Talk:Autocoder

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Computing / Software  
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Computing, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of computers, computing, and information technology on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by WikiProject Software.
 

Copied from User talk:R. S. Shaw:

Look I have an article written by Alick Glennie in 1953 where he talks about Autocode and I don't see him mention Autocoder anywhere. I also have an article by Campbell-Kelly about early programming for the Manchester Mark 1 where he uses the term "autocode" everywhere, but never uses the term "autocoder". Also, I've tried a couple google searches on autocoder and can't find any mention that it is a generic term for assembly language, other than FOLDOC and web pages that are clearly just scaping FOLDOC. There are a couple of other entries in FOLDOC that I find suspicious so I'm not completely trusting it.A B Carter (talk) 12:22, 12 March 2007 (UTC)

You raise a couple of questions, I think. First, was "Autocoder" the name of the program that translated a language named Autocode? I don't have any knowledge about this, not having researched it other than to see that FOLDOC says this. It seems plausible, and Glennie may not have mentioned the program name, not seeing it as relevant. Nevertheless, it may be entirely supposition by some FOLDOC author. We are talking about history that's fairly old now, and knowledgeable people are quite few; FOLDOC is a bit older than Wikipedia and may have had input from such people.

Second, is "autocoder" a generic term for assembly language? I'm not sure how generic it was, but it pretty definitely was used for what was essentially an assembly language, at least on the IBM 1400 series of machines. This is pretty clear from a quick look at p. 22 of the "1964 IBM 1401 Autocoder manual" that the external link points to. So it was a language, was assembly-like. How generic it might have been needs further research. The web isn't so great a source for something like this as it dates from the 1990s, not the 1950s, and the subject isn't of such historical importance that lots of people have been writing blogs and web pages about it for years. -R. S. Shaw 18:06, 12 March 2007 (UTC)

I think we're making some progress. On the one hand I'm having a very hard time accepting the claim that Glennie's language was ever called "Autocoder". The paper by Campbell-Kelly is, "Programming the Mark I: Early Programming Activity at the University of Manchester" and is published in IEEE's Annals of the History of Computing (Vol 2. No. 2). It provides a fairly detailed and extensive discussion. The key passage is the following:
In 1952 Glennie devised an automatic coding system to try to alleviate the language difficulty of programming the Mark I. Glennie called the system AUTOCODE; this appears to be the origin of the term, which was widely used in Britain in the 1950s and early 1960s.
In this article "autocode" is mentioned 116 times while "autocoder" is not mentioned once. Campbell-Kelly has written a number of articles on the work done at the University of Manchester so I have to give his statements some weight.
On the other hand I agree that simple google searches may not be particularly relevent when talking about fairly obscure developments in computers languages fromthe early 60's. So I did a search on "Autocode" in the ACM digital library. It wasn't exhaustive, but I did find 53 citations, not a huge number, but more than a handful. In the ones that I looked up (between 6-12) Autocoder always referred to an IBM language. A number of different machines were mentioned, 7705, 7070 and 1401 were mentioned specifically. So I also agree that it was a language and it was assembly-like, but unless your worldview was big blue I'm not seeing that it was a generic term.
So unless you have a strong objection I would like to delete the reference to Glennie's Autocode. I think the rest of the article needs some expansion and revision, but I have no desire to push for deletion. Good talking to you.A B Carter (talk) 00:31, 13 March 2007 (UTC)
I've found http://hopl.murdoch.edu.au/ a bit helpful. In particular, this taxonomy page uses separate classifications for "Autocodes (UK)" and "Autocoders (US)". This and other stuff gives indication that there is not a close relationship, and I think that without good new evidence we should assume that this "Autocoder translated Autocode" idea should not be included in Wikipedia. Go ahead and remove it, or I will at some point.
Thanks. I deleted the reference but the remaining entry is a bit cryptic.A B Carter (talk) 09:36, 13 March 2007 (UTC)
I think "autocode" and "autocoder" were used in rather non-specific ways. One piece I found mentioned that for the 7010 "Automatic coding includes FORTRAN, COBOL, and AUTOCODER." The term "automatic coding" seems to have been a general term for translators/programming systems that were better than working with machine language. "Autocode", "autocoder", "autocoding", etc were probably just natural abbreviations of this, and eventually things may have settled semantically on a particular class of languages in the U.K. (autocodes) while in the U.S. "autocoder" became the more commonly used term, and was probably associated with a somewhat different class of languages.
Agreed. "Automatic coding" or "automatic programming" was the original term used to describe any attempt to simplify programming by having the computer itself do some of the work, a revolutionary idea at the time. The full name for FORTRAN was "FORTRAN Automatic Coding System". The first attempts were simple and rudimentary, i.e. more like symbolic assembly language than a high-level language. A B Carter (talk) 09:36, 13 March 2007 (UTC)
This page of 1955 languages is interesting because it shows that the author seems to use the two terms somewhat interchangeably. AUTOCODER, for instance, is described as an "autocode", "Universal Code" is described as an autocoder, etc. -R. S. Shaw 04:01, 13 March 2007 (UTC)
A proposal for you. We could move this entry to "Automatic Coding" and redirect links for "autocoder" and "autocoding" to it (as well as cross-link with the autocode link). I'm pretty sure I can find some citations that specifically talk about "automatic coding" and mention can be made to a number of specific autocodes and autocoders. A B Carter (talk) 09:36, 13 March 2007 (UTC)
Well, while I can imagine an "Automatic coding" article that was compelling if well written by a knowlegeable person, I think most likely it would not replace either of the two existing articles. I think it would be more general, giving the scope and flavor of early attempts to make programming easier. The Glennie system is notable itself enough to have a short article on it alone, perhaps with some discussion of other autocodes. And autocoder for the 1401 is fairly well known, mainly because the 1400 series was quite successful and Autocoder seems to have been its principle language. I think some people might seek either of these articles out and not want to bother with a more general article. These articles will probably always be short, but that's not really a reason not to have them. This article does need work, and I may find time to do some on it over the next couple of weeks. -R. S. Shaw 19:44, 13 March 2007 (UTC)
OK, just trying to find a way to keep the article since I'm not too sure what is left with the present article. I've incorporated the Alick Glennie Autocode article into a larger article on autocodes developed for the Manchester computers. The short section on the 1401 Autocoder is probably better off being incorporated into the article on the 1401. What you have left is just a definition, which doesn't warrant an entry. A B Carter (talk) 00:22, 14 March 2007 (UTC)