From punched cards to no-code: the history of computing

Have you ever wondered where programming started? And low-code / no-code development? In this article, you will find the history of computer evolution and the role of no-code in it.

agencia no-code / Fluo latam

The evolution of computer sciencie

Although it sometimes goes unnoticed, we are currently immersed in a technological ecosystem. From the way we work, how we entertain ourselves, to how we learn, all involve at least the use of a cell phone or computer. And in that simple condition is linked something transversal: everything is built with code.

Despite we may think that the history of programming is recent, the truth is that its premises date back to the 19th century, long before the invention of the first computers. 

The world's first form of programming dates back to 1842 when Ada Lovelace succeeded in establishing a method for calculating the numbers on punched cards. In doing so, she created the word algorithm to designate the logical process of running a program.

100 year later, electric computers appeared. These were slow and heavy and to use them scientists had to write the programs and machine language by hand.

In the 1950s, the first computer of all time was created: the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer). Also the first high-level and functional programming language, Fortran (Formula Translator), was used for scientific calculation.

In 1960, as a consequence of the Cold War, there was a boom in technological development. This resulted in the creation of the first object-oriented programming language (Simula 67) and other languages such as Pascal or C.

Until then, computers did not yet have Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) and their use was through commands. Once established in 1980, it was no longer necessary to know how to program to use a computer, but it was necessary to create software. 

With the 1990s and the Internet revolution, a new type of language emerged: interpreted languages, the main ones being Python, Ruby, or C#. At this time also began to emerge the first programs that could be used without knowing how to code, such as Word and Photoshop.

From the 2000s onwards, a computer science focused on perfecting existing languages and not on creating new ones. But with the new millennium, the first codeless development tools appeared.

 In 2003, the first of them was launched: WordPress, which is still in use today. It was followed by Formstack and Shopify, both launched in 2006.

You can read more about WordPress and Webflow, the main no-code web development tools, in this article

Since 2010 and mainly with the appearance of the pandemic in 2020, no-code tools have been increasing their place in this story, showing us that computing has become increasingly simple and accessible to more and more people.

 Starting with punched cards, then to having to apply commands for lack of a GUI to reach today, where programming is no longer necessary to use and create technology.

How is this possible? Thanks to platforms that allow the development of digital products through graphical interfaces, which convert code into visual elements. This started with low code and continued with no-code. Next, let's see how this story continues.

From low-code to no-code

The root of low-code development platforms can be found in the Fourth Generation Programming Language (4GL), a concept that was developed from the '70s to the '90s. These fourth-generation languages consist of statements similar to those made in a human language and are commonly used in database programming, PHP, Python, Ruby, or SQL being some of them.

In 1982 James Martin, in his book "App Development Without Programmers", concerned about the small number of developers he observed in the market and with the idea of a future where it would not be strictly necessary to depend on them, argued that 4GL technologies could open the development environment to a wider population and allow non-programmers to create applications on their own.

Years passed and that far-fetched idea was slowly coming to fruition. But it wasn't until 2014 that it didn't receive a name. In that year Forrester released a report where the term low-code was used for the first time. 

Recently the philosophy of low code, which is to democratize access to the creation of digital projects with low code, was mutating and moving towards a way of working beyond: no-code. 

Although they are terms that can be confused, their difference lies in the fact that the use of low-code platforms does require a certain level of programming knowledge. 

On the other hand, to use no-code platforms it is not necessary to know about coding. This makes this methodology something revolutionary, something historical, and far from being just a trend.

No-code today

The rise of no-code is part of recent history. The beginning of its popularity is registered in 2018, the same year that the low-code market reached a valuation of 6 billion. Its maximum peak (for the moment) was in 2020, with the appearance of the pandemic caused by COVID-19.

In this article you can read about the causes of the no-code boom after the pandemic; however, most of the dominant platforms in the market were launched long before this event. Some examples are Bubble, launched in 2012, Webflow and Airtable in 2013, or Notion in 2016.

But it was because of the massive turn to digital in 2020 (which generated new needs and therefore new demands) that these platforms gained their place within the technology development ecosystem. This was because many organizations were forced to adapt quickly to a world without physical contact.

In this premise lies the reason for the importance and continuous growth of no-code: its use has no entry limits, and anyone can use them. This makes digital transformation and adaptation affordable in terms of money and time.

This reason makes no-code a very attractive segment, both in terms of resources and talent. Just on the economic side, by 2024 the no-code market is expected to be worth $52 billion.

Growth is also a magnet for human talent. The no-code means a new educational area and a new labor area, which creates opportunities for new profiles and the creation of agencies specialized in the development of digital products without code. 

Another important factor in its growth is the community that is generated around it. From expert profiles to apprentices, there are more and more online accounts or communities dedicated to sharing and learning about the subject. In this article, you can find the no-code communities that we recommend you visit.

A new paradigm

Through the journey we have made through the evolution of computing, we can see that progressive changes were slow at the beginning, but gradually increased in speed. 

Today we are as far away from the first computer breakthroughs as we are from the changes that will occur in the future. However, we are confident that a segment of these advances can be made by people who will be part of the transformation thanks to the democratization that no-code provides.

The story continues to be written, develop your ideas with no-code, contact us.

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