Programming Language

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A programming language is used to write computer programs including applications, utilities, and systems programs. Before the Java and C# programming languages appeared, computer programs were either compiled or interpreted. 

A compiled program is written as a series of humanly understandable computer instructions that can be read by a compiler and linker and translated into machine code so that a computer can understand and run it. Fortran, Pascal, Assembly Language, C, and C++ programming languages are almost always compiled in this way. Other programs, such as Basic, JavaScript, and VBScript, are interpreted. The differences between compiled and interpreted languages can be confusing.

Compiling a Program

The development of a compiled program follows these basic steps:

  1. Write or edit the program
  2. Compile the program into machine code files that are specific to the target machine
  3. Link the machine code files into a runnable program (known as an EXE file)
  4. Debug or run the program

Interpreting a Program

Interpreting a program is a much faster process that's helpful for novice programmers when editing and testing their code. These programs run slower than compiled programs. The steps to interpret a program are:

  1. Write or edit the program
  2. Debug or run the program using an interpreter program

Java and C#

Both Java and C# are semi-compiled. Compiling Java generates bytecode that is later interpreted by a Java virtual machine. As a result, the code is compiled in a two-stage process. 

C# is compiled into Common Intermediate Language, which is then run by the Common Language Runtime part of the .NET framework, an environment that supports just-in-time compilation.

The speed of C# and Java is almost as fast as a true compiled language. As far as speed goes, C, C++, and C# all are sufficiently speedy for games and operating systems.

Programs on a Computer

From the moment you turn on your computer, it is running programs, carrying out instructions, testing RAM and accessing the operating system on its drive.

Each and every operation that your computer performs has instructions that someone had to write in a programming language. For example, the Windows 10 operating system has roughly 50 million lines of code. These had to be created, compiled and tested; a long and complex task.

Programming Languages Now In Use

Top programming languages for PCs are Java and C++ with C# close behind and C holding its own. Apple products use Objective-C and Swift programming languages.

There are hundreds of small programming languages out there, but other popular programming languages include:

  • Python
  • PHP
  • Perl
  • Ruby
  • Go
  • Rust
  • Scala

There have been many attempts to automate the process of writing and testing programming languages by having computers write computer programs, but the complexity is such that, for now, humans still write and test computer programs.

The Future for Programming Languages

Computer programmers tend to use programming languages they know. As a result, the old tried-and-true languages have hung around for a long time. With the popularity of mobile devices, developers may be more open to learning new programming languages. Apple developed Swift to eventually replace Objective-C, and Google developed Go to be more efficient than C. Adoption of these new programs has been slow, but steady.

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Your Citation
Bolton, David. "Programming Language." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Bolton, David. (2021, February 16). Programming Language. Retrieved from Bolton, David. "Programming Language." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 28, 2023).