Computers do tasks according to the instructions given to them. These instructions are given using programming languages. Programming languages are used to write instructions, these instructions are written in sequential order. Each step in this sequential order is in the form that the computer can understand and perform tasks as required by the programmer.
Computer languages are evolving since their birth. Programming languages provided computers in the form of electric signals. These electric signals were delivered to computers in the form of switches. The switches were set in a specific order and have to be reset for each new instruction. The first computer was developed by ENIAC in 1942 and was able to process electric signals to perform specific tasks.
In 1945, two concepts came into existence that changed computers and their associated languages. The first concept simplified the computer hardware and the second concept influenced programming language development. According to the first concept, computer hardware should not be specific for a particular programming language, and according to the second concept, instructions can be combined into a group termed as a block. As per the second concept, the computer should also be able to make decisions based on conditions.
In 1957 the first computer programming language came into existence and was known as FORTRAN. FORTRAN was simple and FORTRAN was a low-level language and included branching instructions. FORTRAN was able to perform scientific calculations and was not able to give well-formatted output, hence FORTRAN was not used in business applications.
For business applications, another language came into existence and was known as COBOL. COBOL was developed for business purposes. COBOL was able to perform numeric operations and string manipulation operations. A program in COBOL is written in blocks. Programming instructions in COBOL are written using the English alphabet. The use of the English alphabet made COBOL programmer-friendly.
In 1958 another language came into existence which was popularly known as LISP. LISP was designed to conduct research in Artificial Intelligence. LISP programs are written especially for Artificial Intelligence. Programming instructions written in LISP are in the form of parse trees. The parse tree in LISP was compiler generated. In LISP programming instructions were written in blocks and these blocks were formed using parenthesis. Each program in LISP consists of lists.
To perform scientific operations in 1958 Algol was developed. The grammar of Algol was formal. Algol introduced recursion. Algol improved version Algol 68 had difficult syntax which made it cumbersome for programmers to use it. Algol gave birth to another language called Pascal.
In 1968 Pascal came into existence. Pascal was developed for teaching purposes and was widely accepted. Pascal was able to display well-formatted input-output and was able to carry out mathematical operations. Pascal had improved the concept of pointers and dynamic variables. The dynamic variables in Pascal were developed using NEW and DISPOSE instructions. Later Modula-2 was developed as a successor of Pascal.
In 1972, the C language came into existence. In 1972 a shift was observed from Pascal to C language. The syntax of Pascal and C languages is quite similar. Many features in the C language are taken from Pascal. Since Unix operating system was in the developing phase at the same time this made C be used for its development. Thus the existence of C was found in the Unix Operating System. To perform higher operations in Unix operating system C language was evolved and new features such as multitasking, interrupt handling, forking, and well-formatted input-output were the new features that came into existence because of the use of C language into UNIX operating system. C language was used in other operating systems such as Windows, MacOS, etc.
An enhanced version of the C language was introduced in the year 1980 and was called C with classes this version of C language was popularly known as Object-Oriented Programming and was given the name C++. C++ made it possible to formulate real-world scenarios to be depicted in programming.
In 1990 Java came into existence. In 1994 Java was used to browse the internet and this led to the use of Java in many industrial applications. The programs developed in Java were platform-independent, portable, and used the concept of garbage collection.
Later Microsoft introduced the programming language for non-technical persons and was named Visual Basic. Visual Basic had a graphical user interface on which window was displayed. On this window, components were dragged and dropped. Microsoft Excel and Acess are developed in Visual Basic.
Programming Language Generation
Programming languages are in continuous evolution. This evolution is phase-wise. With each phase, the programming language became more programmer-friendly. This phase-wise evolution can be grouped into generations. These generations are as follows:
These are also known as low-level language. The programs are written in a low-level language. The grammar of the low-level language is in binary numbers. The advantage of writing programs in the low-level language is that these programs are executed directly and need not require translation of the program.
Since the programs are written using binary numbers program execution is fast and the CPU can access the programming instructions very efficiently.
The first-generation programming language is efficient in terms of memory utilization. This is because these languages keep track of binary data.
Second Generation Programming Language
Programs in the low-level language are also written in binary numbers using 0, 1, and mnemonics. In a second-generation programming language, symbols were used to build instructions. These instructions consist of opcode and operand. Program maintenance is easy for second-generation programming languages.
Third Generation Programming Languages
Programming languages that fall in the category of the third generation are high-level languages. Programmers of third-generation languages do not have to according to the instruction format of the computer system instated they write the program using English language alphabet that was translated into machine language. Since the programs were written in the English language it became easy for programmers to write programs to remember the syntax of the program and understand the logic of the program.
FORTRAN, COBOL, C++, and C belong to third-generation programming languages.
Fourth Generation Programming Language
Fourth-generation programming languages were developed to reduce the programming time and reduce the software development cost. The fourth-generation language was targeted to make the use of efficient programming techniques. These languages were developed for storing and retrieving records in the database. The programs developed in fourth-generation languages are highly portable and efficient.
Examples of fourth-generation language include Structured Query Language, Cascading Style Sheet, etc.
Fifth Generation Programming Language
To do constraint programming fifth-generation programming languages were used. There is two domain of fifth-generation programming languages first, Artificial Intelligence and Second, Artificial Neural Networks. The fifth-generation programming languages are used for database manipulations.
Examples of fifth-generation programming languages include Prolog, OPS5, etc.