Programming Languages

“Computer, scan the surface for lifeforms.”

“Hey Siri, what movies are playing nearby?”

Even though today’s tech makes it seem like computers understand spoken language, the devices do not use English, Chinese, Spanish, etc. to carry out their jobs. Instead, programmers must write their instructions in a form that computers understand.

Computers operate using binary code, which consists only of 0s and 1s. For example, here is the binary version of the text Hello World:

01001000 01100101 01101100 01101100 01101111 00100000 01010111 01101111 01110010 01101100 01100100

Each set of 8 digits represents one character in the text. To make things a little easier, binary data may also be represented as hexadecimal values. Here is Hello World expressed in hex:

48 65 6c 6c 6f 20 57 6f 72 6c 64

To run an algorithm, all of the steps must be written in binary or hex so the computer can understand the instructions.


Fortunately, we do not need to worry about binary or hexadecimal code to make our programs work!


Writing code using only 0s and 1s would be impractical, so many clever individuals designed ways to convert between the text readable by humans and the binary or hexadecimal forms needed by machines.

A programming language is a set of specific words and rules for teaching a computer how to perform a desired task. Examples of programming languages include Python, JavaScript, Basic, COBOL, C++, C#, Java, and many others.

These high-level languages can be written and understood by humans, and each one has its own characteristic vocabulary, style, and syntax.

How Computers Run Programs

Since computers only understand binary code, every programming language contains a special set of instructions that translate a programmer’s work into the 0s and 1s that the machines need.

If we want to print Hello, World! on the screen, we would write the instructions in our chosen programming language, then select “Run”. Our code gets compiled or interpreted, which converts our typed commands into something the computer can use. The instructions are then executed by the machine, and we observe the results.

diagram of code moving from IDE to compiler to Hexadecimal to monitor

In the example above, the syntax for printing Hello, World! varies between the Python, JavaScript, and Java languages, but the end result is the same.

How Many Programming Languages Are There?

Ask Google, “How many programming languages are there?” and many results get returned. Even with all these options, there is no specific answer to the question.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of programming languages available. However, most are either obsolete, impractical or too specialized to be widely used.

Arguments occur whenever someone makes a top 10 list for programming languages, but regardless of the opinions, one fact remains. Once you learn one language, learning the next is much, much easier. Adding a third becomes child’s play.

The reason for this is that thinking like a coder does not change with the language. Your logic, reasoning, and problem-solving skills apply just as well for JavaScript as they do for Python, Swift, and C#. To display text on the screen in Python, we use print(), for JavaScript we use console.log();, for C# the command is Console.WriteLine();. The syntax, or code, for each language varies, but the results are identical.