While reading some software related books/reports/articles written during the 1950s, I suddenly realized that the word ‘software’ was not being used. This set me off looking for the earliest use of various computer terms.
My search process consisted of using pfgrep on my collection of pdfs of documents from the 1950s and 60s, and looking in the index of the few old computer books I still have.
Software: The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) cites an article by John Tukey published in the American Mathematical Monthly during 1958 as the first published use of software: “The ‘software’ comprising … interpretive routines, compilers, and other aspects of automotive programming are at least as important to the modern electronic calculator as its ‘hardware’.”
I have a copy of the second edition of “An Introduction to Automatic Computers” by Ned Chapin, published in 1963, which does a great job of defining the various kinds of software. Earlier editions were published in 1955 and 1957. Did these earlier edition also contain various definitions of software? I cannot find any reasonably prices copies on the second-hand book market. Do any readers have a copy?
Software engineering: The OED cites a 1966 “letter to the ACM membership” by Anthony A. Oettinger, then ACM President: “We must recognize ourselves … as members of an engineering profession, be it hardware engineering or software engineering.”
The June 1965 issue of COMPUTERS and AUTOMATION, in its Roster of organizations in the computer field, has the list of services offered by Abacus Information Management Co.: “systems software engineering”, and by Halbrecht Associates, Inc.: “software engineering”. This pushes the first use of software engineering back by a year.
Source code: The OED cites a 1965 issue of Communications ACM: “The PUFFT source language listing provides a cross reference between the source code and the object code.”
The December 1959 Proceedings of the EASTERN JOINT COMPUTER CONFERENCE contains the article: “SIMCOM – The Simulator Compiler” by Thomas G. Sanborn. On page 140 we have: “The compiler uses this convention to aid in distinguishing between SIMCOM statements and SCAT instructions which may be included in the source code.”
Running pdfgrep over the archive of documents on bitsavers would probably throw up all manners of early users of software related terms.