Computer programs run various systems in our devices, and they are thus essential in our day to day activities. From our mobile phones to our laptops, computer programs form the bases of their operations. For them to do this, they require computer programming languages.
What are the programming languages?
These languages allow us to send commands to machines, thus allowing them to execute what we have in mind. Computers and human beings follow different trains of thoughts and these languages hence act as the bridge between the two ways of thinking. You can think of them as translators.
Computer programming languages have not been around for a long time. They came about towards the beginning
of the twentieth century, and they hold a lot of potential as to what they could become in the future. It
all started in 1883 when Ada Lovace partnered with Charles Babbage on his Analytical Engine, a mechanical
At the time, Charles had a focus on the computation of numbers and thus did not give much thought to other workings in the machine. Ada, on the other hand, saw that the figures could do more than quantify things and she started looking into how they could also act as representatives.
She then worked on an algorithm for the mechanical computer, thus creating the first ever computer programming language. Ada stands as the first person to have created a language through which humans could communicate with machines. Over time, people worked on various devices with different needs and there thus came a need for more languages.
Here is a breakdown of the developments that have taken place thus far:
The first language came to be thanks to Ada who created it as a means to help Charles’ mechanical computer in the computation of Bernoulli numbers. Ada receives credit to-date on her wonderful discovery that paved the way for the many others that followed.
You will note that there is quite a gap between the first and the second language. At the time, people were
getting used to the idea of programming languages and had not come up with ways in which they could further
exploit the concept.
When they finally did in 1949, it did not take long before other advances in the field came about. In this year, the assembly language came into the picture. Its simplified machine code and it made it easy for people to specify commands to the computer. It was a low-level language that was quite useful in the automatic calculator.
Three years later, Alick Glennie came up with the Autocode language which he used in a computer in the UK. There were many other forms of this language at the time, though his version was the first.
The striking thing is that this term is often used to describe the early languages that came about during this era. Also, you can translate it into machine code easily if you use a compiler program.
FORTRAN is a language that has withstood the test of time. During its conception, John Backus was looking for a means in which he could work on mathematical, statistical and scientific computations that were quite complicated. As such, the FOR stands for formula, and the latter part represents translation.
It came about four years after Autocode got into the scene. It is still widely used today, thus making it one of the few old languages that continue to impress people with their capabilities to this day.
A year after John wowed people with his invention, there came about Algol. A committee worked on its development as they wished to use it for scientific purposes regarding algorithms. This language came in handy in the development of most of the languages we know today, such as Java and C++.
As the years went by, it became increasingly apparent that there was a need for a language that could run on all computers. At the time, most inventions had some requirements that would prove restrictive for users and Doctor Grace Murray provided the solution to this issue in the form of COBOL.
This language’s versatility made it ideal for use across many a forum, and you can see it in traffic signals, ATMs, phone systems, all the way to hospital computers. It was so impressive that it featured in The Terminator as part of the visual display.
Towards the end of the fifties, John McCarthy from MIT came up with LISP. Initially, he intended for the language to come in handy where AI research was concerned. Over time, there was a shift such that you will find it in scenarios where Python or Ruby is in use.
Towards the start of the sixties, it became increasingly clear that some of the programs were a bit too
advanced for people who did not possess strong math or technical skills. Thomas Kurtz and John Kemeny, who
were at Dartmouth at the time, decided to come up with the BASIC language that made the use of computers a
breeze for everyone. Bill Gates and Paul Allen later modified this language.
In the seventies, Niklaus Wirth honored Blaise Pascal by coming up with a language which he named after him. The language was quite simple to understand and was meant to serve as a means to teach computer programming. Over time, people began to use it as a way to develop software, with Apple being one of the companies who saw its tremendous potential.
In 1972, computer programmers were quite happy to learn about Smalltalk as it enables them to work on code on the fly. Other than this, it came with other aspects that are now in other languages such as Java. In the same year, C came into the picture. For almost one century, people had been dealing with low-level languages, and they now had their hands on a language that qualified as top-tier.
C was closer to the human language than any of its predecessors, with less machine code in play. It also came with the Unix OS which could work on various computers. This language later came to feature in most of the languages that we use today, including Ruby and PHP.
1972 was undoubtedly an excellent year for programmers as they also got to embrace SQL. This language allowed users to go through databases as well as change anything featured on them. Using queries, you can easily edit what is in the database as well as remove it.
It was a good six years before another language came into the picture and when MATLAB finally arrived, mathematics fans could not believe their eyes. If you wish to work on a scientific program, this is one of the best languages to use, and it comes in handy in research. You can also use it in the creation of graphics.
Five years later, Objective-C came into the picture, courtesy of Tom Love and Brad Cox. It serves as one of the best languages to use when creating software for iOS and macOS. In the same year, C++ came into the picture.
It borrowed from the C language and has grown to be one of the most popular languages across the globe. This language not only features in game engines but also in software that requires high performance. Perl came about thanks to Larry Wall in 1987. At the time, he intended for the language to help people regarding text editing as it would make the processing of reports an easy task.
As time went by, its capabilities evolved into network programming and web development.
By 1990, many languages were making the handling of tasks a breeze. It had only been a century since the
first language came into the scene, but the effects were undeniable. And the great news was that there was
more to come. Haskell Brooks came up with a language that enables people to deal with complicated
calculations, which took on his name.
A year later, Python and Visual Basic stole the show. The former language was quite simple to read and required a few lines of code. It features in sites such as Instagram owing to its ease. The latter option allowed programmers to have it easy when working with huge chunks of codes by providing a GUI which enabled them to drag and drop sections.
As from 2000, more developments came about such as Scala, Groovy, Go and Swift. Most of the languages today borrow heavily from those developed in the last century, making changes that allow them to be compatible with the technology in use at present.