Many might be unaware that there are over 600 programming languages available today. It’s worth noting that this number includes languages that are no longer in use or those created just for fun. However, even if we disregard those languages, there is still a vast selection of options available for programming.
Most programming languages are created with specific needs in mind. Take PHP, for example, which started as a set of tools created by a single programmer to maintain their website. As these tools grew and merged, they eventually became PHP, now a powerful force in web development. Python was designed to replace ABC, with the goal of making programming more user-friendly and approachable. Meanwhile, Java was built from the ground up with a focus on object-oriented programming. If you dig deeper, you’ll discover that each language has a fascinating backstory.
When discussing programming, you may come across terms such as high-level, low-level, dynamic, static, and scripting languages. For the purposes of this discussion, we will concentrate on low-level languages, exploring their significance and how they differ from other programming languages.
What Does the Question, “What Is a Computer Language?” Mean Exactly?
Computer languages serve as a bridge between human and machine communication, establishing guidelines for how these two entities should interact. Each language has its own set of specific use cases. For instance, query languages are utilised for querying databases and information systems, while command languages instruct computers on actions to take, such as running programs.
Unlike humans, machines do not possess the ability to interpret human speech with the same precision. For instance, one cannot simply shout out a mathematical equation such as “What’s 2+2?” and expect the computer to understand it. Instead, computers process information through binary data, made up of 0s and 1s. This is referred to as machine code, and although it’s technically possible for humans to decipher what these 0s and 1s mean with enough effort and persistence, it is not a practical option for most of us.
To convey their concepts to machines in a comprehensible way, programmers employ programming languages. These languages can be broken down into various tiers based on their resemblance to machine language. In order to provide an overview, we will classify them as follows:
- Human communication
- Languages at a high level
- Languages at a low level of complexity
- Machine code
Assembler, also known as ASM, is a prime illustration of a low-level programming language – with each line of code corresponding to a singular machine instruction. This provides the programmer with comprehensive command of the data. Low-level languages offer unparalleled efficiency, although they can be difficult to work with.
High-level programming languages are generally designed to resemble human speech more closely, hence non-programmers can grasp a basic understanding of what a Python code performs. Regrettably, such languages are typically slower than their low-level counterparts, which is a significant drawback.
Distinguishing Between Scripting and Programming
When we talk about programming languages, we often mention C, C++, C#, Rust, and Java. These are the languages employed to develop software from scratch. All of these languages require a compilation process, which means the code is transformed into machine language or a comparable low-level language for instant execution.
Scripting languages are utilized to modify and automate current system components. Suppose one wanted to create a script (a series of instructions for a computer) that automatically fetches data from the internet and stores it locally – in that case, they could instruct the pre-existing software to perform the necessary tasks.
Reading programming languages rather than creating them is the norm. While in operation, software is employed to scan the code line by line and convert it into machine code, highlighting any flaws it encounters.
Deciding Between the Two
High-level languages empower program development; however, not all programs should be constructed using such a language. In software complexity situations, low-level methodologies should be adopted to boost efficiency. Nonetheless, the majority of programs developed in languages like Python do not necessitate performance considerations because the distinction between 0.01 and 0.00001 seconds may not be discernible. In reality, even if a program is a thousand times slower than C++, it may still be indistinguishable.
Gaming engines must be capable of computing millions of calculations per minute to ensure a smooth gaming experience. As you observe the movies created by Pixar, you’ll be amazed by the precision and intricate details in every frame. This is due to the fact that computers are employed to calculate every letter, texture, and light in real-time, as every millisecond counts. Similarly, interpreted languages lack the ease of generating machine code for operating systems, which are responsible for managing software directly.
To modify an existing system, a scripting language must be used. The software can be developed using a high-level or low-level programming language. Alternatively, a combination of both languages may be utilized, with part of the code written in C or Assembly and the rest written in Python.
The primary advantage of high-level languages and scripting languages is their user-friendliness, ease of troubleshooting, and rapid learning curve. Conversely, utilizing low-level languages efficiently demands a higher degree of skill.