconic symbol for the language, adorning conference swag, stickers, and official artwork. The choice of a gopher as the mascot may seem random, but it perfectly captures the light-hearted and playful spirit of the Go community.

Beyond its quirky origins, Go gained popularity for its unique features and design philosophy. The language was designed to provide a balance between simplicity and performance, making it ideal for system-level programming and building scalable and concurrent applications. Go’s distinctive features, such as goroutines for lightweight concurrency and a built-in garbage collector, addressed common pain points experienced by developers.

Go’s rise to prominence was fueled by its adoption within the tech industry. Notably, Docker, the popular containerization platform, was initially written in Go. The language’s simplicity and efficiency made it an excellent choice for developing the foundational components of Docker, allowing developers to create lightweight and portable containers that revolutionized software deployment.

The Go language community also embraced its quirkiness. They coined the phrase “Go idiomatic” to describe the preferred coding style and best practices in Go. This philosophy encourages developers to write clean, readable, and expressive code that reflects the simplicity and elegance of the language itself.

The quirky story behind Go’s development and the vibrant community that surrounds it have contributed to its success. Today, Go is widely used in various domains, including cloud computing, networking, and backend web development. Its combination of performance, simplicity, and a supportive community has made it a compelling choice for developers worldwide.

As the modern era continues to unfold, programming languages like Go exemplify the importance of innovation, simplicity, and a touch of quirkiness. The evolution of programming languages reflects the evolving needs of developers and the desire to overcome challenges in unique and imaginative ways. The story of Go serves as a reminder that the world of software development is not only about technical aspects but also the people, stories, and moments of inspiration that shape the languages we use.

Looking Ahead: The Quirks of Future Languages

As we gaze into the future of software development, it’s intriguing to contemplate the potential quirks and idiosyncrasies that may arise with the emergence of new programming languages. Just as the past has been dotted with peculiar tales and unique features, the languages of tomorrow are likely to possess their own distinctive traits that capture the imagination of developers.

One possible avenue for quirkiness lies in the field of quantum computing. As quantum technologies continue to advance, programming languages tailored for quantum computers will become essential. These languages will need to grapple with the mind-bending concepts of superposition, entanglement, and quantum teleportation. Imagining the humorous possibilities of quantum programming, we might encounter “quantum entangled variables” or “quantum teleportation loops,” where the code transcends the boundaries of classical computing, bringing a touch of quantum weirdness to our programming endeavors.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is another domain where future programming languages may exhibit their own peculiarities. As AI becomes more sophisticated, languages designed for AI development might develop their own quirks inspired by the human-like qualities of AI agents. Picture a language with a “senseOfHumor()” function, where an AI program can generate witty comebacks or even tell jokes. Perhaps developers will engage in conversations with their AI code, blurring the lines between traditional coding and conversational interaction.

The advent of virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) technologies also holds promise for quirky programming languages. As developers craft immersive and interactive experiences, they may seek languages that can seamlessly integrate virtual worlds with the real ones. These languages might embrace the whimsical side of VR/AR, allowing developers to create fantastical scenarios, surreal interactions, and even “virtual reality easter eggs” hidden within virtual environments.

Ethical considerations in technology are gaining prominence, and programming languages of the future may reflect this trend. Languages could incorporate built-in mechanisms to encourage responsible and ethical development practices. Picture a language that nudges developers towards inclusive code by automatically checking for biases or promoting accessibility by highlighting potential barriers in user interfaces. Quirkiness in this context might manifest as programming languages taking a moral stance, gently reminding developers to consider the impact of their code on society and the environment.

The future of programming languages promises a blend of innovation, functionality, and a dash of quirkiness. Just as past languages like Python found inspiration in comedy or Go embraced its playful gopher mascot, future languages may surprise us with unexpected influences, unconventional syntax, or community-driven rituals. Developers, driven by their desire for creative expression and problem-solving, will undoubtedly infuse these languages with their own personality, fueling a rich tapestry of programming lore.

As we eagerly anticipate the languages of the future, let’s embrace the quirks, oddities, and delightful surprises they bring. These quirks are not merely whimsical diversions but often serve as catalysts for innovation, sparking new ways of thinking and pushing the boundaries of what is possible. So, let us welcome the future with open arms, ready to embark on another chapter in the ever-evolving history of programming languages, where the quirky, ingenious, and unexpected await us.


The history of programming languages is a tapestry woven with threads of innovation, quirkiness, and the indomitable spirit of human creativity. From the early years of Fortran and COBOL, where pioneers paved the way for software development, to the rise of object-oriented programming and the web revolution, each era brought forth its own set of languages that left an indelible mark on society.

Throughout this journey, we’ve explored captivating stories and quirky anecdotes that reveal the human side of language development. Guido van Rossum’s love for Monty Python gave birth to Python, a language cherished for its simplicity and versatility. The creators of Go drew inspiration from frustration, naming their language in a playful yet practical manner. These stories remind us that behind every line of code and every syntax choice, there are passionate individuals driven by their unique visions and aspirations.

The impact of programming languages on society cannot be overstated. They have shaped the way we communicate, work, and interact with technology. They have propelled advancements in fields ranging from science and medicine to entertainment and communication. With each era, languages have adapted to meet the evolving needs of developers and society at large.

As we peer into the future, we anticipate the emergence of new languages, each with its own set of quirks and peculiarities. Quantum computing, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and ethical considerations will undoubtedly influence the languages of tomorrow, infusing them with a touch of eccentricity and innovation. Developers will continue to push the boundaries, bridging the gap between human imagination and the digital realm.

In this ever-changing landscape, one thing remains certain: the spirit of curiosity, playfulness, and inventiveness that has guided language development from its earliest days will persist. The history of programming languages is a testament to the remarkable human capacity for adaptation and ingenuity. As we navigate the vast realm of software development, let us embrace the quirks, celebrate the stories, and anticipate the thrilling possibilities.

So, whether you find yourself writing lines of Python, harnessing the power of Go, or venturing into uncharted territories with future languages, remember that behind the code, there is a rich tapestry of stories, personalities, and the potential to shape the world around us. Let us continue to explore, create, and push the boundaries of what is possible, guided by the quirkiness that makes programming languages a unique and endlessly fascinating realm.

With the right tools and programming languages, the possibility of building groundbreaking projects is infinite. You only need a partner to help execute it for you. Find out how CoDev boosts agile productivity for businesses by providing them with the right talents to scale their dev teams.

Jan Feliciano

Jan Feliciano

Jan Feliciano, a full-time content marketer with 10+ years of total writing experience, has worked in different production environments centering on the B2B space. He dives deep into complex topics and distills them into digestible yet engaging content pieces.

All Posts

Download the authoritative Guide to Offshore Developers