A Brief History of Software Development

Category: Primitive Social software development custom software

Written by: Lacey Wilcox

Posted on: February 12, 2020

Every day, we all use software. We’re surrounded by it in almost every aspect of our lives, often in many areas that we don’t even realize. From our phones, to our cars, to our homes, it is not exaggerating to say there isn’t an area of your life that hasn’t been touched by software development.

But, while software is everywhere, that doesn’t mean it’s easily understood. Most of us still have a very abstract idea of what software development is or how it works. Today, we’re taking a very brief look at the history of software development to see how we got where we are today and how it can benefit your business’s future.  

The Beginnings

Before we look at software development and its history, here is a very simple explanation of what software is: at its most basic level, software is the programs and instructions that allow us to interact with computers or other “smart” devices. 

One of the first recorded instances of software was by Tom Kilburn and his colleague Freddie Williams in England in 1948 at the University of Manchester. Their computer successfully determined the greatest divisor of 2 to the power of 18 (hint: the answer is 262,144). This technological achievement only took a mere 52 minutes to occur. (Yes, we have come a very long way.)

In the years following this breakthrough, computer programmers repeatedly proved their patience and devotion to the field. While developers today can type beautiful lines of neat, complex code into their computers, the first programmers had physical cards that had to be hole punched in a specific sequence. The computer would then “read” the holes in these cards to perform simple tasks, usually involving mathematical computations.

The Middle Age

In the decades from the 70s to the 90s, the personal computer completely changed the game for programming and software development. As companies like Apple and IBM competed to release the most advanced computer, software adapted to include languages like Cobol, BASIC, Pascal, and C, as well as applications like Microsoft Word and Excel. Gone were the days of punching holes in cards then standing in line to wait and see if the computer would be able to interpret your instructions correctly. Because computer programmers were able to move more quickly and fluidly in their work, the advancements followed. 

Another factor in this time that helped programmers create more innovative programs, products, and applications was that of open-source software. In a nutshell, this means that the creators of tools, languages, and frameworks would allow them to be “open source” and other developers could build on them without having to pay any sort of licensing fee. This open mindset paved the way for greater advancements and higher quality products.

Today...and BeyondToday-and-Beyond

None of these advancements has had the significance or the impact quite like the Internet. While the internet first came to life in the 1980s, it wasn’t until the mid-90s that a web-browser was created to allow users to actually access the internet from their computers. This ushered in more than a decade of a technological Renaissance of sorts, climaxing with the release of the Blackberry and the first iPhone.

Which brings us to today. Many of us who are children of the 70s or 80s can think back to a time when the most advanced thing in our house was a VCR or Super Nintendo, but we have now become used to speaking to our Alexas or holding phones that can predict what we are going to type next. We have smart cars and cookware that uses software and it’s possible for our entire house to be run from something we hold in our hands. When you think about where we started from, and where we are in less than a hundred years, it’s just a little mind-boggling. 

Where Do We Go From Here?

As cliche as it sounds, the possibilities are endless. The opportunities available through software for our personal lives are astounding. But take a moment to think about what this means for your business. With a custom software solution, you have the potential to care for your customers more intentionally and carefully, you have the chance to increase efficiency and harness your team’s talent and resources better, and you can expand upon the products and services you are able to offer prospects and customers. 

Ready to learn more about what software development could do for your business? Set up a consultation with our team below!

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