Evolution of programming languages

Programming languages have evolved in last 30-40 years to reach at the stage where they are today. First reason for the evolution of programming languages was the advancement in electronics as a result of which CPU’s became more powerful and could perform much more complex tasks and the second reason was the wide spread use of computers among common people. In the beginning computers could only perform simple operations and were used mainly for business and scientific purpose. But as more and more people started using computers the demand for software applications increased as a result of which more and more people started learning computer programming to be able to write software applications. This forced the advancement of programming languages with a goal that it becomes easy for more people to learn them.

There were 3 main stages of evolution of programming languages

  1. Machine languages
    All CPU’s, even today, only understand machine language. It is a language consisting of 0’s and 1’s and directly tells the CPU what to do. In the very beginning when the CPUs were simple in nature and could not perform complex tasks it was easy to directly feed the instructions to the CPU in the machine language. But this process was very cumbersome and hard to learn.
  2. Assembly languages
    To make the life of programmer easy assembly languages were developed. These languages were easy to learn than machine languages and made the life of programmers easy. Using assembly languages instructions were given to computers in English like format. With the use of special software called assemblers programs written in assembly languages were converted into machine code which could be finally understood by the CPU. But the problem was that these assembly languages were strongly related with the CPU which was to be programmed. If a programmer wanted to program a CPU using the assembly language he had to learn the language for that particular CPU and the instructions which that CPU could understand. To program a different type of CPU he had to learn the instructions understood by that CPU. A need was felt to create programming languages which were high level, meaning that they were not tied strongly with the CPU architecture and could be learnt easily to write computer programs
  3. High level programming languages
    To make the life of programmer easy high level languages were created. These languages were not strongly related with the CPU being programmed and it was easy for programmer to learn them. Modern day programming languages are an example of high level programming languages. With the creation of high level programming languages need was felt to create advanced software to validate and correct the programs written in these languages. This software was called a compiler.

Today we use high level languages to write computer programs. Only for very specific jobs assembly languages are used. But from the CPU’s perspective it only understands machine language and it does not care which high level programming language you use to write your computer programs.

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