SIGCIS 2011 Workshop: Works in Progress: Why does the Study of How Communities are Formed Matter to the History of Computing?

Name: Pierre Mounier-Kuhn

Institutional Affiliation: CNRS & Université Paris-Sorbonne

Email Address:

Paper Type: Work in Progress

Paper Title: From Universal Project to Sunken Culture: Algol in France



Paper Abstract: Algol was a high-level programming language, defined by American and European mathematicians in the late 1950s. This article in progress investigates how it provoked a wave of debates, projects and counter-projects, and remained lively in academic spheres until the 1970s. This paper focuses on Algol, less as a programming language than as a research program, as an object of circulation and translation, as a decisive step in the building of a new scientific community : computer science or informatique. It gives an analysis of the main French actors involved in the global Algol endeavour – small groups of computer scientists who became interested in this project, appropriated it and participated in its evolution, either within academic laboratories, R & D departments of computer companies, users or learned societies. This means grasping each group with its local, particular logic, culture and environment, in order to better understand the overall dynamic and allow comparisons at European or global scale.