Programming Languages

Updated Oct 11, 2020 · 5 min read

What is a programming language?

A programming language is a formal set of rules along with a unique syntax for instructing a computer to perform tasks. Developers use the term to refer to high-level programming languages.

High-level and low-level programming languages

Machine code is a low-level programming language used for directly controlling the central processing unit (CPU) in a computer. Machine code uses binary digits or bits that a computer reads and interprets. Bits are a series of 1s and 0s. For example, a developer using machine code would write 01000000 to start a program. Machine code is the only language a computer understands.

While it's possible to write programs in machine code, developers use high-level programming languages that abstract away the details of machine code to simplify computer programming. The high-level languages are human-readable that translate (or compile) into machine code.

Why can't you use spoken languages?

For a program to run, instructions must be written into machine language. Developers use programming languages that directly translate into machine code. Languages like English, Hindi, and German don't directly translate into machine code.

How many programming languages are there?

Hundreds, if not thousands, of programming languages exist and computer scientists and engineers are developing new ones each year. Some of the most popular programming languages include Angular, C, C++, C#, FORTRAN, GO, Java, JavaScript, PHP, Python, R, React, Scala, SQL, and TypeScrypt.

Why are there so many programming languages?

Each programming language is built with a certain purpose in mind. For example, developers who want to write quick scripts that scrape the web might use Python. When you're deciding what programming languages to learn, you should think about what you want to accomplish with the languages.

How many programming languages should you know?

You can't, nor should you, learn hundreds or thousands of programming languages. Like spoken language, most developers know only a few languages. You only need to know the few languages that enable you to develop the programs you want to build. You can check out PYPL for a list of the most popular programming languages each month.


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