Have you ever found yourself pondering the origins of programming languages, those quintessential cogs that set in motion our digital universe? Like a cup of tea brewing on a foggy London morning, there’s something inherently captivating about these intricate creations of the first programming languages and their history.

Did it ever cross your mind that Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage collaborated on one of the first computing machines in 1883, paving the path for coding languages to be born?

This article aims to unfurl this fascinating journey from its unsophisticated beginnings to pivotal milestones and evolution, like unfolding an intricately penned letter from history. So, prepare yourself for a riveting jaunt into tech history.

Early Development of Programming Languages

During the mid-19th to early 20th century, pioneers such as Ada Lovelace and Konrad Zuse laid the foundation for programming languages with their machine algorithms and Plankalkül, respectively. In 1949, Assembly Language and Shortcode further contributed to the evolution of programming languages.

Ada Lovelace’s Machine Algorithm (1843)

Ada Lovelace worked on a very special thing in 1843. It was the first algorithm built for a computer. This is a big deal in computer science history. Ada’s idea came long before real computers existed.

First Programming Language

Lovelace only had pen and paper to plan it out. Still, she made an important first step in early computing. Today, we think of her as the world’s first computer programmer because of this work.

Plankalkül by Konrad Zuse (1944-45)

From 1942 to 1945, Konrad Zuse made Plankalkül. This was the first high-level programming language. Zuse did not make it for no reason, as he had a clear aim. His target was to help with engineering tasks.

Plankalkül let users create procedures. This made it a strong tool for programming work. It gave more power than other languages of that time as it used structured objects in its design.

Assembly Language (1949)

In 1949, a new type of computer programming language came about. This was the Assembly Language that helped to make machine code easier to work with. The Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC) computer often uses this new language.

With Assembly Language, you could write instructions using easily recalled codes. These are known as mnemonic codes. This is seen as a low-level kind of computer programming today.

Shortcode (1949)

In 1949, there was also a high-level programming language called Shortcode. John Mauchly proposed this for an electronic computer. This happened around the same time as the Assembly language came to be.

The use of Assembly helped make machine code simpler. William Schmitt also took part in making Shortcode happen. Many call it the first High-Level Language or HLL. This early development played a big role in how we programme today.

Milestones in Programming Language History

  • Fortran was the first high-level programming language that was developed in 1957 for scientific and engineering calculations.
  • ALGOL was introduced in 1958 and significantly influenced future programming languages.
  • Lisp was created in 1958 and became popular for its ability to manipulate symbolic data.
  • COBOL was designed in 1959 and revolutionised business computing.
  • BASIC emerged in 1964 as a simple language for beginners.
  • C was developed in 1972 by Dennis Ritchie at Bell Labs and has become one of the most widely used programming languages.

Let’s dive deep into the milestones that shaped the history of programming languages and paved the way for modern software development.

Fortran (1957)

In 1957, John Backus created Fortran, the oldest computer programming language we still use today. They used it first for scientific work and calculations of engineers.

Fortran has changed a lot since then. However, despite all these changes, people still find it very helpful today. What makes it great is that it was the first high-level programming language ever created. This means even if you are not a scientist or engineer, you can use it too.

ALGOL (1958)

In 1958, ALGOL burst onto the scene. It’s short for Algorithmic Language. A group designed it for scientific use, and this was no small task. ALGOL played a big part in shaping many of our modern languages.

Later on, Simula came into being, using ALGOL as its base. So, it’s safe to say that without ALGOL, object-oriented programming might look very different today.

Lisp (1958)

Lisp is a star in the history of programming languages. It came to life in 1958, thanks to John McCarthy, who created it. Lisp stands for list processing and was the first language to use tree data structures. This made Lisp an important invention at that time. Lisp also introduced automatic storage management. Many of us still find value in using Lisp even today because of these smart features. Isn’t it great?

COBOL (1959)

Created in 1959, COBOL is a significant milestone in the history of programming languages. It was the first high-level programming language created specifically for business-oriented applications.

Dr. Grace Murray Hopper invented COBOL to make it easier for businesses to write computer programs. With its intuitive and English-like syntax, COBOL made it simpler for people without technical expertise to understand and use.

The US Department of Defence supported the development of COBOL, ensuring its compatibility with all types of computers. Today, many legacy systems still rely on COBOL, demonstrating its long-lasting impact on the business world.

BASIC (1964)

BASIC stands for Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. Created in 1964 by John G. Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz at Dartmouth College, it was one of the first high-level programming languages.

BASIC was designed to be user-friendly and accessible, especially for beginners new to programming. With BASIC, people could write programs using simple and symbolic instructions instead of complicated machine code or Assembly Language.

BASIC marked a shift towards higher-level languages, making programming more understandable and easier for everyone to learn and use.

C (1972)

C is also an important milestone in the history of programming languages. It is considered to be the first high-level programming language. C was created by Dennis Ritchie at Bell Labs between 1972 and 1973 to develop utilities for the Unix operating system.

C can be seen as a successor to another programming language called B. It played a crucial role in developing computer software and has had a lasting impact on programming as we know it today.

Evolution and Popularisation of Programming Languages

The introduction of high-level languages revolutionised programming, making it more accessible to a wider range of users. This led to the development of specific-purpose languages tailored for specific industries or tasks.

Additionally, with the advent of the Internet age, programming languages have evolved rapidly to meet the demands of web and mobile applications.

Introduction of High-Level Languages

The introduction of high-level programming languages was a significant milestone in the history of computer programming. These languages were designed to be more intuitive and easier for humans to understand than low-level languages like machine code or Assembly Language.

The first high-level language, called Plankalkül, was created by Konrad Zuse between 1942 and 1945. It was the first language to have a compiler, which made it easier for programmers to write and execute their programs.

Plankalkül marked a major shift in programming practices and laid the foundation for developing the modern programming languages we use today, like C, COBOL, and Fortran.

Development of Specific-Purpose Languages

Throughout the history of programming languages, there has been a continuous development of specific-purpose languages. These specialised languages are designed to cater for specific domains or tasks.

One notable example is Plankalkül (Plan Calculus), which Konrad Zuse developed in the mid-1940s. This marked an important milestone in the evolution of programming languages, as it was one of the first instances where a language was specifically created for a particular purpose.

Since then, specific-purpose languages have continued to be developed and utilised in various industries and fields. They play a crucial role in finance, healthcare, and scientific research, enabling professionals to work efficiently and effectively within their respective domains.

Impact of the Internet Age

The Internet age has significantly impacted the evolution and popularisation of programming languages. In today’s digital world, where web development and online applications are crucial for businesses, programming languages have adapted to meet these demands.

The internet has made it easier for individuals to learn and utilise programming languages by providing access to many learning resources. This accessibility has democratised coding, allowing anyone, regardless of location or educational background, to learn and use these languages.

Moreover, the internet has accelerated innovation in programming languages by fostering collaboration among programmers worldwide. This global community enables knowledge sharing and contributes to continuously improving and developing new languages and frameworks for internet-based technologies.

In Conclusion

The first programming language was created through innovative and pioneering efforts by individuals like Ada Lovelace, Konrad Zuse, and John Backus. These early languages laid the foundation for developing and evolving our programming languages.

From Fortran and C to HTML, each language brought new advancements and possibilities to computer programming. The creation of these languages has shaped the way we interact with computers and pave the way for future technological advancements.


When was the first programming language created?

The first programming language was called Fortran. It was developed in the 1950s.

Why was the first programming language created?

The first programming language was created to make it easier for humans to communicate with computers and write instructions for them to follow.

What were some challenges faced in creating the first programming language?

Some challenges in creating the first programming language included designing a system that could accurately understand human commands and translate them into machine code.

How did the creation of the first programming language impact technology?

The creation of the first programming languages paved the way for advancements in technology, making computers more accessible and enabling software development on a larger scale.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *