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Programming Language Summary

by David Haley

Business Languages


FORTRAN (Formula Translator) was the first high-level language. It was developed by John Backus in the late 1950s for use in IBM machines. It is still widely used today, mainly for scientific and engineering programs.


COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language) was developed around 1960. Used in large computers for business programs, COBOL tends to have particularly long source code due to the use of large words as commands. Due to its intense popularity in its own time, COBOL programs still run on a majority of older machines throughout the business community.

Instructional Languages


BASIC (Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) was developed by John Kemeney and Thomas Kurtz in the 1960s. It was never intended to be used as a true programming language, but instead as a teaching tool. BASIC allows the programmer to get a fundamental grasp of manipulating memory and computational theory. Visual BASIC, a Microsoft offshoot of BASIC, sported a unique interface for creating simple Windows applications.


Pascal was developed by Niklaus Wirth in the 1960s. Although Pascal is not widely used today, it is still useful as a teaching language, due to its structured nature. Pascal was not popular in its time, and was difficult to use for large programs. The author responded by creating an improved version called Modula-2, which also had very limited success.

Modern Langauges (and Object Oriented languages)


C was developed by Dennis Ritchie in the 1970s, at AT&T Bell Labs. It was an improvement on an earlier programming language: BCPL (and its later form, B). The first major accomplishment of C programmers was writing the UNIX operating code. C produces code that is particularly low-level, in comparison to the other operating systems.


C++ was developed by Bjarne Stroustrup, again in Bell Labs. Originally entitled "C with classes", the name C++ was developed as a joke. In the same way that B gave birth to C, C would give birth to D. But instead of naming it such, they chose to use the incremental operator to imply that it was one step better. C++ sported enhanced implementation of classes (or structs), which allowed data to be grouped in a cohesive fashion, allowing for self-contained data. This setup gave rise to Object Oriented Programming, in which the code surrounding the data may change greatly, but will not affect the interface, allowing for multiple programmers to work simultaneously with ease. C++ is one of the most popular programming languages today. Two of the more popular compilers are Visual C++ (Microsoft) and Turbo C++ (Borland).


Java was first introduced by Sun Microsystems in 1995 as an improvement on the OAK programming language that was used in their various mini-computer systems. Java also sports object-oriented capability, but the programmers have taken steps to make the language much more programmer-friendly. Java is also well suited for use on the world wide web -- small Java programs called "applets" can be sent to the client computer to be decoded and executed.

Languages for the Internet


HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is used to create web pages. It is a simple language and consists of a series of start-stop commands. The web pages it creates run extremely fast but are static and unchanging. It is widely used today, and is what you are looking at right now.


Javascript was developed at Netscape, independently of the Java language. It sports some of the same functionality, but is used mainly to escape the static nature of HTML. Javascript allows websites to show content that varies from time to time or from situation to situation.


CGI (Common Gateway Interface) is not a programming language unto itself, and can actually be written in many of the common programming languages. CGI programs are used almost exclusively on the world wide web as a means of providing truly dynamic web pages. A major drawback of CGI scripting is the amount of taxation on the server per visitor to the web site.


PERL (Practical Extraction and Report Language) was developed by Larry Wall. The langauge was developed primarily for use with text, analyzing and processing strings. It is because of this strength that it is used widely to produce CGI code (see above).