Brief Programming Languages History

History of Programming Languages

A brief history of programming languages can offer insight into the digital age. You use programming languages every time you send an email, text a loved one, or like a social media post. But do you know programming languages history

Where did the first programming language come from? Why is knowing the history of programming languages important in web development and other areas of computer science? In this article, we discuss how programming languages got their starts. Follow our timeline as we showcase how computer programming languages have changed through the years. 

When Was the First Programming Language Created?

What was the first computer programming language and when was it created? What’s interesting about the history of programming language is that programming existed before computers.

In 1843, mathematician Ada Lovelace, developed an algorithm. She wrote it down on paper to remember since there were no computers. We will discuss this important event later in the article. But without this monumental moment, the first computer languages wouldn’t exist. 

Programming History – Important Events

There are many important events in computer programming language history. These events led to the creation of the first coding languages. We use computer programming languages today when performing everyday technological tasks.

Read on for some of the most important events in the history of programming languages. Here we answer the question: What is the first programming language? We also discuss how you tell programming language inventor from other important figures in history programming. 

1843 Ada Lovelace

You can’t discuss the history of programming languages without mentioning Ada Lovelace. This female mathematician (rare at the time) created the first machine algorithm in 1843. This moment was the beginning of the invention of programming languages.

But why did she create an algorithm? She made it for the Difference Machine. A calculating machine constructed in the 1820s by the mathematician Charles Babbage. Babbage pioneered the Analytical Engine. The Analytical Engine is thought of as the first general-purpose computer. 

Lovelace wanted to remember the algorithm, so she wrote it down. This algorithm gave rise to the first language for computers. 

Early 1940s Konrad Zuse 

In the early 1940s, Konrad Zuse created what we know as the first programming languages. Plankalkul was the first high level programming language developed for computers. It stored several codes engineers could use repeatedly to perform routine operations. Computer programmers recognize Plankalkul as the first high level language.

1949 Assembly Language and Shortcode 

In 1949, the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator first used an assembly language. Assembly language broke down the complex language of machine codes. The low level computer programming language put complex computer instructions into simpler terms. 

In early 1949, John McCauley introduced Shortcode. But this low level programming language didn’t get its start until late 1949 and early 1950 when William Schmitt used it to benefit the procedures of the BINAC computer and UNIVAC. 

1952 Autocode

In 1952, Alick Glennie created the term Autocode. As a first computer program, it became known as “a family of programming languages.” Glennie used autocode for the Mark 1 computer. It translated machine code through a special program known as a compiler. 


In 1957, John Backus created FORmula TRANslation (FORTRAN). It is the oldest computer programming language still used today. FORTRAN’s development solved many different problems in:

  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Statistics

You can use FORTRAN to solve complicated statistical problems or complex math problems. It has many uses, which is why in the history of programming languages, its creation was a critical moment. 

1958 ALGOL and LISP

Algorithmic language (ALGOL) and List Processor (LISP) are both important to the history of programming language. Both created in 1958 by several European and American computer scientists, they are the platform for many other programming languages such as:

  • C
  • C++
  • Java
  • Pascal

John McCarthy created LISP for artificial intelligence (AI) purposes. LISP is one of the oldest computer programming languages used today. Many people and businesses rely on LISP instead of other notable languages developed like Python or Ruby.

History of Programming

1959 COBOL

Dr. Grace Murray Hopper invented Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL) in 1959. This huge milestone impacted many widely used programming languages. COBOL is behind many different systems and technologies. Programmers use it for:

  • ATMs
  • Cellular devices
  • Credit card processors
  • Traffic signals

COBOL was put into place to run on all computer types. Today, banks rely on COBOL for their various banking systems.

1964 BASIC

Students attending Dartmouth College created the Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code (BASIC) in 1964. Its purpose was to help students with little knowledge of computers and math. Later on, Paul Allen and Bill Gates worked on this compiled programming language. It became Microsoft’s first sold product. 


Niklaus Wirth created PASCAL. He named it after the famous mathematician Blaise Pascal. PASCAL helped people learn how to use programming languages. Apply become a top supporter of PASCAL due to its simple and easy assembly language. 

1972 Smalltalk, C, and SQL 

Alan Kay, Dan Ingalls, and Adele Goldberg designed Smalltalk to help computer programmers change programming languages. This event led to the creation of the most popular programming languages such as:

  • Java
  • Python
  • Ruby

Dennis Ritchie created C language to use with the operating system called Unix. The reason he named it “C” was that it came after a newer language (B). Apple, Google, and Facebook are a few of the top tech companies using C functional programming today. And it’s still used with the Unix operating system.

Donald Chamberlain and Raymond Boyce created Structured Query Language (SQL). They created this popular programming language to change and view important data stored on computers. Many businesses use SQL today including Accenture and Microsoft. SQL is by far a popular programming language today.

Early 1980s Ada

Jean Ichbiah led the construction of Ada. You guessed it! Ichbiah named this high level programming language Ada Lovelace. Ada is a high level programming language used to control air traffic in various countries such as Belgium, Germany, and Australia.

1983 C++ and Objective-C 

In 1983, Bjarne Stroustrup changed C programming language to C++. C++ had new features that C didn’t have, such as:

  • Classes
  • Templates
  • Virtual tasks

Other popular programming languages like C++ also launched during this time. Award-winning C++ gained attention from tech giants of the time. Many programs use C++ including Microsoft Office, gaming platforms, and Adobe Photoshop. In fact, Adobe Photoshop was one of the first users of C++.

Tom Love and Brad Cox created Objective-C in 1983. It is the leading computer programming used for all Apple’s operating systems including iOs and macOS.

1987 Perl

Perl was launched in 1987 by Larry Wall. He created it to edit text. But now we use it for different purposes. You can use Perl in:

  • Database applications
  • Graphic programs (graphical user interface)
  • Network programs

1990 Haskell 

Haskell came out in 1990. Named after Haskell Brooks Curry, a famous mathematician, this language helped with mathematical procedures. Many businesses use Haskell as a common business oriented language. But others in the industry believe its use was for the creation of video games.

1991 Visual Basic and Python

1991 was a big year in computer programming. Microsoft launched Visual Basic, a popular programming language. It helped users drag and drop codes through a geographical user interface. Visual Basic also  helped individuals select and change a large set of codes at once.

Python also came out in 1991. Today, Python ranks as the most popular programming language. Created by Guido Van Rossum, Python provides support to different programming styles. Many tech companies use Python today. From its use at Google and Instagram, Python has changed the programming language world.

1993 Ruby

In 1993, Yukihiro Matsumoto developed Ruby. Its web development was inspired by other languages, even the oldest programming language, Ada. Lisp, Perl, and Smalltalk all inspired Ruby. Some companies that use Ruby include Hulu, Groupon, and Twitter.

Brief History of Programming

1995 Java, JavaScript, and PHP

James Gosling created Java for the purpose of an interactive television project. It is one of the most favored programming languages used today on cellular devices and computers.

Brendan Eich developed JavaScript in 1995 to help individuals with creating webpages, browsers, widgets, and PDF documents. Almost every major website you access uses JavaScript.

Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) came out in 1995 as Personal Homepage. Its goal was to help individuals and businesses build and update websites. Several companies still depend on PHP such as Wikipedia, WordPress, and Facebook.

2000 C# 

In 2000, Microsoft launched C#. Its purpose was to merge the computing features of C++ with Visual Basic’s simplified features. C# is similar to Java, though it derived from C++ and Visual Basic. All Microsoft tools and products use C#.

2003 Scala and Groovy 

In 2003, Martin Odersky created Scala, a mathematical programming language. It is compatible with Java, and essential to Android development. Some companies still use Scala today. These include:

  • Foursquare
  • LinkedIn
  • Netflix
  • Twitter

Bob McWhirter and James Strachan developed Groovy. The language originated from Java. Its purpose was to improve efficiency and production. Starbucks uses Groovy to complete its daily tasks.

2009 Go

In 2009, Google launched Go to solve issues that can occur when dealing with larger software systems. It consists of a modern and easy-to-use structure, The structure made it popular with major companies around the world. Companies that use Go include Uber, Google, and Twitch.

2014 Swift

In 2014, Apple implemented Swift to replace Objective-C, C++, and C. The main goal was to create an easier and simpler language than Objective-C, C++, and C. Swift offers users versatility. You can use it on cellular devices, cloud applications, and desktop computers.

Old Programming Languages Used Today

FORTRANMany old programming languages have been put to rest, but we use many others today. FORTRAN, for example, has been around since 1953, but its newest version launched in 2018. IBM created FORTRAN for use on high-speed computers. New computers launch every year, so updates on compiled computer programming language must occur.  

Other computer programming languages still in use today include COBOL. Developed in 1959, this systems programming language helps banks handle their in-person transactions. It also helps them with ATM transactions. It is a ground-breaking algorithmic language used today.

Coders still use other programming languages. They use them as a general purpose programming language or in object oriented programming. They also use them as a scripting language designed for large software systems. These low and high level programming languages include:

  • C
  • Lisp
  • Pascal
  • Smalltalk

Brief History of Programming Languages

Today’s Most Popular Programming Languages

Many programming languages have gained popularity over the last few decades. The history of programming languages has changed. With technology changing at a rapid rate, the industry also evolves. The constant change increases use and the need for computer programming languages.

Companies use many different programming languages. Here are the most popular ones used today.

  • Go
  • Java
  • JavaScript
  • Python
  • SQL
  • Swift
  • .NET/C#

The most widely used languages are also the most important to learn. If you’re thinking about a technology degree, consider learning one or more of the above most popular programming languages. But you don’t have to earn a degree to learn machine code or artificial intelligence. You can take a course in Python, get a certificate in Java, then take your knowledge into the workplace. Employers will value your skills. 

The Future of Programming Languages

programming languagesAfter reading the timeline, can you tell programming language inventor from network programming? You might not be an expert in languages yet, but you have some history to build on. Maybe you’re the next inventor. Maybe you can tell programming language inventor from scratch and want to invent the next language. 

Since the first compiled programming language and purely functional programming language, the industry has changed. Programming has evolved over time. A written algorithm in the 1840s transformed the way we use programming today. Microsoft developed Visual Basic and newer computer programming languages came along. It is exciting to think what the future holds in technology as machine code and programming changes and transforms. 

Will we see better programming languages than we have right now? What kind of improvements will be made in machine code and scripting language? And most of all, how will the history of programming languages change?

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This concludes our article on the history of programming languages.