Riffling through some file folders last night, I happened upon an item that I evidently clipped out of Datamation years ago. It’s titled “Magic Moments in Software,” by Deborah Sojka and Philip H. Dorn. I can’t find a date on any of the pages, but internal evidence suggests it’s from the early 1980s.
The piece is organized as a timeline, listing various notable events in the history of software, such as the first successful run of a “user-written, meaningful Fortran program” (20 April 1957), the release of Lisp (1962) and BASIC (1964), and the publication of The Mythical Man-Month (1975). One of the early entries caught my eye:
1949—F. Fortesque Fingerhut, while trying to debug his first program on the ACE computer at the National Physical Laboratory, cannot find the problem. He cracks under the strain, disappears, and is not seen until 1981 when he reemerges as the net court judge at Wimbledon.
All the other events recorded in this chronology seem to be genuine, and there’s no April Fool disclaimer at the end. Is it possible that the story of F. Fortesque Fingerhut is not a joke?