What is a Generation Computer Language and How is it Used?

second generation programming

We classify programming languages into programming language generations. Over time, programming languages have evolved. Performance improved. The generation of languages has gone from simple machine languages to problem-solving machines. Generations include:

  • First generation (1GL)
  • Second generation (2GL)
  • Third generation (3GL)
  • Fourth generation (4GL)
  • Fifth generation (5GL)
  • Sixth generation (6GL)

In this article, we take a look at each generation language. We also talk about pros and cons of certain languages. Want to learn more about second generation computer language? How about fifth generation language?

Read on to find out more about the generation of language and how computers have used it in both the past and present.

First Generation Language

A first generation computer language (1GL) is a machine-level language. This means the first language is machine-dependent. Since the computer can only understand binary language, machine language statements are written in binary code.

Examples of first generation languages include machine-level programming languages. But with early machine language comes disadvantages.


  • Fast because you write language statements in binary code
  • No translator needed


  • Hard to learn binary codes

Second Generation Language

A second generation programming language (2GL) categorizes assembly languages. It’s different than the first generation language. You see it written as 2G languages or assembler languages. An assembly language is a low-level symbolic code converted by an assembler.

Assembly language uses notations that an assembler converts to machine language. Programmers write the code using abbreviations (mnemonics) for the assembly language. They use the second generation language in hardware drives and kernels. But a 2nd generation language has both pros and cons.


  • Easy to locate and correct errors
  • Easy to make modifications
  • Easy to understand


  • Machine language dependent (assembly language)
  • You need an assembler

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Third Generation Language

Third generation of programming languages are high level programming languages. At least higher than a first or second programming language. Third generation programming languages (3GLs) are machine-independent. This means they’re portable. They are also easy to use.

The first third generation programming language originated in the 1950s. Early 3GLs include ALGOL, COBOL, and Fortran. But today, the most popular programming languages exist because of these earlier versions. Popular general-purpose languages include C, C++, Java, Pascal, and Python.


  • Easy to comprehend
  • They support object-oriented programming
  • They support structured programming
  • Uses English-like words 
  • You can copy the same code to another machine


  • Different machines use different compilers
  • You need an interpreter

Fourth Generation Language

Fourth generation languages enable users to access databases. Of the high level languages, 4GL tends to specialize specific programming domains. They include support for database management and report generation. They also provide support for mathematical optimization. You can use 4GLs in GUI and web development.

Fourth generation programming languages include:

  • ABAP
  • Oracle Reports
  • SQL
  • Unix Shell

But like other high level languages, there are advantages and disadvantages to the fourth generation language.


  • Easy to learn and understand
  • Less errors
  • Take less time for application creation


  • High memory consumption
  • Less flexible
  • Poor control over hardware

Fifth Generation Language

Fifth generation languages are high level programming languages. They are more sophisticated than a first generation programming language. They do not use machine language or assembly language like a first generation programming language, but they have a different kind of programming language.

The fifth generation programming language (5GL) is based on problem-solving. It uses constraints given to the program instead of an algorithm written by a programmer. It solves problems on its own using artificial intelligence or AI technology. 


  • Easier to learn and use than other languages 
  • Fifth generation languages programmers solve problems with less effort
  • Machines make decisions


  • Uses complex, long code
  • Uses resources that are expensive

Sixth Generation Language

Sixth generation languages are high level languages like fourth and fifth generation languages. A 6GL is any programming language based on visual development. We refer to 6GLs as:

  • No code
  • Visual development

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How Are Most Programs Written?

We find most programs written in third generation languages and fourth generation languages. In modern programs, we use second generation languages. But you do see them used for parts of device drivers and kernels. You find them in:

  • Graphics programs
  • Video games

Modern programs use second generation assembly languages. They have their benefits. But the disadvantages are great. From low-level memory to machine-dependent programs, there are reasons not to use 2GL. 3GL and 4GL have replaced the second generation languages. Newer generations offer benefits.

But second generation languages have a significant place in computing history. For a long time, 2GL was the only viable option for machines. Remember the following?

  • Commodore 64
  • NES

2GL provided a giant step away from the tradition of programmers conforming to the needs of a machine. Instead, they allowed a machine to accommodate the programmer. 

2GL allowed for programming language used by second generation computer programmers. But which of the following programming language started from second generation? The answer might surprise you.

  • Cobol
  • C
  • Lisp

Cobol didn’t start from first generation languages. It started from second generation languages. Cobol programming language reads like English. You use it for business purposes.

Second Generation Language Characteristics

We base second generation structures on first generation structures. But the data structures use simple generalizations. These include dynamic arrays and different lower bounds.

Like first generation languages, 2GL are:

  • Based on machine-addressing modes
  • Linear

Second generation language has strong built-in types. They also have name structures and better control of name spaces. This allows for efficient dynamic memory allocation. 

Second generation of programming languages use word policies that establish keyword-in-context rules. During the peak of their popularity, some 2GL programmers took advantage of the unlimited functionality. This produced both good and bad results.

Jobs for Early Generation Programmers

You will find limited programmer jobs for second and third generation languages. Few industries use them. But you can find a small number of opportunities in:

  • Industrial machines
  • Manufacturing consoles
  • Obsolete business systems

Industrial production and lumber manufacturing systems sometimes use third generation languages. A software programmer can find work in similar industries where they maintain or trouble-shoot old machine language programs. 

These programmers work in an office designing software that controls:

  • Automated industrial machines
  • Old equipment

But unlike most computer programmers, they spend time on the production floor fixing machine problems. Why? Because the programming language has aged.

A second generation programming language is outdated. Another generation of programming languages has come along and replaced them. Fourth generation languages and fifth generation languages provide efficient alternatives. 

Recap Programming Languages

By sharing details about programming languages, we discussed the earliest programming language. 

Earliest programming language includes:

  • First generation language
  • Second generation languages 

We also covered high level languages.

  • Third generation languages
  • Fourth generation languages
  • Fifth generation languages

As technology evolves, third generation languages will become obsolete. Programming language used by second generation of computer programs will dissolve. But the life of a programming language is long. Imagine what the future holds. 

CSDH Staff

December 2022

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This concludes our article on which language is used in second generation computer programs.