Evolution of Programming Languages

A computer needs to be given instructions in a programming language that it understands. A programming language is an artificial language that can be used to control the behavior of computer. Programming languages, like human languages, are defined through the use of syntactic and semantic rules, to determine structure and meaning respectively. Programming languages are used to facilitate communication about the task of organizing and manipulating information, and to express algorithms precisely”. Some authors restrict the term “programming language” to those languages that can express all possible algorithms; sometimes the term “computer language” is used for more limited artificial languages.

We should know that in the primitive computers, the programming was such a laborious task that the vacuum-tube ON-OFF switches had to be set by hand. The development in technology has made the programming friendly to the developers.

Machine Language

The computer’s own binary-based language, or machine language, is difficult for human beings to use. The programmer is required to input every command and all data in binary form. Machine-language programming is such a tedious, timeconsuming task that the time saved in running the program rarely justifies the days or weeks needed to write the program.Machine languages are the most primitive types of the computer language.

High Level Languages:

The high level languages use the English words such as OPEN, LIST, PRINT, which might stand for an array of instructions. These commands are entered via a keyboard or from a programme in a storage device.

Historical Landmarks

  • Programming has its origin in the 19th century, when the first “programmable” looms and player piano scrolls were developed.
  • This followed the punch cards encoded data in 20th century that used to direct the mechanical processing. In the 1930s and early 1940s lambda calculus remained the influential in language design.
  • The decade of 1940s has many landmarks to its credit in the initial development of modern computers and programming languages.
  • In the beginning of this decade, first electrically powered digital computers were created. The first high-level programming language to be designed for a computer was Plankalkül, developed for the German Z3 by Konrad Zuse between 1943 and 1945.
  • Programmers of early 1950s computers, notably UNIVAC I and IBM 701, used machine language programs, that is, the first generation language (1GL).
  • Grace Hopper is credited with implementing the first commercially oriented computer language. After programming an experimental computer at Harvard University, she worked on the UNIVAC I and II computers and developed a commercially usable high-level programming language called FLOW-MATIC.
  • The 1GL programming was quickly superseded by similarly machine-specific, but mnemonic, second generation languages (2GL) known as assembly languages or “assembler”.
  • Later in the 1950s, assembly language programming, which had evolved to include the use of macro instructions, was followed by the development of “third generation” programming languages (3GL), such as FORTRAN, LISP, and COBOL.
  • IBM in 1957 developed a language that would simplify work involving complicated mathematical formulas known as FORTRAN (FORmula TRANslator).
  • FORTRAN was the first comprehensive high-level programming language that was widely used. In 1957, the Association for Computing Machinery in the United States started development of a universal language that would correct some of FORTRAN’s shortcomings.
  • Next year they released ALGOL (ALGOrithmic Language), another scientifically oriented language. This was followed by LISP. Originally specified in 1958, lisp is the second-oldest high-level programming language in widespread use today; only FORTRAN is older.
  • Lisp is a family of computer programming languages with a long history and a distinctive fully-parenthesized syntax. OBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language), a commercial and business programming language, concentrated on data organization and file-handling and is widely used today in business.
  • 3GLs are more abstract and are “portable”, or at least implemented similarly on computers that do not support the same native machine code. Updated versions of all of these 3GLs are still in general use, and each has strongly influenced the development of later languages.
  • At the end of the 1950s, the language formalized as ALGOL 60 was introduced, and most later programming languages are, in many respects, descendants of ALGOL. The format and use of the early programming languages was heavily influenced by the constraints of the interface.
  • CBASIC (Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) was developed in the early 1960s for use by non-professional computer users.
  • LOGO was developed to introduce children to computers. C, a language Bell Laboratories designed in the 1970s, is widely used in developing systems programs, as is its successor, C++.
  • Other languages have been developed to permit programming in Internet applications. The most popular is Java, an Object-Oriented programming language introduced in 1995 by Sun Microsystems. Java enables the distribution of both the data and small applications called applets.
  • These applets could be transmitted over internet. The specialty of java was that it is machine independent and can run on any kind of computer.