While the tech world is fraught with programming languages – more than 700 of them, with new ones being released regularly – not all are equal in terms of what they can achieve. Some are general-purpose, while others are specialized. Some are high-level, while other languages are low-level; some are easy to learn, while for others, the learning process is quite daunting. Given these factors, which programming language should you choose? Jump on board as we seek to answer this question.
What is a Programming Language?
A programming language is a collection of predefined words and symbols that programmers use to create software applications and scripts. The language is guided by rules and instructions that govern the do’s and don’ts, including what can and cannot be written.
There are two main types of programming languages, namely:
- Low-level programming language
- Mid-level/medium-level programming language
- High-level programming language
Low-Level Programming Language
A low-level programming language refers to a language that is closely tied to a computer’s architecture. There are two types of low-level languages: machine language and assembly code.
On the one hand, machine language comprises a collection of binary bits and numbers that is tied to the computer’s architecture and is meant to be read by machines. On the other hand, assembly language can be understood by humans. Once compiled using a program known as a compiler, the assembly language is converted into machine language. Examples of low-level languages include Intel 64 and AMD64 (both of which are tied to the 64-bit processor architecture), MIPS, and ARM64, among others.
Medium-Level Programming Language
A medium-level programming language bridges the communication gap between hardware and software. Examples of mid-level languages include:
High-Level Programming Language
A high-level programming language is not tied to any architecture. As such, a program created using this category of programming languages can be used on any computer architecture with a few tweaks to the codebase. Examples of high-level languages include:
- C#, among others
Generally, the term programming language refers to mid- and high-level programming languages.
Features of a Good Programming Language
The features/characteristics of high-level programming languages include:
- User-friendliness: A good programming language should be user-friendly as well as easy to learn and use with excellent readability to boot
- Portability: The language should not be tied to a specific computer architecture or operating system, i.e., the programming language should be portable
- Efficiency: It should have high efficiency for it to be easily converted to machine language without consuming a large chunk of system memory
- Documentation and structuring: The language should have existing documentation and a structure that facilitates software development
- Consistency: The language should be consistent in that it’s the semantics and syntax used should be uniform
- Conciseness: The language should be compact; that is, it should be possible to write functions concisely without having to include too many details
- Programming environment: a programming language should include a programming language known as Integrated Development Environment (IDE). The IDE includes tools for writing and editing the code, debugging, testing, and, finally, maintaining the program following deployment.
- Reusability: a good programming language has a reusability attribute. This enables the developers to use the same section of code in multiple programs. A prime example of reusability in action is the Python libraries such as Python Requests library, NumPy, Beautiful Soup, and more, which contain prewritten code that can be reused to create different programs.
Popular Programming Languages
Similarly, Python is a popular programming language, consistently emerging among the top 5 list. Python’s popularity is due to the fact that it is easy to learn and use. It is readable as it uses an English-like syntax. Python is supported by a large and vibrant developer community who chime into the discourse, helping beginners solve problems. But perhaps most importantly, Python boasts an expansive pool of reusable, prewritten code encased in over 137,000 libraries and frameworks. These libraries include the Python Requests library, Torch, NumPy, Scrapy, Selenium, and more. Clicking here will lead you to a blog post that covers, in-depth, the various features of the Python Requests library.
How to Choose a Programming Language
It is crucial to consider the characteristics of a good programming language when deciding on which language to learn or use. Secondly, you should make the following considerations:
- Use case: answer the question, what type of application do you want to build?
- Scalability and performance: consider whether the application will eventually require scaling and subsequently select a language that will aid in this without compromising on the performance
- Ease of maintenance
- Company’s in-house preferences: the company you work for may prefer one language to another, perhaps because of historical considerations
There are numerous programming languages. The decision to use one language over another can be influenced by a number of factors, including the features, use case, scalability and performance, and ease of maintenance.