Computers have become a major part of our lives and in many ways an extension of ourselves. We use computers to communicate, to organize, store and retrieve mass amounts of information, and what makes all of this possible are programming languages. Programming languages make our computers intelligent. They control the machine’s behavior and act as a mode of human communication. Over time, there have been various programming languages that have been developed but here we will look at the most popular ones in use today.
C first emerged in the early seventies thanks to the creative work of Dennis Ritchie. This programming language is commonly used for “system programming” due to characteristics like efficiency, the ability to access hardware addresses, minimum runtime demand on system resources and code portability. It is also used for website programming using CGI as a “gateway” for information between the browser, server and web application.
Why it’s popular: Reasons for the popularity of C include favourable features like stability, widespread availability and speed. Because of its common usage and high level of efficiency, libraries, compilers and interpreters of other programming languages are usually implemented in C; for example the first implementations of PHP, Python and Perl 5 were all written in C.
The development of this programming language began in 1979 when Bjarne Strostrup decided to improve on C by including Simula-like features. C was chosen because of its common usage, general-purpose, portable and quick speed. This started with adding classes, he then included operator overloading, templates, multiple inheritance, exceptional handling, virtual functions and other features. The first commercial version of C++ appeared in 1985.
Why it’s popular: C++ has evolved to include both low and high-level language features and has become one of the most popular programming languages. Its application domains include device drivers, high performance server & client applications, systems software and entertainment software like video games. The popularity of C++ has influenced other languages such as Java and C#. The next standard version, called C++0x is in development and should be released in 2011.
Java was developed in the mid nineties by James Gosling from Sun Microsystems (now a subsidiary of Oracle corp). The language derives much of its syntax from C and C++ but has a simpler object model and fewer low-level facilities.
There were five primary goals in the creation of the Java language:
1. It should be “simple, object oriented, and familiar”.
2. It should be “robust and secure”.
3. It should have “an architecture-neutral and portable environment”.
4. It should execute with “high performance”.
5. It should be “interpreted, threaded, and dynamic”.
Why it’s popular: Java is designed to have as few implementation dependencies as possible.Because it allows application developers to “write once, run anywhere” it is one of the most popular programming languages in use, and is widely used from application software to web applications.
PHP is a general-purpose scripting language that was initially designed for web development in order to produce dynamic web pages. It was originally designed by Rasmus Lerdof who created a set of Perl scripts in 1994 called “Personal Home Page”. These were meant to maintain his personal homepage; this included tasks such as recording the traffic his page was receiving and displaying his resume. In 1997 the meaning of PHP was changed to the recursive initialism “Hypertext Preprocessor”. This change was due to Zeev Suraski and Andi Gutmans who rewrote the parser to form the base of PHP 3 which was officially launched in 1998. Now the main implementation of PHP is now is now produced by the PHP group.
Why it’s popular: PHP has been updated to include a command-line interface capability and can be used in standalone graphical applications. This free software can be run on most web servers and as a standalone interpreter; on every platform and operating system. PHP has been installed on over one million web servers and twenty million websites.
Python emerged during the later part of the eighties and fully implemented in 1989 thanks to Guido van Rossum. He wanted to develop a successor to the ABC language that had the ability of interfacing and exception handling with the Amoeba operating system. One of van Rossum’s goals was to make Python fun to use. This is why the language was named after the TV comedy series, “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”. Van Rossum has kept a central role throughout the evolution of Python which has seen Python receive the Programming Language of the Year award two times by TIOBE due to its impressive growth in popularity.
Why it’s popular: Python has an emphasis on code readability. The use of indentation for block delimeters makes it unique in popular programming languages. Python supports many programming paradigms such as object-oriented, imperative and functional programming styles. It includes a fully dynamic type system and automatic memory adjustment. Similar to other dynamic languages, Python, is commonly used as a scripting language; however, it can also be used in a variety of non-scripting contexts.
The name C# is derived from the music note where the sharp marking signifies that the note is meant to be a semitone higher in pitch. This is similar to the idea behind the name C++ where the ++ indicates that a variable should be increased by one. It was originally called Cool (C-like Object Oriented Language) in 1999 when Anders Hejlsberg formed a team within Microsoft to develop a new language during the creation of the .NET Framework. The name was changed to C# by the time it was released in 2001.
Why it’s popular: C# is practical (and intended for) developing software components that can be deployed in distributed environments. It is so widely used because applications can be written in both embedded sand hosted systems that range from the highly complex operating systems all of the way down to the small operating systems that have dedicated functions.
In 1987 Larry Wall, a programmer at Unisys, began to work on Perl in order to make report processing easier. This programming language received its name from the “Parable of Pearl” from the Gospel of Matthew because Wall wanted his language to have a short name that had positive connotations; since an existing programming language was called PEARL he modified the spelling to Perl. Perl was first released to the public in 1987 and has since evolved with multiple updated versions.
Why it’s popular: Due to its power and flexibility, Perl, is referred to as “the Swiss Army chainsaw of programming languages”. It is also nicknamed the “duct tape that holds the Internet together” because of its perceived intelligence and ubiquity. Perl is a high-level, object-oriented and general-purpose programming language. During the late nineties Perl became quite popular as a CGI scripting language, this was partly due to its parsing abilities. Besides CGI, Perl, is also used for network programming, graphics programming, finance, bioinformatics, graphics programming and various other applications.