Modern Information Technology (IT) and Computer Science (CS) sector has a lot to offer in programming – a huge list of popular and successful languages. On one hand, we have ‘high level’ programming languages, such as ‘Visual Basic’, aimed for making programming easier and fun for the novices; On the other, there is a hardware loving, low level assembly language. And there is ‘Java’, increasing its share of followers, by providing great functionality and support in terms of APIs and libraries. Added to this, there are other programming languages, with their fame and glory. So why to bother about ‘C’?
Nevertheless, there are good number of reasons why one should learn ‘C’, preferably as the first programming language.
C was developed by Dennis Ritchie at AT&T Bell Labs, in the 70s. As the ‘Programmers’ language, developed and enhanced by true programmers, it provides good mix of functionalities and constructs, standing tall to meet the programmers’ needs. This is evident from its immense popularity, even after thirty years long run.
This means there are plenty of resources available to learn from, thousands of applications and examples available to study and use.
Basis of all
C++, Java, C# – you name it, behind all these languages there is C. This is the main reason, why one should go for C as the first programming language. Object Oriented Languages such as C++ requires profound understanding of concepts like inheritance, polymorphism, virtual functions etc; thus one should try to get good hold on the basic elements of these languages and C can definitely help in that.
Middle level – Simple but Powerful
C is a middle level language. A middle level language is the one which provides a good abstraction layer over hardware still providing instructions and ways to play with ‘bits and bytes’. Thus, C provides very powerful instruction set, which can meet all the needs of the programmer.
Again, the number of keywords in the C is far less than that of a high level language such as ‘Visual Basic’. To precise, compare 32 keywords of C with more than 100 keywords of any version of ‘Basic’. Less the number of keywords, less is the efforts to remember and recall each of them, and more is the speed of learning process.
Ideal language for Embedded Systems
Anything with a processor and memory is capable of running machine instructions. An embedded system usually consists of a micro controller in its heart, rather than full fledged and powerful processors that are used in the PCs. So to work in the environment where both processing power and memory to run code is limited, available choices for programming languages reduces too.
Best candidate is Assembly language. But with the limited mnemonics (keywords) and no inbuilt constructs for basic functionality as iteration, writing readable and hassle free code is a challenge. This left the C as the optimum choice.
With C, writing programs for micro controllers is fairly simple task. And nowadays, the manufacturing companies of these chips are providing the tools and utilities that support C as the ideal language.
Speed of Execution
When it comes to speed of execution, time required for executing the code, there are not many competitors for C. As it is close to the hardware, being a middle level language, the mapping of program constructs to the equivalent machine instructions is optimum and thus the generated machine code has best possible, most optimized commands.
It’s the execution speed that makes the C, a preferable language for game programming. Even today most of the applications have the core logic return in the C.
Managing the memory is one of the most significant skills that a programmer has to master. High level languages of today such as Java provide automatic memory management technique, usually referred as ‘Garbage collector’. This seems to be very helpful in reducing the burden of the programmer, but it also limits the creativity and the flexibility with which a program can be written. For example, there is a special variable in C, called as a pointer variable which is used to handle and manipulate memory related operations. Most of modern programming languages like Java lack the pointer variables or any other way in which the memory can be manually handled.
A standardized language is one which has same implementation throughout the globe. A language which is not standardized can have many different implementations depending upon the vendor. ‘Matlab’ is one such language.
C was standardized by American National Standard Institute (ANSI) in 1989. Then it consists of 32 keywords. The version of C according to 1989 standard is called as C89. Again in 1999, the standard was refined and the new standard, C99, includes 5 more keywords to the original C language specification.
A standardized language confirms the portability and interoperability. It guarantees that the code written in the particular language will behave exactly the same way irrespective of the base compiler or interpreter used.
Model most of the domains
C models most of the domain’s problems. Let it be user applications, academics, algorithms, scientific studies, C can be used with any domain. It provides the best possible functionality and program constructs that can be used to solve any problem in most of the domains. Thus learning C ensures the introduction to vast number of application areas that will help to build the knowledge base of the programmer.
In academics and curriculum
In most of the universities and technical institutions across the world, C is usually included in the curriculum of the computer science and information technology courses, to let the students dive into the programming world for the first time. Thus learning C, beforehand, will help to excel in the academics. Also, the constraints and limitations of the C’s commands and keywords, but with the flexibility of use, will make the students think creatively and effectively to write programs which are efficient and versatile.
C was, still is one of the best programming languages. These are some of the reasons why one should choose C as the first language while entering in the world of Computer science and Information Technology.