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Why do coders say hello world?

When learning a new programming language, the very first program beginners typically write prints the text “Hello world!”. This tradition started in the 1970s with the C programming language and has since become a rite of passage for budding developers. But why do coders insist on greeting the world every time they start coding in a new language? Let’s explore some of the history and reasons behind this ubiquitous programming tradition.

The History of “Hello World”

The first known instance of a “Hello World” program comes from a 1970s text called The C Programming Language written by Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie, the creators of C. In the first chapter of the book, while teaching readers how to write C programs, the authors use this simple one-liner:

  printf("hello, world");

This program prints the text “hello, world” and firmly established the tradition of using this exact phrase when introducing a new programming language.

But why this particular text? Kernighan has said “hello, world” was chosen because at the time, Bell Labs where he worked focused on internationalization and telecommunications between different languages and countries. So a greeting to the “world” fit well.

The hello world program in C proved so popular that other languages started adopting it too. Soon “Hello World” programs were being written by new programmers in Pascal, Java, Python, Javascript, and more. It became a right of passage – if you were learning a new language, you had to start by printing hello world.

Reasons Coders Say Hello

Today, outputting a simple hello world text is deeply ingrained in programming culture. But why has it endured for so long? There are a few key reasons:

It’s Simple

The hello world program is about the easiest meaningful program you can write. All it does is output text to the console. The simplicity makes it ideal as the very first program in a new language. Coding “hello world” gets you familiar with the basic syntax, structure, and output of a programming language before tackling more complex topics.

It Tests the Toolchain

Writing and running a hello world program tests that you have your compiler, interpreter, or other tools installed and configured correctly. If you can write, compile, and run this simple program, your environment is ready for more complex coding. So consider hello world your first test of a working development environment.

It’s a Tradition

For experienced coders, writing a hello world program in a new language is fun precisely because of the tradition. You get to feel like you’re joining generations of programmers who’ve printed greetings when starting with a new technology. It connects you to the history of coding.

It’s Optimistic

Printing a friendly greeting to the world when embarking on coding in a new language sets an optimistic, positive tone. The message looks outward and conveys a mindset of writing code that will connect and be useful worldwide.

Variations on the Theme

While “hello world” remains standard, some languages and programmers put their own spin on the tradition. Here are a few variations:

Language Variant greeting
Python print(“Hello world!”)
C++ std::cout
Perl print “Hello world!\n”;
Ruby puts “Hello world!”
Rust println!(“Hello world!”);
PHP <?php echo ‘Hello World!’; ?>

Some variations make syntactic tweaks to fit the language while keeping the core “hello world” text. Others change up the wording, with greetings like “hello universe!”, “howdy world!”, or even foreign translations like “hola mundo!”. But they all retain the spirit of introducing new coders to a language with a simple, welcoming program.

Going Beyond Hello World

Once a programmer has output their obligatory hello world greeting, it’s time to move on to more meaningful programs. Typically the next steps are:

Printing and Taking User Input

Building on printing output, the next programs start having conversations – printing prompts, taking user input with input functions, and responding. This builds skills for interacting with users.

Math and Logic

Simple math operations, variables, boolean logic, and similar constructs come next. These allow coders to build logic and work with data programmatically.

Basic Data Structures

With math and logic mastered, new programmers start working with data structures like arrays, dictionaries, and loops to store and manipulate data in their code.

Functions and Libraries

Functions help organize code for re-use, abstraction, and passing data. Importing libraries gives access to advanced pre-built tools. Functions and libraries are integral in moving towards more advanced programming.


Algorithm practice with sorting, searching, and other foundations builds problem-solving skills. And with that, new coders are ready for real-world programming challenges!

Hello World Tradition Will Continue

Outputting a simple hello world greeting has been the first step in programming for half a century now. And this tradition will certainly continue for decades to come. As long as new programmers are learning new languages, their first lines of code will print out some variation of “Hello World!”. The message might be simple, but it represents the start of an exciting journey into coding.