Open source – it’s a seemingly unending trove of treasure. VMware’s org in GitHub alone contains more than 250 projects, all of varying size, complexity, purpose and age. Outside of that, you can find almost ANYTHING on GitHub, from Concord to Knitting Patterns and everything else in between. In fact, one of our open source gurus recently found a rather interesting repo: Hello World. Now that alone is not remarkable, for Hello World is the time-honored starting point for many developers. It’s this particular piece of code that proves your code compiles, executes and consistently produces the desired outcome. What’s unique about this particular Hello World repo is its polyglot nature: it offers the code in more than 60 programming languages. Let’s examine how Hello World originated and why it’s remained a reliable starting point for developers looking to contribute to open source projects.
Hello World Origins
Where exactly did Hello World originate? It’s creator, Brian Kernighan, authored one of the most widely read programming books, C Programming Language. He first referenced Hello World in his book titled A Tutorial Introduction to the Programming Language B. And while no one can scientifically explain why it became so wildly popular, the program marks a major change in the historical rhetoric of programming itself.
Before the 1970s, most people saw computers as complex and expensive equipment reserved for academics, defense or government work. Over the years, industry leaders worked hard to fight this stigma and prove to the general public that computers were, in fact, useful. And when PDP-11, one of the first successful commercial microcomputers launched, Hello World began to spread. Users could now “talk” directly to their new equipment using a programming language. As programmable computers became more prevalent, more people turned to Kernighan’s C Programming Language and a reintroduction to Hello World to begin their professional journey. The video below is Steven Rostedt talking about Hello World as his introduction to the Linux Kernel.
Breaking Down the Programming Language Barrier
That was then – today programming languages are plentiful. Despite the proliferation of coding languages, and explosion of development methods and patterns (I’m looking at you, cloud native), the relevance of this decades-old program persists. Hello World provides a simple, standardized method of allowing programmers to configure their environment as both a test and a teaching tool. According to a report conducted by Digital Ocean, two of the biggest barriers to developers contributing more to open source projects are not knowing where to get started and feeling like they don’t have the right skills to contribute. Hello World provides a starting point to learn how a given programming language works, breaking down the programming language barrier.
With that said, a recent survey conducted by Digital Ocean attempted to uncover which languages developers use the most for open source projects. We’ve listed their top 10 findings here, along with their Hello World programs:
And here’s two more from the way back machine:
In an industry ignited by rapid innovation, Hello World certainly seems to withstand the test of time. What’s more, it’s a proven celebratory beacon for programmers no matter what programming language they use. It has and will continue to be a unifying factor for developers, engineers and coders both new and experienced, especially when it comes to those looking to expand their horizons by contributing to open source projects.
Note that this repo is no longer maintained. It was created as a result of the 2018 Hacktoberfest. Nevertheless, it’s still pretty awesome.