What is Machine Language?

what is machine learning

Of all universal programming languages, machine language is the most basic. Computers can’t understand any communication systems other than hardware-dependent machine code. And this machine code consists of numerical instructions, including:

  • Binary
  • Hexadecimal

You can also refer to machine language as machine code or object code. It is a collection of binary digits (or bits) that the computer interprets.

If you took a computer science class, you have likely heard about machine language. But did you ever wonder, “Professor, what do you mean by machine language? What is machine language in computer programming?” If so, read on to find out more.

Machine Code Execution

Every family of processors has its own set of machine instructions. Machine language programming is what lays these instructions out. Every component that makes the machine function has its own arrangement of units. These units represent a machine’s actionable items. And they are all a binary nature, with values of 1 or 0. They operate using binary code. This is a basic or low level programming language.

The instruction sets of all machine code configurations align with similar processor classes. The structural configuration of any processor class matches its unique instruction set.

Set Length Diversity and Uniformity

Arrangements within different machine language instructions vary. Some sets have instructions that share identical lengths with one another. Other instruction sets have machine instructions with varying lengths. The instruction length of a set depends on the processor’s construction.  And this depends on whatever operation code is in place.

An operation code, or an opstring, determines the operation the assembly code will carry out. The opstring also determines the exact category of an instruction set. That regulates the length of the instructions within.

Machine Code’s Margin of Error

By nature, machine code has many small numerical components. Composing any program written through machine language alone is difficult. To do this, a programmer’s numerical address calculations must be airtight.

So, machine code’s margin of error is large. Because of this, it is rare for programs to be in machine dependent binary code alone. The answer to this problem is assembly language.

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What is Machine Language and Assembly Language?

Machine language in computer programming is a basic numerical code. It is more than binary code. Assembly languages are different. Assembly language is a low-level symbolic code. Low level language is a human-readable programming language. It communicates with a computer’s hardware.

Assembly language has many uses, like:

  • Accessing specialized processor instructions
  • Evaluating critical performance errors
  • Manipulating hardware

Assembly language is also faster than high level programming languages. This is crucial for time-sensitive activities.

How Is Assembly Language Different from Machine Language?

There are many similar aspects of assembly and machine language. But you could argue that these languages have more differences than similarities. A machine language program and assembly language have different:

  • Benefits
  • Origins
  • Readers
  • Uses

Below, we explain these differences between assembly and machine code. We also discuss the difference between a low level programming language and a high level programming language.


Modifications and error fixing is impossible in machine language. But assembly languages allow programmers to:

  • Change machine code
  • Fix bugs
  • Work with programming languages

Assembly language is also easier to understand and memorize. But assembly language isn’t perfect. It is slower than machine code. To understand its benefits and to create machine understandable form, we can look at its origin.


Using binary numbers to represent computer instructions originated in the 1930s and 40s. It came from the minds of computer geniuses John Mauchly and John Atanasoff. But no single person invented machine language. It evolved over time.

The first machine language-programmed computers appeared in the mid-20th century. Before that, people operated computers with:

  • Buttons
  • Plugs
  • Switches

They were inefficient and hard to operate. They were such a nuisance that scientists began to develop machine language. Binary code made things much simpler. And it allowed computer to work on complicated problems in record time.

Unlike machine language, the credit for inventing assembly language goes to specific people. In 1947, Kathleen Booth began theoretical work on the concept.

In 1948, the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator had an assembler. It used mnemonics by David Wheeler, the creator of the first physical assembler. Mnemonics are devices that help you remember something. These devices can include:

  • Acronyms
  • Patterns of letters or words
  • Rhymes/songs

In 1955, Stan Poley wrote an assembly language called Symbolic Optimal Assembly Program. Assembly language erased the slow and error-prone tendencies of early coding. It became the standard for many programming types.

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Machine language is unreadable to humans. Trying to read machine language is like trying to read genetic code. Impossible. Even the US Copyright Office cannot identify whether machine coded programs are original. It is the only language read by computers alone. It is a low-level programming language.

The machine language consists of ones and zeros. The assembly language’s syntax is more like the English language’s syntax. This makes it easier for humans to understand. Assembly language uses mnemonics and symbols to signify instructions.

The mnemonic signifies a machine language instruction. For instance, INP represents input and OUT represents output. These instructions consist of an operation (or opcode) and one or more operands. Operands are data addresses, registers, or values.


Machine language is any low-level object code that controls the central processing unit (CPU). Its assembly language instructions help the CPU perform operations like:

  • Arithmetic logic unit
  • Jump
  • Load
  • Store

These tasks change the data in the CPU’s memory.

Machine language is numerical. It is the lowest-level CPU interface that programmers can access. Programmers translate machine code into readable strings using assembly language. They use a translator program to do this. And assembly has many more applications than machine language. Humans use assembly language for:

  • Air-conditioning control systems
  • Automobile ignition
  • Firmware for cellphones
  • Fuel operating systems
  • Security systems

Assembly language is also useful for machine language programs happening in real time. These programs need their programmers to maintain control from end to end. Examples include:

  • Flight navigation systems
  • Medical equipment
  • Simulations

In programming, assembly language is also useful for:

  • Decryption/encryption algorithms
  • Low level language and code
  • Writing code that interacts with hardware

In general, assembly language has more uses than machine code. More than anything, it helps humans understand machine code. You can convert assembly language to code. But you can’t understand a machine’s binary without assembly.

Best Majors for Studying Machine Language

Now that you know the basics of machine language, you might wish to learn more. In higher education, some majors address machine language more than others. Here is a list of the best majors on machine language. If you want to understand a low level language or high level language, you may want to major in one of these areas.

Computer Programming

Computer programming majors learn to write code for computer software and applications. Machine language is a crucial part of this program. You will learn machine code and programming languages like:

  • CSS
  • HTML
  • Java
  • Python

You will also study high level programming languages. A high level language is different other machine languages. You will learn the difference between machine code written for low level language and high level language.

There are many components to this major. You don’t focus on only language. On top of machine language, expect to take courses in:

  • Business
  • Computer networking
  • Database design

At the end of your degree program, you will complete a capstone project. This final project teaches you to solve real-world programming issues. You will use the skills you learned to solve a software problem. Examples of capstone projects include:

  • Create an app to track medications
  • Create computer programs for business
  • Design an online survey system
  • Program a computer game
  • Program a finance manager

Undergraduate degrees in computer programming provide you many skills. But that doesn’t have to be the final step in your education career. Computer programming graduate degrees are also available. A graduate degree can prove you as an expect in high level programming languages.

Computer Science

Computer science (CS) and computer programming are similar majors. Both include learning about machine language. You learn the difference between a low level programming language and high level programming language. You also study middle level language. But the two majors have some key differences.

Computer programming focuses on coding and software development. Computer science is broader. It has a large range of career paths, including:

  • Academia
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Data science
  • Research

In general, computer science is the theory of computer processes. Computer programming is the practical application of this theory. So, for a more rounded approach to learning, choose computer science. CS students study subjects like:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Bioinformatics
  • Computer systems and networks
  • Database systems
  • High level programming languages
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Numerical analysis
  • Programming languages
  • Software engineering

Programming language is crucial to learning computer science. But it isn’t everything. There is much more to computer processes than coding.

Data Science

In data science programs, students learn many useful skills, including:

  • Calculus
  • Computer programming language
  • Data analysis
  • Machine language
  • Middle level language
  • Predictive modeling

Students learn to gather information and present their findings in concise formats. This makes communicating their data-driven recommendations easier. Future colleagues will appreciate this.

Data science is the foundation of topics like:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Deep learning
  • Exact machine language
  • Machine learning

This major gives students many career options. Potential employers include more than big tech companies like Apple or Google. They can also work in a variety of fields, including:

  • Automotive
  • Energy
  • Healthcare
  • Telecommunications

Some of the most in-demand careers for data science majors are:

  • Applications architect
  • Data engineer
  • Machine learning engineer

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Information Technology

Information technology (IT) majors study general subjects like:

  • Business
  • Communications
  • Computer science

You may also choose to specialize in subjects like:

  • Digital communications
  • Game development
  • Programming languages (high level language, middle level language, low level programming language)
  • Web design

No matter what focus you choose, you will gain strong communication and tech skills. IT students study how computers support business, communications, and research. You will learn everything from computer hardware to human-computer relationships.

Outside of general IT classes, students may also:

  • Intern at a tech company
  • Learn from diverse perspectives
  • Study the social impacts of IT
  • Study the ethical issues of IT
  • Take classes in other departments like business or philosophy

Information technology students are more than “tech people.” They are critical thinkers and excellent communicators. IT majors are flexible problem solvers with a passion for information.

Yes, information technology students must be comfortable with computers. But they also need to work well with others.


Math majors study a variety of topics, including:

  • Algebra
  • Calculus
  • Geometry
  • Logic
  • Number theory
  • Topology

Within these subjects, math majors study forms, quantities, and symbolic logic. You can also choose to specialize in computer science subjects. This will allow you to study machine language, such as high level languages and low level language. Many math graduates find knowing high level languages helps them land computer science careers.

On top of classes, math students can also:

  • Compete in math competitions
  • Prepare assembly language statements
  • Study abstract and complicated topics
  • Take classes in computer labs
  • Write papers on mathematical concepts
  • Write papers on research projects

Math majors tend to enjoy puzzles and challenges. They identify and explore the world’s patterns. Because of these great skills, math majors have many career options. Examples of possible career paths for math students include:

  • Actuary
  • Computer programmer
  • Financial analyst
  • Software developer
  • Statistician

This may not be an obvious answer for aspiring programmers. You might not study machine languages. But mathematics is a great major for tech people, or those who want to know more about assembly languages.

Software Engineering

Software engineering evolves at continuous rates. As a software engineering major, you will:

  • Study programming languages like machine code
  • Study the scientific and mathematical basis of computers
  • Learn how to analyze and design computer software

Software engineering covers everything about machine language. Machine language is the basis for software engineering. Common courses for this major include:

  • Computer systems fundamentals
  • Design and analysis of algorithms
  • Intro to high level programming language and low level programming language
  • Introduction to programming languages and machine code
  • Principles of database management

Software engineering majors do more than take classes. They are good problem solvers and critical thinkers. These skills allow them to:

  • Design software systems of their own
  • Help develop high level programming languages
  • Intern at software companies
  • Solve complex issues in existing software systems

Software engineering students also complete final projects before graduation. The project will involve working in teams. You and your classmates will use what you learned to develop software together.

It’s best to choose a project that mirrors your future career. Some colleges have outside companies sponsor student projects. This lets you work on real-world problems. Some examples of capstone projects include:

  • Creating an app for women’s safety
  • Designing a virtual classroom
  • Designing an online election system
  • Designing online survey systems
  • Programming a smart security surveillance system

Try to come up with a unique idea for your capstone project. And remember, you don’t need to do it alone. Your team can brainstorm ideas together. Test your knowledge and show professors your mastery of software engineering and machine languages.


Machine language is the foundation for all programmable executions. But it also has its cons. Before, programmers had to accept the difficulties of managing many numerical values. But modern assembly language streamlines this process now.

Still, learning about machine language is crucial. And there are many routes to studying it. You may major in a wider array of subjects within the computer world. Each will touch on the foundation that is machine language.

But there is more to computer systems than coding. This industry values both tech skills and well-roundedness. You will need a strong business acumen and communication skills. Most of all, you will immortalize information through computers.

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