I have a question about the history of programming 1. The question about the origin of foo and bar was closed by a moderator, and an ex-moderator. There was also an upvoted comment by another user:

This question appears to be off-topic because it is about the history of programming rather than programming itself

Where should I ask questions related to some interesting things about programming, but not about programming itself recommends that you ask this at Programmers but the same question has a historical lock because:

... it is not considered a good, on-topic question for this site

I thought about asking this on History but the help centre doesn't seem to indicate that they would accept it:

If you have a question about:

  • Historical events
  • Cultures and historical practices
  • Famous people
  • Ancient Languages
  • Factual current political history questions

Then you are in the right place.

Is there a site on the Stack Exchange network where it would be appropriate to ask about the history of programming or the reasons things2 are named as they are etc?

1. I don't but go along with it.
2. metasyntactic variables :-).

  • for a second, I thought you were admitting that was your sockpuppet asking that question :-) Nov 24, 2013 at 22:08
  • Nah @psubsee2003... this is just a contentious issue all over the show and I figure it would be good to get a definitive once-and-for-all answer to the question as, after investigating the options, what there is is completely contradictory. Nov 24, 2013 at 22:09
  • I wouldn't say that history of programming is as much off-topic as that the specific question is incredibly broad, as demonstrated by its listing of link after link after link after link after link... Well, you see where this is going. There's a mountain of information on that subject which makes it a poor fit for Stack Exchange.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Nov 24, 2013 at 22:31
  • You wouldn't say that the history of programming is off-topic on SO or on P.SE @animuson? Nov 24, 2013 at 22:39
  • I wasn't trying to say it was on-topic for either, just that the fact it's such a broad question is reason enough to close the question, and probably make it unacceptable anywhere.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Nov 24, 2013 at 22:43

2 Answers 2


Programming History is on-topic at Programmers.SE. See Is programming history on topic?

But please, for the love of God, make your question an interesting one. Trivia is specifically called out in the meta question I linked, and "name that thing" questions are specifically discouraged.

To put it pointedly, a question about Foo, Bar and Baz might be on-topic, but questions about Fred, Ethel or anyone else are likely not going to be.

  • Cool beans and thank you. I have no intention of asking about Fred, Ethel, Alice, Bob or Zebidiah :-). Just thought this needed a whole lot more clarification on MSO. Nov 24, 2013 at 22:39
  • Would you say that the historical etymology of a term is similarly on-topic on P.SE? and if so what do you think of this question as a migration candidate? Mar 21, 2014 at 22:49
  • @benisuǝqbackwards: It's borderline. I could migrate it, but I think some of our regulars may not receive it well.
    – user102937
    Mar 21, 2014 at 23:11
  • That's too bad because fred is my personal 4th metasyntactic variable name when I've already used foo, bar, and baz (-: Jul 25, 2020 at 6:21

I'm 3 years late to the party, but there is now a better site to ask your question on: Retrocomputing. See this for more information.

  • This would depend on how recent the history is. If it's too recent, basically if it's not old enough to be obsolete, it's probably off-topic on Retro. May 5, 2021 at 5:01

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