When Mr McCarthy and Mr Ritchie first developed an urge to talk to machines, people still regarded the word “digital” as part of the jargon of anatomy. If they no longer do, that is because of the new vernaculars invented to cajole automatons into doing man’s bidding. In 1958 Mr McCarthy came up with the list-processing language, or LISP. It is the second-oldest high-level programming language still in use today—one whose grammar and vocabulary were more perspicuous and versatile than the machine code early programmers had to use. A little over a decade later Mr Ritchie created C.
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