How today’s new programming languages are eclipsing the “dead”
- The rise and fall of programming languages is a constant in this evolving field.
In the realm of programming languages, the term ‘dead’ is often used to describe languages that have fallen out of popular use. These languages are less likely to be used in new projects, learned by new programmers, or listed as requirements in job postings. They often see a decline in upkeep and updates, with their creators or online communities ceasing to maintain them over time. However, it’s worth noting that these languages rarely die out completely. Let’s explore some of these ‘dead’ or ‘dying’ languages below.
Top “dead” programming languages
COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language)
Developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s, COBOL was designed for business data processing needs. It is known for its readability and strong governmental and financial systems use. Despite being considered “outdated” by some due to its lengthy nature and procedural programming model, it powers many legacy systems.
A large portion of the world’s active financial transactions are processed in COBOL. The number of new projects in COBOL is dwindling, and the developer community is not as vibrant as for other languages, creating a demand for programmers who can maintain existing COBOL systems.
Fortran, short for Formula Translation, was developed by IBM in the 1950s for scientific and engineering computations. Known for its performance in numeric computation and array programming, Fortran is still used in numerical weather prediction, computational fluid dynamics, and computational physics.
While it’s not a common choice for new projects outside these fields, it maintains a solid user base in high-performance computing.
Pascal was developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s to encourage good programming practices using structured and data structuring. It was widely used in academia for teaching computer science in the ’80s and ’90s. While Pascal itself has largely fallen out of use, its descendants, like Delphi, a language aimed at Windows application development, are still active.
Pascal’s influence can also be seen in some modern languages, like Swift, which adopted some of its syntax and conventions.
Microsoft developed Visual Basic (VB), designed to be easily learnable for beginners with a graphical environment where developers could drag-and-drop components to build Windows applications. Older versions of Visual Basic (VB6 and earlier) have been declared legacy by Microsoft, but the language’s successor, VB.NET, is still in use as part of the Microsoft .NET framework.
Although it’s less popular than C# for .NET development, VB.NET maintains a niche within the developer community, particularly for in-house and enterprise applications in businesses heavily invested in Microsoft technologies.
Objective-C, developed in the 1980s, has been a significant language in Apple’s software ecosystem, playing a pivotal role in creating iOS-powered products. Its syntax has roots in the SmallTalk language. While it once appeared that Objective-C could secure a lasting place among the most influential programming languages, it has struggled to maintain its grip on the development market. Its dwindling popularity can be attributed to security concerns and an outdated structure.
Apple has shifted its focus towards Swift 14 for product development, which will likely render Objective-C obsolete in the coming years. Despite this, some iOS developers continue to use Objective-C, demonstrating its enduring accessibility. A crucial question for Apple developers now is the choice between Swift and Objective-C, which demands careful consideration.
Perl has had a successful stint in web development and network programming. However, its popularity has been diminishing. This is primarily due to its resource-intensive nature, hefty memory demands, and limited portability. Nevertheless, Perl still finds some use in web development and text processing.
But with more powerful and user-friendly languages like Python gaining ground, Perl faces stiff competition. It wouldn’t be surprising if Perl’s appeal fades even further in the coming years.
However, between 2013 and 2018, CoffeeScript’s popularity waned, primarily due to its compilation process and changeability. Post-2018, this scripting language no longer holds the attention of programmers as it once did. Therefore, if you’re a developer considering a new skill, it might be time to move past CoffeeScript.
Haskell, an older, statically typed general-purpose language, draws from other languages, including Clean, HOPE, and Miranda. It’s particularly suited for symbolic computations and finds application in research and industry. Its appeal lies in the brevity of its code, robust language principles, and high reliability.
Yet, despite these intriguing features, Haskell’s relevance has been diminishing. Its last stable release was nearly a decade ago, and its static typing, coupled with a steep learning curve, has failed to keep it high on the list of preferred programming languages.
The mainstream is taking over
Just watch the video below on the top programming language recommended to get a job:
Since its inception, Python has emphasized simplicity and an optimal developer experience, making programming more accessible. Today, Python is the leading language in data science and engineering. Moreover, it consistently ranks among the top three languages in numerous other domains.
Java enjoyed an unrivaled popularity streak for a considerable period, largely due to its Virtual Machine: JVM, an exquisite feat of software engineering. However, Java’s appeal has seen a decline due to its stagnation and lack of innovation over the past decade, particularly in the face of the rising prominence of containerization and cloud computing.
C#, introduced in the early 2000s, is a versatile language that gleaned inspiration from Java and then refined those elements for improved syntactic expressiveness. Microsoft’s hefty investment has molded C# into a powerful language, extensively employed in enterprise software and game development.
Microsoft’s recent contributions to the community have included numerous open-source projects, including C#. With ongoing innovation and reinvention, C# currently stands as one of the most widely accepted business programming languages.
While Rust hasn’t yet reached mainstream status, it holds the potential to become the ‘Esperanto’ of programming languages. It blends many features from existing languages, boasting the power and low-level access of C/C++, the safety of Python/Java, and the expressiveness and functional capabilities of Haskell/ML.
Though Rust competes with heavyweights like C and C++, it’s far from being a niche language. Tech giants like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Apple have started investing heavily in Rust, even though these companies traditionally prioritize their languages. This interest from significant players could significantly bolster Rust’s standing in the programming world.
It’s worth noting that even “dead” languages can have their uses. For example, maintaining legacy systems, understanding historical code, or learning about the evolution of programming paradigms and constructs. Furthermore, these “dead” languages often have influenced or given birth to other more modern and widely used languages.
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