When starting your coding journey, you may find yourself asking, “What exactly is a programming language?” or, “ Which one should I learn?”
“Any fool can write code that a computer can understand. Good programmers write code that humans can understand.” –
According to webopedia (Wikipedia’s tech cousin), “ a programming language is a vocabulary and set of grammatical rules for instructing a computer or a computing device to perform specific tasks. ”
Since computers “talk” in binary — strings of 1s and 0s, programming languages allow us to translate the 1s and 0s into something that humans can understand and write.
Programming languages are made up of a series of symbols and special keywords that serve as a bridge to allow us to translate our thoughts into instructions computers can understand.
Put simply, programming is giving a set of instructions to a computer to execute, and programming languages are the tools we use to write those instructions.
Programming languages fall into two different classifications — low-level and high-level.
Low-Level vs. High-Level Programming Languages
Low-level programming languages like Assembly are closer to machine code, or binary. Therefore, they’re more challenging to read and write, though significantly easier to understand than Machine Language (1GL).
1GL consists mainly of ones and zeroes and is the only one language, the processor can directly understand.
The benefit of low-level languages is that they’re fast and offer precise control over how the computer will function.
High-level programming languages on the other hand, are closer to how humans communicate. High-level languages use words (like object, order, run, class, request, etc.) that are closer to the words we use in our everyday lives. This means they’re easier to pick up and learn. As computers have become more powerful, the difference in runtime between low-level and high-level programming languages has decreased making the latter very popular.
So why do we have different Programming Languages?
Well it’s because they do different things, to some degree…
The real answer is that some programming wizard thought they could make a better language that may reflect modern needs and styles. So they did and convinced a bunch of other programmers that it was a good idea, allowing the language to gain popularity. It’s miraculous in a way.
Computer languages are an abstraction. We don’t want to deal with the messy business of flinging electrons around circuit boards. Different people have different preferences for how they like to code.
Most popular programming languages
There are tons of programming languages out there that allow you to do all sorts of things, from building websites to creating video games and more…
We’ll break down the top 5 most popular programming languages — and what they’re used for.
According to GitHub’s PYPL Index, a system that ranks programming languages according to how often tutorials are searched on Google, the most popular programming languages include the following:
- Python: Python is a versatile, general-purpose programming language. It can be used in a variety of fields from data science and machine learning to web development and is a great first language to learn.
- Java: Another language that’s great when you’re starting out, Java can be used for many things, including mobile applications, software development, and large systems development. AP Computer Science is currently taught in Java.
- C#: C#, Microsoft’s popular programming language, can be used for a wide variety of applications, including game development, enterprise software, video games, mobile apps, and more.
- C++: C++ is one of the most powerful programming languages and is used in a wide range of industries, including VR, software and game development, robotics, and scientific computing.