Topics / Hardware and Software / High and Low Level Languages

High and Low Level Languages

A computer program is a list of instructions that enable a computer to perform a specific task.

Computer programs can be written in high and low level languages, depending on the task and the hardware being used.

When we think about computer programmers, we are probably thinking about people who write in high-level languages.


High Level Languages

High level languages are written in a form that is close to our human language, enabling to programmer to just focus on the problem being solved.

No particular knowledge of the hardware is needed as high level languages create programs that are portable and not tied to a particular computer or microchip.

These programmer friendly languages are called ‘high level’ as they are far removed from the machine code instructions understood by the computer.

Examples include: C++, Java, Pascal, Python, Visual Basic.

Advantages

  • Easier to modify as it uses English like statements
  • Easier/faster to write code as it uses English like statements
  • Easier to debug during development due to English like statements
  • Portable code – not designed to run on just one type of machine

Low Level Languages

Low level languages are used to write programs that relate to the specific architecture and hardware of a particular type of computer.

They are closer to the native language of a computer (binary), making them harder for programmers to understand.

Low level refers to:

Assembly Language

Few programmers write programs in low level assembly language, but it is still used for developing code for specialist hardware, such as device drivers.

It is easy distinguishable from a high level language as it contains few recognisable human words but plenty of mnemonic code.

Advantages

  • Can make use of special hardware or special machine-dependent instructions (e.g. on the specific chip)
  • Translated program requires less memory
  • Write code that can be executed faster
  • Total control over the code
  • Can work directly on memory locations

Machine Code

Programmers rarely write in machine code (binary) as it is difficult to understand.

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