A Programming Language consists of a set of vocabulary and grammatical rules, to express the computations and tasks that the computer has to perform. Programming languages are used to write a program, which controls the behavior of computer, codify the algorithms precisely, or enables the human-computer interface. Each language has a unique set of keywords (words that it understands) and a special syntax for organizing program instructions. The programming language should be understood, both by the programmer (who is writing the program) and the computer. A computer understands the language of 0∙s and 1∙s, while the programmer is more comfortable with English-like language. Programming Language usually refers to high-level languages like COBOL, BASIC, FORTRAN, C, C++, Java etc. Programming languages fall into three categories (Figure 6.9):
Machine Language is what the computer can understand but it is difficult for the programmer to understand. Machine languages consist of numbers only. Each kind of CPU has its own unique machine language.
- Assembly Language falls in between machine language and high-level language. They are similar to machine language, but easier to program in, because they allow the programmer to substitute names for numbers.
- High-level Language is easier to understand and use for the programmer but difficult for the computer. Regardless of the programming language used, the program needs to be converted into machine language so that the computer can understand it. In order to do this a program is either compiled or interpreted. Figure 6.9 shows the hierarchy of programming languages. The choice of programming language for writing a program depends on the functionality required from the program and the kind of program to be written. Machine languages and assembly languages are also called low-level languages, and are generally used to write the system software. Application software is usually written in high-level languages. The program written in a programming language is also called the source code.
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