Today, computer programming has become an essential part of our lives. Most devices we use regularly, such as smartphones, TVs, and computers, employ computer programming. 

People and machines speak different languages, so we need an additional medium to complete the translation. Programming languages have evolved to bridge the gap between both.

Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace created the first machine-understandable language in 1883. They created the language for their analytical engine.1 While Babbage was more concerned with using the computer only for counting purposes, Lovelace discovered that computers are capable of more than just counting.

At that time, Lovelace wrote the first algorithm.2 No one had written an algorithm before that. So, Lovelace is considered to have developed the first computer language. After that, new devices made it possible to create more languages.

History of Computer Programming Languages

Programming languages are used to develop many software applications. They are the set of instructions that helps the program to instruct the computer to perform certain specific tasks. 

Most programming languages have similar syntax. Some languages are low-level while others are mid or high-level.

Initially, there were only low-level languages, but now many more advanced programming languages have been developed. 

  • Analytical Engine Algorithm: In 1883, Ada Lovelace created this language with Charles Babbage to compute Bernoulli’s numbers.2 It is considered to be the first programming language.
  • Assembly Language: In 1949, the first electronic delay storage automatic calculator was created to simplify the machine code.11 Assembly language is a low-level programming language designed to understand instructions in the form of human-readable code and transmit them to machine language for further processing.
  • Autocode: In 1952, the generic term Autocode evolved as a family of early computer programming languages.4 Some people consider it the first compiled computer programming language. Compilation means the language can be directly translated to machine code using a translator program known as a compiler.
  • Fortran: In 1957, John Backus created this language to make statistical, mathematical, and scientific processes easier.5 The name of the language came from Formula Translation. Still popular today, Fortran is another of the first programming languages.3
  • Algol: In 1958, the international committee of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) created this language to compute and publish algorithms.12 The term was derived from Algorithmic Language. Many languages, including Pascal, C, C++, and Java, are inspired by Algol.
  • COBOL: In 1959, Dr. Grace Murray Hopper invented this language.6 The language is used even today in many places and can be run on any computer system. This popular programming language is usually used in government agencies, banks, and other public places.
  • LISP: In 1958, LISP, the second most popular programming language was developed.13 LISP is even used today for applications where Ruby and Python are used.
  • BASIC: In 1964, John G. Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz of Dartmouth College developed BASIC language.7 The purpose of developing the language was to enable students and non-technical persons to write programs or code. BASIC is short for Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. Bill Gates and Paul Allen famously used it. 
  • Pascal: In 1970, Niklaus Wirth developed this language.8 It was thus named in honor of Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician and physicist. Pascal was used in teaching and became the basis for many languages that came after it. 
  • Smalltalk: In 1972, Smalltalk was created by Alan Kay, Adele Goldberg, and Dan Ingalls at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center.9 Smalltalk has many other programming languages aspects similar to Python, Java, and Ruby.
  • C: In 1972. Dennis Richie developed this popular and useful programming language at Bell Labs.10 Many users consider C as the first high-level computer. C was created so that many other operating systems could use the language. C influenced the evolution of many other programming languages, including Java, JavaScript, Perl, Python, and Ruby.

The First Widely Used Programming Language

In 1949, the assembly language evolved. It was widely used in Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculators.11 Assemble was the first low-level programming language involving the specific instructions required to operate a computer.

Computer programming has become very basic and important for everyone in this era. But throughout its history, it has seen many ups and downs. If you have a keen interest in the digital world, then you should know the complete history of programming languages. 

At the time of evolution, computer programming languages were much more complicated. The developers have to input the code manually into computer machines. But now the languages have quickly transformed from machine codes to human-readable languages and code. Languages have changed since their evolution. 

Currently Used and Popular Old Computer Languages

In 1957, John Backus created Fortran (the short form of Formula Translation).5 This language is used today as well for different purposes. The language was designed to perform statistical, mathematical, and scientific work. Some other languages that are even used today include:

  • Algol
  • LISP

These languages, like Algol, were designed to perform scientific calculations. Grace Murray Hopper developed COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language), which could run on most platforms.6 Today, the language is still used in credit card processing, hospital computers, ATMs, traffic signals, automotive systems, and others.

Programming language evolution has been much more interesting. If you want to learn more about programming languages, head over to BYJU’s FutureSchool Blog.


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  2. L. (2018, July 24). The World’s 1st Computer Algorithm, Written by Ada Lovelace, Sells for $125,000 at Auction. Retrieved November 15, 2022, from
  3. FORTRAN Programming Language Explained. (2019, February 23). ThoughtCo. Retrieved November 15, 2022, from
  4. Autocode – Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core. (n.d.). Autocode – Infogalactic: The Planetary Knowledge Core. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from
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  6. COBOL | Definition & Facts. (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from
  7. Nast, C., & W. (2008, May 1). May 1, 1964: First Basic Program Runs. WIRED. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from
  8. Computer Pioneers – Niklaus Wirth. (n.d.). Computer Pioneers – Niklaus Wirth. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from
  9. Dan Ingalls on the History of Smalltalk and the Lively Kernel. (2010, June 22). InfoQ. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from
  10. The C Programming Language – Wikipedia. (2015, January 31). The C Programming Language – Wikipedia. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from
  11. EDSAC | computer | Britannica. (n.d.). Retrieved December 12, 2022, from 
  12. ALGOL | computer language | Britannica. (n.d.). Retrieved December 12, 2022, from 
  13. Computer programming history. (n.d.). Retrieved December 12, 2022, from 

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