The general-purpose programming language Ruby is celebrating its 21st birthday today. To celebrate the occasion, ruby-lang.org released its latest patch for Ruby 2.1, Ruby 2.1.1.

Ruby is an entirely open source language that anyone can contribute to on GitHub, but the language has maintained its popularity over the last two decades thanks to a steady rate of adoption. To commemorate Ruby and its anniversary, I wanted to take a look back into Ruby’s history:

Feb 24, 1993 — Ruby Is Born

Yukihiro “Matz” Matsumoto coins a name for his new programming language—before he begins writing any code for it. He knew he wanted to use a jewel's name and chose the ruby since it was the birthstone of a colleague. 

Later, Matsumoto found other reasons “Ruby” was especially fitting. His goal was to blend his favorite parts of programming language— Perl—with elements of Smalltalk, Eiffel, Ada and Lisp. He noted that ruby is the birthstone for July, coming directly after pearl, the birthstone for June.

“I thought Ruby was the good name for the scripting language newer (and hopefully better) than Perl,” he wrote on the Ruby-Talk mailing list in 1999.

December 1995 — Ruby Released

Ruby version 0.95 was publicly released in Japanese domestic newsgroups. Within those first two days, bugs were found and fixed, and not one but three later versions were released. 

Also within its first few days of existence, Ruby-Talk was born. This mailing list for Ruby programmers still exists today, and you can sign up for it here

December 7, 1998 — Ruby In English

This is the first time the Ruby website was made available in English, albeit a very simplified version. 

For the majority of Ruby’s existence throughout the 1990s, the language's growth was spearheaded by Japanese developers, most of whom did not speak another language. But this effort made it possible for English-speaking developers to learn about Ruby and adopt it around the turn of the century.

January 2006 — Ruby-Talk Peaks

By the mid 2000s, the Ruby community was getting huge and its major mailing list was bearing the brunt of it. In January 2006, the Ruby-Talk list reached an average of 200 messages per day.

Responding to the traffic, Ruby developers split up into many different mailing lists and forums. So while the Ruby community is larger in 2014 than it ever has been, no one mailing list is as crowded as Ruby-Talk once was. 

From 2004 To Today And Beyond — The Rise Of Ruby On Rails

Ruby on Rails, also called Rails, is an open source Web application framework that's powered by the Ruby programming language—it is also Ruby’s killer app. Rails is a framework that's designed to make the development, deployment, debugging and maintenance of websites far simpler than environments that existed before. 

David Heinemeier Hansson first released Rails as an open source project in 2004, and it’s been picking up speed ever since. The framework reached a huge milestone when Apple announced it would ship it with Mac OS X v10.5 "Leopard" in 2007.

Today, Ruby on Rails might be even more popular than Ruby itself. GitHub, Yammer, Scribd, Groupon, Shopify, and Basecamp all use Rails, all dwarfing many of the organizations that solely use Ruby. By March 2013, more than 200,000 sites were using Ruby on Rails. 

In one of his first English language introductions to Ruby, Matsumoto wrote, “For me the purpose of life is partly to have joy. Programmers often feel joy when they can concentrate on the creative side of programming, So Ruby is designed to make programmers happy.” 

In 21 years of steady growth, it’s clear that a lot of people have found happiness using Ruby.

Lead image by John-Morgan on Flickr; lower images courtesy of Ruby