Web & Software Development

The Evolution of Computer Programming Languages

With over 500+ programming languages, it is always good to know where it all started. Know about the history & evolution of computer programming languages and how your favourite programming language came into existence.

Computing and programming needs keep increasing over time, so the need for a better and easy-to-understand programming language is always in demand. The programming language should perform complex tasks based on the requirements of that era.

There are currently 500+ programming languages and more are still evolving and somewhere into development. But when you go back in time, it all started in 1883, when an English mathematician & a mechanical engineer, Charles Babbage originated the concept of a digital programmable computer. He is also considered the “Father of the Computer“. His work on difference engine and analytical engine remained a prominent figure in the ideating of computing.

But, even being the “Father of the Computer“, he wasn’t the one who wrote the first code. It was an English mathematician and a writer, Ada Lovelace, who wrote the first-ever computer programming language and was regarded as the first computer programmer of all time. She was known for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine.

Ada Lovelace wrote the first-ever computer programming language and was regarded as the first computer programmer of all time.

She was first to admit that the machine had applications beyond simple calculation and to have published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine.

Assembly or Assembler language

In the early days to execute instructions, programmers were required to go through the painful tasks of manually entering binary machine instructions. In 1949, to meet these complex tasks requirements and large program lengths, a new language was created known as assembly language or ASM.

In assembly language or assembler language, small abbreviations or symbols were used to write instructions that represented the binary instructions. These instructions were only recognized by machines. The assembly language was not only efficient during that time but, also made programmer’s life easier by not requiring them to manually enter binary instructions.

The assembly language is a low-level programming language and is still used in real-time programs like simulation flight navigation systems. It is also used to create computer viruses. It depends on machine code instructions and is designed for exactly one specific computer architecture. A utility program that converts assembly code into executable machine code is called an assembler.

Autocode

The first Autocode and its compiler were developed by Alick Glennie in 1952 for the Mark 1 computer at the University of Manchester. It is considered the first compiled programming language. In the 1960s, the term autocoders was used to refer to any high-level programming language using a compiler. COBOL & Fortran are examples of autocodes.

Fortran

Fortran was originally developed by John Backus and IBM in 1957 for scientific & engineering applications and high-performance computing. It is one of the most popular languages for 6 decades and also ranked 13th in 2021 by the TIOBE index for popularity. It has been used in numerous fields like weather prediction, geophysics, etc, and has also been used in software for NASA probes – Voyager-1 & Voyager-2. It has also been used by the world’s fastest supercomputers.

Fortran had numerous versions with added support for structured programming like FORTRAN 77, Fortran 90, Fortran 95, etc. Its design was the basis for many other programming languages, among the most recognized is BASIC, which is based on FORTRAN II with better logical structures.

ALGOL

ALGOL is short for Algorithmic Language and was developed jointly by a committee of European and American computer scientists in a meeting in 1958 at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich. It influenced many programming languages like C, B, Pascal, etc. It was the standard method for algorithm description used by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) for academic purposes for almost 30 years.

It was the first language implementing the nested function lexical scope and was designed to avoid some perceived problems with FORTRAN. ALGOL also introduced code blocks like beginend pairs.

COBOL

COBOL stands for Common Business-Oriented Language and was designed in 1959 by CODASYL and was partly based on the programming language FLOW-MATIC designed by Grace Hopper.

It is a compiled English-like computer programming language designed for business use. COBOL was originally used in business, finance, and administrative systems for companies and governments and is still widely used in large-scale batch and transaction processing tasks.

Due to the declining popularity and retirement of experienced COBOL programmers, programs are being migrated to new platforms, rewritten in modern languages or replaced with software packages.

BASIC

BASIC stands for Beginners’ All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code and was originally designed by John G. Kemeny and Thomas R. Kurtz and released at Dartmouth College in 1964. Its main purpose was to enable students in fields other than science and mathematics to use computers.

A Dartmouth Time Sharing System (DTSS) was also created which allowed multiple users to edit and run BASIC programs at the same time. Hewlett-Packard produced an entire computer line for this method of operation introducing the HP 2000 series in the late 1960s and continuing sales into the 1980s. Many early video games had versions of BASIC.

Microsoft & BASIC Language

It also led to the creation of Microsoft BASIC software in the year 1975. The original Visual Basic also referred to as classic Visual Basic was an updated version of basic in first appeared in May 1991. It is the third-generation event-driven programming language from Microsoft known for its component object model (COM). A programmer can create an application using components provided by the Visual Basic program. Microsoft’s intention was to make Visual Basic comparatively easy to learn and use.

C Programming Language

Previous languages suffered from few limitations for e.g, they could not be applied to fields other than what they were supposed to serve, they could not interact with hardware easily, they were not designed around structured programming principles hence programs with sizeable code length became difficult to follow. To address these concerns a new language called C was invented by Dennis M. Ritchie at AT & T’s Bell Telephone Laboratories of USA in 1972 . The major factors for the C language were speed & efficiency and programmers loved the new language and it soon became dominant among all.

Follow the link below to learn more about C Programming Language:

Getting Started with C Programming Language

C++

Due to growing demands and to avoid strains due to complexity in programming, a new way of organizing programs called object-oriented programming (00P) was on the rise. In the 1990s, this also gave birth to C++ which was based on principles of object-oriented programming and was invented by Bjarne Stroustrup at AT & T’s Bell Telephone Laboratories. C++ was based on the foundation of C, so it was easier for programmers to learn and migrate to a new language.

Objective-C

Objective-C is an object-oriented programming language developed by Brad Cox and Tom love in the early 1980s. It added Smalltalk-style messaging to the C programming language.

Objective-C was the standard programming language supported by Apple about developing macOS and iOS applications using APIs, Cocoa, and Cocoa Touch until 2014 and was succeeded by Swift.

C#

C# or C Sharp was developed by Microsoft as part of its .NET initiative and was later approved as an international standard by ECMA in 2002 and ISO in 2003. It was designed by Anders Hejlsberg and was one of the programming languages designed for the Common Language Infrastructure (CLI).

C# is mainly used for making games especially for Unity Engine to create games for all platforms.

JAVA

Java first appeared on May 23, 1995, and was designed by James Gosling. It’s a high-level, class-based object-oriented programming language. Its main purpose was to allow application developers to “write once, run anywhere”. The purpose of other programming languages before Java was to “write once, compile anywhere”.

So Java basically allowed compiled Java code to run on any platform. Java applications were compiled to bytecode and ran on any Java Virtual Machine (JVM) regardless of any platform.

SQL

SQL (Pronounced “sequel“) stands for Structured Query Language. It was developed by Donald D. Chamberlin and Raymond F. Boyce, after learning about the relational model from Edgar F. Codd in the early 1970s at IBM.

It is a programming language designed for managing data held in a Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) or for stream processing in a Relational Data Stream Management System (RDSMS). It is useful in handling structured data and incorporating relations among entities and variables.

Python

Python first appeared on February 20, 1991, after Guido van Rossum began working on it in the late 1980s. Python ranks as one of the most popular programming languages, still used today.

Python is very easy to understand and emphasizes code readability with its use of significant indentation. Its object-oriented approach helps programmers write clear, logical code for small and large-scale projects.

JavaScript

JavaScript or JS is a trademark of Oracle Corporation and is one of the core technologies of the world wide web. Over 97% of websites use it client-side for web page behavior and making it more interactive. Web browsers have a dedicated JavaScript Engine to execute the code on the user’s device.

In 2009 Ryan Dahl released the first version of Node.js which contains a server-side, event-driven JavaScript programming environment, making it simpler to share data between client- and server-side code. This resulted in a community of several million developers and in npm, the largest software package registry in the world.

Libraries & Frameworks

jQuery is by far the most popular library and is used by over 75% of websites. Facebook created the React library for its website and later made it open-source. React is now commonly by many developers and React Native is used for creating Native Applications. Google uses Angular which is also a popular open-source framework among developers.

Websites that do not use any libraries or frameworks and rely entirely on standard JavaScript functionality are termed “Vanilla JS”.

PHP

PHP was originally created by a Danish-Canadian programmer Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994. It is a popular scripting language used mainly for web development and connecting databases. The original full-form of PHP was Personal Home Page, but it now stands for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor.

PHP is processed on a web server by a PHP interpreter implemented as a module. PHP is processed and executed as HTML or any type of data required by the website.

Other Honourable Mentions

MATLAB

MATLAB stand for Matrix Laboratory developed by MathWorks in the late 1970s. It is mainly used for matrix manipulation, plotting of functions and data, implementation of an algorithm and creation of user interfaces.

Haskell

Haskell first appeared in 1990 and is a statically typed, purely functional programming language with type inference and lazy evaluation. Haskell is mainly designed for teaching, research, and industrial application. Its main implementation is the Glasgow Haskell Compiler (GHC).

GO

Go was designed at Google by Robert Griesemer, Rob Pike, and Ken Thompson in 2009. Go is syntactically similar to C, but with memory safety, garbage collection, structural typing, and CSP-style concurrency. It is also referred to as “Golang“. GopherJs compiles Go to JavaScript for front-end web development.

Kotlin

Kotlin was developed by JetBrains in 2011 and is designed to interoperate with Java. Kotlin mainly targets the JVM but also compiles to JavaScript or native code. On 7 May 2019, Google announced that the Kotlin programming language is now its preferred language for Android app developers.

Swift

Swift was developed by Apple Inc, and the open-source community and was first released in 2014. Apple previously used Objective-C as its programming language but it was largely unchanged since the 1980s. Due to outdated features of Objective-C, Apple replaced it with Swift. Swift also won first place for Most Loved Programming Language in the Stack Overflow Developer Survey in 2015.

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