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What is a Programming Language?

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Close-up of hands typing on keyboard.
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What Does A Programming Language Do?:

 

A programming language is used to write computer programs such as

A program is written as a series of human understandable computer instructions that can be read by a compiler and linker, and translated into machine code so that a computer can understand and run it.

 

 

Are There Many Programs In A Computer?:

 

From the moment you turn on your computer, it is running programs, carrying out instructions, testing your ram, resetting all attached devices and loading the operating system from hard disk or CD-Rom.

Each and every operation that your computer performs has instructions that someone had to write in a programming language. These had to be created, compiled and tested- a long and complex task.

An operating system like Microsoft's Windows Vista took millions of man hours to write and test the software.

 

Examples Of Programming Languages:

 

These languages include Assembler, C or C++. A computer motherboard with the CPU, RAM and ROM), the instructions to boot the computer are limited to a small amount of memory in the boot ROM chip and so are usually written in assembler. Operating systems like Linux or Windows are written in C and C++.

 

Traditional Programming Languages:

 

In the late 40s and early 50s, computer programs were entered by flicking switches. It was quickly realised how inefficient and slow that was and computer languages soon appeared.

Thousands of programming languages have been invented since then, many as PhD research projects, but only a few have been really successful. Through the 60s and 70s, these languages :

  • Fortran
  • Cobol
  • Basic
all ruled the roost but declined when better languages came into being. Basic hung in there the longest but is now declining.

 

What Programming Languages Are Now In Use?:

 

It is mainly Java and C++ with C# starting to gain popularity and C holding its own. There have been many attempts to automate this process, and have computers write computer programs but the complexity is such that for now, humans still write the best computer programs.

More advanced techniques, for instance using

mean that the modern programming languages are far more powerful.

 

How Are These Newer Programming Languages Better?:

 

Lower level languages like

Force the programmer to think more about the problem in computer terms, instead of the business logic. Less about payrolls and more about how the data is stored.

C# though does not use pointers, so that removes the chances of a pointer being corrupted or not freed. The .NET runtime handles things like garbage collection, so the developer doesn't have to reinvent this wheel.

 

The Future Of Programming Languages:

 

The most popular programming languages are currently :

  • C
  • C++
  • Java
(Sources: tiobe.com). As computers get faster, have more RAM, applications will get more complex, it is likely that more development will shift from C++ to the higher level languages such as Java and C#.

Microsoft have put a lot of faith in C# as their answer to Java and have the financial leverage to continue plugging it for a very long time. I expect both Java and C# to become the two dominant programming languages.

 

 

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