Thursday, September 3, 2009

Introduction to Programming language C

C is a programming language developed at AT & T’s Bell Laboratories of USA in 1972. It was designed and written by a man named Dennis Ritchie. In the late seventies C began to replace the more familiar languages of that time like PL/I, ALGOL, etc. No one pushed C. It wasn’t made the ‘official’ Bell Labs language. Thus, without any advertisement C’s reputation spread and its pool of users grew. Ritchie seems to have been rather surprised that so many programmers preferred C to older languages like FORTRAN or PL/I, or the newer ones like Pascal and APL. But, that's what happened. Possibly why C seems so popular is because it is reliable, simple and easy to use. Moreover, in an industry where newer languages, tools and technologies emerge and vanish day in and day out, a language that has survived for more than 3 decades has to be really good.


I believe that nobody can learn C++ or Java directly. This is because while learning these languages you have things like classes, objects, inheritance, polymorphism, templates, exception handling, references, etc. do deal with apart from knowing the actual language elements. Learning these complicated concepts when you are not even comfortable with the basic language elements is like putting the cart before the horse. Hence one should first learn all the language elements very thoroughly using C language before migrating to C++, C# or Java. Though this two step learning process may take more time, but at the end of it you will definitely find it worth the trouble.

C++, C# or Java make use of a principle called Object Oriented Programming (OOP) to organize the program. This organizing principle has lots of advantages to offer. But even while using this organizing principle you would still need a good hold over the language elements of C and the basic programming skills.

Though many C++ and Java based programming tools and frameworks have evolved over the years the importance of C is still unchallenged because knowingly or unknowingly while using these frameworks and tools you would be still required to use the core C language elements—another good reason why one should learn C before C++, C# or Java.

Major parts of popular operating systems like Windows, UNIX, Linux is still written in C. This is because even today when it comes to performance (speed of execution) nothing beats C. Moreover, if one is to extend the operating system to work with new devices one needs to write device driver programs. These programs are exclusively written in C.

Mobile devices like cellular phones and palmtops are becoming increasingly popular. Also, common consumer devices like microwave oven, washing machines and digital cameras are getting smarter by the day. This smartness comes from a microprocessor, an operating system and a program embedded in this devices. These programs not only have to run fast but also have to work in limited amount of memory. No wonder that such programs are written in C. With these constraints on time and space, C is the language of choice while building such operating systems and programs.

You must have seen several professional 3D computer games where the user navigates some object, like say a spaceship and fires bullets at the invaders. The essence of all such games is speed. Needless to say, such games won't become popular if they takes a long time to move the spaceship or to fire a bullet. To match the expectations of the player the game has to react fast to the user inputs. This is where C language scores over other languages. Many popular gaming frameworks have been built using C language.

At times one is required to very closely interact with the hardware devices. Since C provides several language elements that make this interaction feasible without compromising the performance it is the preferred choice of the programmer.

I hope that these are very convincing reasons why one should adopt C as the first and the very important step in your quest for learning programming languages.

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