I mentioned I was thinking about writing a post about the tradition of creating a program that outputs “Hello, World!” as your first program. As it turns out, at least one other person has researched this very topic.
In a 2015 Medium article from “The Software Guild”, the tradition of Hello World likely originated in 1972. A book called “A Tutorial Introduction to the Language B” by Brian Kernigham appears to contain first known printed version of the Hello World output (specifically, to illustrate external variables).
Because I said I was going to look into this, and a good author doesn’t always rely on a single source, I decided to look deeper.
Interestingly, Wikipedia says the book which introduced Hello, World was 1974’s “Programming in C: A Tutorial”, also by Brian Kernigham. At least we’re consistent with Brian being the original author – so far. We’ve also identified that Brian really likes no-nonsense book titles.
A blog post by the Open Source Team on the vmware Open Source Blog also identifies Brian’s books as being the originator of the Hello World tradition. So far, all signs point to Brian. To be honest, I think all signs point to Brian. As it turns out, this interesting article I thought I’d write has been heavily discussed over the years. An article from Slate agrees with Brian being the originator in his 1972 book. I’ll admit I was excited about the prospect of another origin, as the article starts with a “Nobody really knows”. In a move that surprises absolutely no-one, the article then immediately identifies Brian as “the one”. Talk about a roller coaster!
The Slate article does offer something a bit deeper than others before it. The Slate author actually called Brian up and asked him where his inspiration for Hello World came from. Brian’s response is that he’d seen a cartoon of a baby chick coming out of an egg, and in the cartoon the chick says Hello, World! He thought it was cute, and stuck with it.
The website HackerRank also wrote on article on Brian – and he confirmed the chicken and egg story with them as well. I’d say enough people agree (and have done significantly more research than I have), so I’m confirming case closed on this one. I think that now knowing the true source of where Hello World came from, I may start writing a different first program as I try out a new language. Instead of the traditional Hello, World!, I’m going to start writing Thanks Brian!
It just feels like the right thing to do.
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