A Hornbook of Programming Language and Database Origins

I love languages: both programming, spoken, written, and every which way. After beginning my own formal study of programming and software engineering, I am amazed at the multitude of dialects, accents, and diaspora of programming languages. If you program yourself, surely you have become interested in how various programming language names come about. Here is a list I intend to update as I present the derivation of various programming language origins. If I have made an error, please add a comment or msg me to notify me and I can update these entries.

Perl: Larry Wall, 1987, intended Perl as a general-purpose Unix scripting language to make report processing easier. Larry wanted to give his language a short and memorable name with positive vibes and so named it Pearl, but found out there was already another PEARL programming language, and so named it Perl. People made it a backronym and thus have expanded it as “Practical Extraction and Reporting Language”, “Pathologically Eclectic Rubbish Lister” (named after Wall himself), and others.

Ruby: Yukihiro “Matz” Matsumoto, 1995, wanted a truly object-oriented and easy-to-script language. Matz and his colleagues tossed the name “Coral” and “Ruby” (also alluding to the birthstone of a colleague) around, but they also alluded to Perl, as a joke referencing it as another competing gemstone.

Clojure: Rich Hickey, 2007. Clojure is a dialect of the Lisp programming language focused on “combining the approachability and interactive development of a scripting language with an efficient and robust infrastructure for multithreaded programming.” As I read more, it uses weird concepts like “lambda calculus”, “Polish prefix notation”, and other terms. Here is the official explanation of the language’s derivation by the man himself found on the Google Group forum posts: “The name was chosen to be unique. I wanted to involve c (c#), l (lisp) and j (java). Once I came up with Clojure, given the pun on closure, the available domains and vast emptiness of the googlespace, it was an easy decision.”

Source: https://groups.google.com/d/msg/clojure/4uDxeOS8pwY/UHiYp7p1a3YJ

Supposedly Rich was pleased to know that there were no search hits for “clojure” before its appearance. There are well over ~727,000 search hits on Google now as of August 2014.

PHP: Rasmus Lerdorf, 1994-1995. PHP is a server-side scripting language designed for web development but also used as a general-purpose programming language. Originally an acronym for “Personal Home Page”, but now made into a recursive acronym “PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor”. The mascot is an elephant since elephant contains a close approximation of the acronym as in ‘elePHPant’.

Speaking of elephants…

PostgreSQL: Created by the PostgreSQL Global Development Group and released in 1995. Pronounced as “Post-grehs”, PostgreSQL is an object-relational database management system (ORDBMS) with an emphasis on extensibility and standards-compliance. The original project of Ingres was lead by Michael Stonebraker and began in 1982 at the University of California at Berkeley. The name refers to the project’s origins as a “post-Ingres” database, being a development from University Ingres DBMS (Ingres is an abbreviation for INteractive Graphics Retrieval System). PostgreSQL logo of an elephant came from a mailing list thread:

[…] but if you want an animal-based logo, how about some sort of elephant? After all, as the Agatha Christie title read, elephants can remember … -David Yang

Source: http://dba.stackexchange.com/questions/35325/why-did-postgresql-choose-an-elephant-as-its-logo





More to come… comment below if you want a specific language for me to investigate!


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