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Programming is the way by which humans interact with computers. High-level languages are easier to code and understand. A code typically consists of data and logic to process the data. Data are of different data types like integer, floating-point, alphabetic, alphanumeric, Boolean, etc. Some programs support user-defined data types. Programs also handle constant data.

Before coding a program to perform a task, the problem should be analyzed thoroughly. The next step is creating an algorithm. An algorithm details the steps to be executed in sequence to solve a problem. An algorithm can be represented using a flow chart also. An algorithm can be easily explained using flowcharts.

A program has both syntax and semantics. The set of rules related to the use of symbols and words in a language forms the syntax. Semantics is related to the logic of the program.

All the programming languages have some processing techniques. Conditional processing, looping etc. are some of them. Arrays are used to store many data items of the same type under one name. Arrays and functions improve the program’s efficiency. Programs should also handle exceptions. It is also important to add the necessary comments in the code.

COBOL, FORTRAN, BASIC, PL/1, etc. were among the early programs released. FORTRAN was used for complex scientific calculations. COBOL is more of a business language. It could handle a huge volume of data. COBOL supported different data types and file formats. COBOL programs can interact with both relational and hierarchical databases. BASIC is an all-purpose language and is easy to learn. Visual Basic (VB) in .Net framework still continues to be widely used.

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A lot of new programming languages were developed in the 1970s. PASCAL, C, etc. were among them. They were procedural languages. The use of functions improved programming efficiency. Functions, once defined in the program, can be used over and again. Various data types and arrays can be passed on to the function. Functions also return different data types. Programs also use built-in external functions. Functions or procedures are identified by their name or label. C is a very versatile language. It was developed by Dennis Ritchie in Bell Laboratories. It is used in application development, operating systems programming, database development, compiler development, etc. C uses pointers to great advantage. Using pointers with arrays can make the code very effective. C supports structures, a user-defined data type. It remains the most widely taught language in schools and colleges.

Another important programming concept is Object Oriented Programming. Java, C++, etc. are the most famous object-oriented languages. Abstraction, Encapsulation, Inheritance, Polymorphism, etc. are some of the aspects of OOP. These features make the language more reusable and secure. It is based on objects which contain data and code in the form of methods. Objects are actual entities which take up space. They are instances of a class. Classes are like blueprints and don’t take up space. The code is separated from data. Data can be hidden from the user and can be made private. Data can be accessed and set using public methods. Same methods can produce different results based on the arguments passed on to them.

Java was designed by James Gosling at Sun Microsystems. The ‘Write Once and Run Anywhere’ property of Java, makes it a widely used language in client-server applications, android apps and video games. Web browsers support Java Applets. It finds applications in IoT, cloud computing, etc.

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All these programs have keywords for conditional processing and looping.

SQL is a query language developed to access and manipulate the data in relational databases. It has data definition, data manipulation, data control and transaction control commands. It is used with databases like Oracle, MySQL.

Scripting languages are interpreted and need not be compiled. JavaScript, PHP, Python, etc. are scripting languages and are popular as web languages. JavaScript was developed in Netscape communications and was designed by Brendan Eich. JavaScript along with HTML and CSS form the cornerstones of the World Wide Web. With all major browsers having built-in JavaScript engines, it dominates the client side. It is also used for backend development. JS scripts are embedded in HTML documents. HTML formats the text and images on a web page, CSS does the styling and JavaScript programs the behavior of the webpage. In a similar fashion, PHP can also be embedded in HTML documents.

Swift was developed by Apple for iOS applications. Along with Java, Kotlin is used for Android apps. SQL, R, Python, Hadoop, etc. are gaining popularity as data science languages.

Various online resources and simulators are available for learning programming languages. Open sourcing has led to the development of many languages. Whatever may be the language, the code written must be readable and efficient. Unnecessary lines decrease efficiency. Current trends in programming lay much importance to encryption, distribution, portability, etc. integration with databases is also given much importance. Visual programming languages are also gaining popularity.

Would you like to read more about this topic? This book might interest you: Introduction to Programming Languages.

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