A programming language definition

This is the latest accepted revision, reviewed on 25 October 2018. The source code for a a programming language definition computer program written in the C programming language.

When compiled and run, it would give the output “Hello, world! A programming language is a formal language, which comprises a set of instructions used to produce various kinds of output. Thousands of different programming languages have been created, mainly in the computer field, and many more still are being created every year. A programming language is a notation for writing programs, which are specifications of a computation or algorithm. Some, but not all, authors restrict the term “programming language” to those languages that can express all possible algorithms. The term computer language is sometimes used interchangeably with programming language.

However, the usage of both terms varies among authors, including the exact scope of each. One usage describes programming languages as a subset of computer languages. Another usage regards programming languages as theoretical constructs for programming abstract machines, and computer languages as the subset thereof that runs on physical computers, which have finite hardware resources. Very early computers, such as Colossus, were programmed without the help of a stored program, by modifying their circuitry or setting banks of physical controls.

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Slightly later, programs could be written in machine language, where the programmer writes each instruction in a numeric form the hardware can execute directly. For example, the instruction to add the value in two memory location might consist of 3 numbers: a “opcode” that selects the “add” operation, and two memory locations. John Mauchly’s Short Code, proposed in 1949, was one of the first high-level languages ever developed for an electronic computer. At the University of Manchester, Alick Glennie developed Autocode in the early 1950s. The second autocode was developed for the Mark 1 by R. Brooker in 1954 and was called the “Mark 1 Autocode”. Brooker also developed an autocode for the Ferranti Mercury in the 1950s in conjunction with the University of Manchester.

In 1954, FORTRAN was invented at IBM by John Backus. It was the first widely used high-level general purpose programming language to have a functional implementation, as opposed to just a design on paper. Another early programming language was devised by Grace Hopper in the US, called FLOW-MATIC. It was developed for the UNIVAC I at Remington Rand during the period from 1955 until 1959. The increased use of high-level languages introduced a requirement for low-level programming languages or system programming languages.

APL introduced array programming and influenced functional programming. Revised Report on the Algorithmic Language ALGOL 60″ became a model for how later language specifications were written. 1970s, Smalltalk followed with the first “purely” object-oriented language. C was developed between 1969 and 1973 as a system programming language for the Unix operating system and remains popular. Prolog, designed in 1972, was the first logic programming language. In 1978, ML built a polymorphic type system on top of Lisp, pioneering statically typed functional programming languages.

Each of these languages spawned descendants, and most modern programming languages count at least one of them in their ancestry. The 1960s and 1970s also saw considerable debate over the merits of structured programming, and whether programming languages should be designed to support it. A selection of textbooks that teach programming, in languages both popular and obscure. These are only a few of the thousands of programming languages and dialects that have been designed in history. The 1980s were years of relative consolidation. The United States government standardized Ada, a systems programming language derived from Pascal and intended for use by defense contractors. One important trend in language design for programming large-scale systems during the 1980s was an increased focus on the use of modules or large-scale organizational units of code.