Hello? World?

A PHP “Hello World” example from the PHP manual. Photo: Diaan Mynhardt

As with millions of others programmers everywhere, the words “hello world” heralded my entry into the complex world of computer programming[1]. I had made a computer, a mere machine, talk to me! My mind was blown! It was 1989, the year in which I turned ten, and computer languages like Microsoft Basic were all the rage[2]. Especially if you were a curious ten year old, like I was.

Media theory is more relevant than it has ever been.

Close on three decades later these same words, the default title of the first post on a fresh, unused WordPress site, headline my intro to this blog, Feedback/forward. On here I hope to present a series of posts about my adventures, opinions, and wandering thoughts of the exciting (and sometimes terrifying) space where psychology and the internet intersect.

In the digital, almost entirely online, post-truth, ultra-connected era in which we live the overlap of psychology and media theory is more relevant than it has ever been. This shit, as they say, is legit.

Hello Who?

Hello world. This greeting is directed at the entire (online) world; anyone with access to the internet can (if they wish) read this post. Billions of people. It wasn’t always so. Originally these words were read by programmers, alone, as they stared with eyes transfixed into the monochrome-green screens of their obscure machines.

The age of the passive audience is dead.

The use of hello world in computer culture originated in the 1970s as a common example for introducing programmers to a new language. The first recorded example was a 1972 introduction to the language B[3], which supposedly[4] used the following code:

main( ) {
 extrn a, b, c;
 putchar(a); putchar(b); putchar(c); putchar('!*n');
}
a 'hell';
b 'o, w';
c 'orld';

WordPress, on which this post you’re currently reading is published, taps into retro-computer-culture nostalgia by using the phrase for its default first post. In a way it’s also a lesson in programming of a sort. I can’t help but wonder how many of its millions of users know this?

What’s in a Greeting.

New Zealand born ethnographer and economic anthropologist Raymond Firth[5] wrote that a greeting is the recognition that a social encounter with another person is deemed socially acceptable. It’s the recognition and acceptance of the presence of another[6]. Similarly, with this first post on this new blog I’m welcoming you to this blog, and recognising your ability to engage with me on this platform. I invite you not only to read, but to participate. Welcome. The age of the passive audience is dead.

1
“Hello, World!” program. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%22Hello,_World!%22_program
2
Microsoft BASIC. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_BASIC (accessed 22 Apr2017).
3
B (programming language). Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B_(programming_language) (accessed 18 Apr2017). [Source]
4
Where does “Hello world” come from? Stack Overflow. http://stackoverflow.com/a/602252 (accessed 18 Apr2017).
5
Raymond Firth. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Firth (accessed 18 Apr2017).
6
Firth R. Verbal and bodily rituals of greeting and parting. The interpretation of ritual 1972;1972:1–38.

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