From Massive Machines to Smart Devices: Software Development Over Time

software development over time

When we were kids, shopping for groceries from the couch seemed unimaginable. We played Donkey Kong and Minesweeper, blasted Winamp, and gasped at the sky-high speeds of browsing with Internet Explorer. And now, we feed ourselves with a few clicks, listen to Spotify playlists, and play Elden Ring – and even get annoyed when there’s a 0.1-second lag.
Software solutions have been growing and evolving for the last 50 years, influencing not only how we spend our free time, but also how we do business. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and explore the road (or, better yet, racetrack) that got us to where we are today in software development.

Phase 1: The Birth of software 

We did say that it’s only been about 50 years of software, but the very beginning was actually much, much earlier. Surprisingly, the first-ever analytical engine was created in 1883! Its author was Ada Lovelace, a mathematician who was only 17 years old when she started working on the machine. She’s regarded as the first programmer, and her ‘software’ was meant for computing Bernoulli numbers.
The next big step was in 1937, with the Atanasoff-Berry computer, named after the scientists who worked on it. It was also used for solving mathematical problems – linear equations, to be exact. It was also too big to fit through the door.

Written by Tom Kilburn, the first piece of software as we know it today had its debut at precisely 11 am on the 21st of June, 1948. 

As it was developed at the University of Manchester, this machine was called Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine and aptly nicknamed the Manchester Baby. The software was stored in its electronic memory and could execute just one function: calculating the highest factor of the integer 2^18 = 262,144, and it took the Baby 52 minutes to do it.

Phase 2: The Language

Much like a human child, software's next step after seeing the light of day was acquiring language. Well, it didn’t acquire it on its own - John Backus invented it in 1957. 

The first programming language, FORTRAN, was a revolution. Before that, code was written specifically for one task and for one machine. 

FORTRAN could be transferred between hardware, meaning that programs could be moved from one computer to another. It included English words to represent lower-level functions, which made it more accessible. This also furthered the education system for future coders at a time when there were nearly no learning opportunities or institutions for software engineers.

Phase 3: Reading and Writing

In 1962, the first text editor was launched, simply named Text Editor & Corrector, or TECO for short. Much like its name, the functions weren’t very complex either. It didn’t have syntax, and each character was an imperative command that was dispatched to its corresponding routine. It could also read further characters, which is somewhat similar to string arguments. It ignored cases and whitespaces (save for ‘tab’). 

At the time, a popular ‘game’ that programmers liked to play with TECO was to enter their names as commands to see what would happen.

Phase 4: Entering the Workforce

The first instances of personal computers were in the world of business. 

The late ’70s and early ‘80s saw a rise in user-oriented programs, which was a major breakthrough from the previous decades when only developers ever interacted with them. 

Apple II was released in 1977 as the first personal computer. VisiCalc emerged as the first spreadsheet software, and IBM released the IBM PC. Another example of computers in the office was the program AutoCAD, which is still widely used by architects and engineers today.

As you can see, this was the point at which software development started to gain momentum and spread rapidly. With the availability of large-scale systems and less bulky hardware, PCs were starting to find their way into homes by the end of the decade.

Phase 5: Going Online and Going Out

The 1990s started off strong with the launch of Microsoft Office, but the most notable point was the invention of the Internet in 1994. 

Tim Berners-Lee developed the first web server and accompanying browser - The WorldWideWeb. 

This name will live on for decades more in site addresses, although it would be renamed Nexus a few years after its creation. In the same year, IBM launched Simon. Simon was the first ever ‘smartphone’ that was publicly available. Although its capabilities may seem laughable now, having a calendar and email system in the palm of your hand was insane for the time. It even had a touchscreen!

The drawback was that there was no room for adding other programs – a drawback that was quickly noticed and brought on interest for simple programming languages that would work for mobile phones (or app dev, as we now know it).

In the 2000s, mobile applications were considered an integral component, and languages like Swift and Java emerged.

Apple launched the first iPhone in 2007, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Phase 6: Toddlers and iPads

Today’s world would be unimaginable without software. It’s become so simplified and user-friendly that literal 2-year-olds can navigate their way through their end and play a cartoon on a smart tablet. It’s become such a huge part of our lives that even the phrase ‘smart tablet’ seems redundant – it’s understood that every device is smart.

Without software, we would struggle to find entertainment, earn our incomes, and even clothe ourselves.

Although the pace at which we reached this point may seem too rapid, and we feel like we’re losing our ability to keep up, there is no sign of stopping anytime soon.

I Want One!

If you’re looking to have your own software solution and want to take advantage of how far we’ve come, look no further! Whatever business you’re in – there’s surely a bit of software that could help you boost your company’s growth. Valcon is an international IT company that provides custom solutions for various industries, from healthcare tracking systems to eCommerce platforms. 

I'm ready



Related posts

Search SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS
What do PropTech Solutions Bring to the Real Estate Industry? Search