The Programming Languages Behind Software
— by Lisa Richards, Educational Outreach Writer
There might be hundreds of different programming languages in the world today, but most of the software we interact with is created with just eight of them. When someone is deciding to explore programming for the first time, one of the most important decisions is which language to learn. Each language is very different, and has its own special traits. Let's review some of the most common programming languages and how they are used.
Ruby is one of the most popular programming languages for applications on the Web. It is the language behind "Ruby on Rails," a programming framework that has been used to create some very popular websites ? including the sites for Amazon, Twitter, and Groupon, and the "document management system" Basecamp. It is a simple, relatively new language that is highly in demand, so it is frequently chosen as a first programming language.
"Shell programming" refers to programming for the Linux command line. In Linux, Unix, and even Windows, the command line is used whenever you need to "talk" directly to the operating system. Shell programming is generally used by people who are employed as system administrators. With shell code, it's easy to develop programs that will automate important network tasks, such as data backups and transfers.
Python is a versatile scripting language that can be used to process images, text, numbers, and many other forms of data. Python is very frequently used in combination with Hypertext Markup Language, more commonly known as HTML, which is the backbone programming language of the Internet. Python has been used to help sites like YouTube, NASA, and Google display complex information quickly. It is even used by the New York Stock Exchange.
C++ is perhaps the most popular programming language in the world today. It was originally developed by computer scientist Bjarne Stroustrup as an improvement over the existing language called C. Although C++ has only been in use since 1983, it has quickly become the de facto standard for many different applications. A large amount of "standalone" software, including productivity programs and games, is developed using the C++ language.
Java is used for light, fast, interactive software applications that are often executed directly from your browser in response to your online surfing. Although Java has waxed and waned in popularity over the years, it is now gathering steam again because it is one of the most popular ways to write applications for Android and other mobile operating systems. From games to fully interactive online presentations, Java can do it all.
C was released in 1973, and is therefore one of the oldest structured programming languages of the modern era. Despite its longevity, C was not standardized as a language until 1989, so many of the programs written before then would be impossible to use today. Although C was very flexible for its time and it influenced many of the major languages that followed, it has largely been superseded by C++ today.