Just as humans use language to communicate, and different regions have different languages, computers also have their own languages that are specific to them.
Different kinds of languages have been developed to perform different types of work on the computer. Basically, languages can be divided into two categories according to how the computer understands them.
Two Basic Types of Computer Language
Low-level computer languages are either machine codes or are very close them. A computer cannot understand instructions given to it in high-level languages or in English. It can only understand and execute instructions given in the form of machine language i.e. binary. There are two types of low-level languages:
- Machine Language: a language that is directly interpreted into the hardware
- Assembly Language: a slightly more user-friendly language that directly corresponds to machine language
(i) Machine Language
Machine language is the lowest and most elementary level of programming language and was the first type of programming language to be developed. Machine language is basically the only language that a computer can understand and it is usually written in hex.
In fact, a manufacturer designs a computer to obey just one language, its machine code, which is represented inside the computer by a string of binary digits (bits) 0 and 1. The symbol 0 stands for the absence of an electric pulse and the 1 stands for the presence of an electric pulse. Since a computer is capable of recognizing electric signals, it understands machine language.
(ii) Assembly Language
Assembly language was developed to overcome some of the many inconveniences of machine language. This is another low-level but very important language in which operation codes and operands are given in the form of alphanumeric symbols instead of 0’s and l’s.
These alphanumeric symbols are known as mnemonic codes and can combine in a maximum of five-letter combinations e.g. ADD for addition, SUB for subtraction, START, LABEL etc. Because of this feature, assembly language is also known as ‘Symbolic Programming Language.’
This language is also very difficult and needs a lot of practice to master it because there is only a little English support in this language. Mostly assembly language is used to help in compiler orientations. The instructions of the assembly language are converted to machine codes by a language translator and then they are executed by the computer.
High-level computer languages use formats that are similar to English. The purpose of developing high-level languages was to enable people to write programs easily, in their own native language environment (English).
High-level languages are basically symbolic languages that use English words and/or mathematical symbols rather than mnemonic codes. Each instruction in the high-level language is translated into many machine language instructions that the computer can understand.
Types of High-Level Languages
Many languages have been developed for achieving a variety of different tasks. Some are fairly specialized, and others are quite general.
These languages, categorized according to their use, are:
(i) Algebraic Formula-Type Processing
These languages are oriented towards the computational procedures for solving mathematical and statistical problems.
- BASIC (Beginners All Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code)
- FORTRAN (Formula Translation)
- PL/I (Programming Language, Version 1)
- ALGOL (Algorithmic Language)
- APL (A Programming Language)
(ii) Business Data Processing
These languages are best able to maintain data processing procedures and problems involved in handling files. Some examples include:
- COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language)
- RPG (Report Program Generator)
(iii) String and List Processing
These are used for string manipulation, including search patterns and inserting and deleting characters. Examples are:
- LISP (List Processing)
- Prolog (Program in Logic)
(iv) Object-Oriented Programming Language
In OOP, the computer program is divided into objects. Examples are:
(v) Visual Programming Language
These programming languages are designed for building Windows-based applications. Examples are:
- Visual Basic
- Visual Java
- Visual C