Webopedia on Google+Webopedia on TwitterWebopedia on FacebookTech Bytes Blog
Main » TERM » P »

programming language

Programming Language

A vocabulary and set of grammatical rules for instructing a computer to perform specific tasks. The term programming language usually refers to high-level languages, such as BASIC, C, C++, COBOL, FORTRAN, Ada, and Pascal. Each language has a unique set of keywords (words that it understands) and a special syntax for organizing program instructions.

High-level programming languages, while simple compared to human languages, are more complex than the languages the computer actually understands, called machine languages. Each different type of CPUhas its own unique machine language.

Lying between machine languages and high-level languages are languages called assembly languages. Assembly languages are similar to machine languages, but they are much easier to program in because they allow a programmer to substitute namesfor numbers. Machine languages consist of numbers only.

Lying above high-level languages are languages called fourth-generation languages (usually abbreviated 4GL). 4GLs are far removed from machine languages and represent the class of computer languages closest to human languages.

Regardless of what language you use, you eventually need to convertyour program into machine language so that the computer can understand it. There are two ways to do this:

1) compile the program
2) interpret the program

Recommended Reading: See compile and interpreter for more information about these two methods.

The question of which language is best is one that consumes a lot of time and energy among computer professionals. Every language has its strengths and weaknesses. For example, FORTRAN is a particularly good language for processing numerical data, but it does not lend itself very well to organizing large programs. Pascal is very good for writing well-structured and readable programs, but it is not as flexible as the C programming language. C++ embodies powerful object-oriented features, but it is complex and difficult to learn.

The choice of which language to use depends on the type of computer the program is to run on, what sort of program it is, and the expertise of the programmer.







TECH RESOURCES FROM OUR PARTNERS
DID YOU KNOW?
Small Business Marketing's Greatest Hits

The following compilation of small business marketing tips highlights some of the expert advice published over at Small Business Computing. Read More »

Taking Ownership through Digital Governance

Taking ownership of our own misjudgments or simple forgetfulness takes a healthy amount of humility and some honest self-assessment. Yet sometimes... Read More »

Have We Become a World of Addicts?

It's hard to imagine our lives without smartphones. But people who suffer separation anxiety when they don't have their phones nearby may be in... Read More »

QUICK REFERENCE
5 Best Cloud Storage Services

With cost and security in mind, we look at five cloud storage options that will suit the needs of most home and SMB owners. Read More »

Windows 10 Tips for Desktop PC

Five basic tips to help you customize Windows 10 on your desktop PC. Read More »

29 Free Android Apps for Cash-Strapped Students

From wacky alarm clocks to lecture hall tools and after class entertainment, these Android apps are a good fit for a student's life and budget. Read More »