Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 55.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Date: Tue, 06 Jun 2000 22:18:24 +0100
From: Richard Giordano <Richard_Giordano@brown.edu>
Subject: First use of the word "software"
One of my former advisors at Columbia sent me this message:
The short version of the story is this. The question arose as to who coined
the word "software." Just two weeks ago, a piece was published in Science
attributing the term to John Tukey, the Princeton statistician who you may
have run into in your P'ton days. John is enormously smart and altogether
capable of having the idea but the date attached -- 1958 -- intuitively
seems much too late to me. The attribution is based on a search of a huge
journal archive, JSTOR, which Mellon has funded. It is surely true that
Tukey is the first to have used the term in a journal stored in JSTOR but
that seems to me to be a not very good source for tracking priority of
coinage, especially in an area where academic publication would not have had
very high value.
I should know the answer as my dissertation research touches on the
subject. I had thought the term was first used by Grace Hopper in 1954
(from her early work on compilers). Upon reflection, I came to this
because Hopper told me so in an interview with her, and others I had
interviewed supported this. Of course, the others may have got their
information from Hopper herself...
Anyone have any ideas?
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