Why do we have different programming languages?

Programming - Mar 31, 2024

“But why do I have to learn Python?” She wailed, “I like Scratch!”

“I know,” I said, “But there are different programming languages for different sorts of tasks.”

“That’s stupid” she said

I can empathize with the little girl in Terence Eden’s story. In high school, I got super into Turbo Pascal. I felt like I could do a lot of stuff in it. Then I went to college. The first course I took was Java and the second was Assembly. I remember feeling so resentful. Why couldn’t I just program in the language I already felt comfortable with? I spent four years feeling that way and then changed majors. I’m a little more adventurous now with my language galavanting, but not terribly.

The answer to why we have different programming languages is because they do different things to some degree. There are indeed cases where something could have written the same way in multiple languages, and you picked the one that you prefer.

The real answer is that some programming nerd (in the most endearing way) thought they could make a better language that (likely) reflects modern needs and styles. So they did and convinced a bunch of other nerds that it was a good idea, allowing the language to gain steam. It’s a miracle of sorts.

We don’t see it on the client-side web because it would probably be easier to colonize Mars than get all the major browsers to ship an entirely new language. The web sees innovation through slow evolution and at the framework level.

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