Computer programming as we know it today originated in the early days of the digital age. However, its beginnings can be traced back much further. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at how and when programming was born and some of the milestones that have led to its current state. We’ll also explore some of the different programming languages that are used today. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the history of programming!

The First Programmer in History

The “Analytical Engine” was a steam-powered programmable computer designed by Charles Babbage. It was the first of its kind, and considered by many as the first computer.1 The capacity to alter its behavior by swapping out punched cards with updated instructions was its most ground-breaking function. Up until this innovation, all mechanical calculators were either simple calculators or, in the case of the Difference Engine, overly complex calculators. Although it wasn’t finished, the Analytical Engine was the first device worthy of the name “computer.”1

Ada Lovelace, a mathematician, created the first set of instructions for Babbage’s Analytical Engine, also known as an algorithm. She believed that the Analytical Engine could carry out a number of complex mathematical operations. Historians of computing believe that her description of a sequence that would allow a computer to calculate Bernoulli numbers was the first computer program. She went so far as to suggest that “other things besides numbers,” such as musical notes, might also be processed by the Analytical Engine. Unfortunately, Ada Lovelace passed away in 1852, therefore the Analytical Engine was never completed. Ada Lovelace building on the work of Babbage is widely considered the first programmer in history. 2

John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry developed the first computer machine, called the Atanasoff-Berry Computer in 1937.3 However, this machine was not programmable. In 1941, Konrad Zuse created the first programmable computer.4 His machine was called the Z3. The Z3 was used in World War II to help decode messages from the German Enigma machine. Thus, Konrad Zuse is generally credited with creating the first programming language.4

Types of Programming Languages

Programming languages can be classified into several categories. The most common classification is between compiled and interpreted languages.

Compiled languages are those that are converted into machine code by a compiler before they can be run. This machine code can be directly executed by the computer’s processor without the need for any further interpretation. Interpreted languages, on the other hand, are not converted into machine code but are instead read and executed by an interpreter line by line as the program is running.

First Programming Language

The first programming language was created in 1883 when Babbage designed the Analytical Engine.1 This machine was intended to be used for performing calculations, but it was never actually built.1 In 1937, as previously mentioned, Ada Lovelace designed a set of instructions for the Analytical Engine, which she called an algorithm, the first example of computer programming.2 However, the first programming language to be widely used was FORTRAN, which was developed in the 1950s.5 FORTRAN is still in use today, although it has been superseded by newer languages.5

The Origins of Programming

The origins of programming can be traced back to the early days of computing. In the early 1950s, a team of researchers at MIT developed a system called the Whirlwind computer, which was the first real-time computer.6 

  • This machine was one of the first to use binary code, which is the basis for all modern computers.7
  • However, it wasn’t until the 1960s that programming began to take on its modern form. This was due in part to the development of high-level programming languages like FORTRAN and COBOL. These languages allowed programmers to create software that was more reliable and easier to use.8
  • As computing became more commonplace, programming became an essential tool for businesses and individuals alike. 

Overview of the First Computer Program

According to the Computer History Museum, the first program was written in 1843 by Ada Lovelace.2 She described how the Analytical Engine could be programmed with a code to calculate Bernoulli numbers. 

What was the First Computer?

The first computers were called mainframes, and they were large, expensive machines that only businesses, government agencies, and other organizations could afford. These computers were used for things like scientific research, weather forecasting, and tracking inventory.15,14, 16

Mainframes had very little in common with the personal computers that we use today. They could only be used by trained professionals, and they filled entire rooms. However, mainframes laid the foundation for the development of modern computing. Without them, we would not have the laptops, tablets, and smartphones that we rely on today.15, 16

Five Most Popular Programming Languages

1. Java is one of the most popular programming languages in the world. By 2008, it ran on 5.5 billion devices worldwide.9 It is favored for its versatility, portability, and ease of use. Java is used for developing mobile apps, desktop apps, web apps, and more.

2. Python is another widely used programming language. It is known for its simplicity and readability. Python is often used for scientific computing, data analysis, artificial intelligence, and more.10

3. JavaScript is a popular scripting language that is used for creating interactive web pages. It is also used for developing server-side applications and mobile apps.11

4. C++ is a powerful object-oriented language that is used for developing high-performance applications. It is also commonly used in game development.12

5. C# is a general purpose programming language that enables developers to create high-quality software with well-designed code. It is widely used in web development, desktop development, game development, and more.13

Found the article helpful? Need more details on computer programming? Visit BYJU’s FutureSchool Blog.

Disclaimer: This article is being provided for informational purposes only. Any references herein to any organizations, specific programming languages, processes, or services by trade name, trademark, brand, or otherwise, do not constitute or imply endorsement or recommendation by BYJU’s FutureSchool. All trademarks and brand names are the property of their respective owners.


  1. Freiberger. (2022). Analytical Engine | Description & Facts. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from
  2. Gregersen. (2022). Ada Lovelace: The First Computer Programmer. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from
  3. Swine. (2022). Atanasoff-Berry Computer. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from
  4. Brown. (2016, May 12). Konrad Zuse’s Z3, the World’s First Programmable Computer, Was Unveiled 75 Years Ago. Inverse. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from
  5. Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2022). FORTRAN | Definition, Meaning, & Facts. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from
  6. Swaine. (2022). Whirlwind | computer. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from
  7. Bales, R. (2021, January 4). Whirlwind – Complete History of the Whirlwind Computer. History-Computer. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from
  8. Ensmenger. (2022). The Development of Computer Languages and Programmers | The Development of Computer Languages and Programmers | Retrieved November 30, 2022, from
  9. Oracle. (2022). Moved by Java Timeline | Oracle. Moved by Java Timeline | Oracle. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from
  10. What is Python? Executive Summary. (n.d.). Retrieved December 7, 2022, from
  11. Mozilla. (2022). What is JavaScript? – Learn web development | MDN. What Is JavaScript? – Learn Web Development | MDN. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from
  12. F. (2022, November 19). Why Should You Learn C++? Why Should You Learn C++? Retrieved December 7, 2022, from
  13. Microsoft Learn. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from
  14. Mainframe | Definition & Facts | Britannica. (n.d.). Retrieved December 22, 2022, from 
  15. Who uses mainframes and why do they do it? – IBM Documentation. (n.d.). Retrieved December 22, 2022, from 
  16. History of Computers. (n.d.). Retrieved December 22, 2022, from 

About the Author

More than just Coding and Math! Our proprietary, activity-based curriculum with live, real-time instruction facilitates: Problem Solving. Creative Thinking. Grit. Confidence. Communication