beanz Magazine

C

Wikipedia

Learn why this powerful, 40-year old language is still popular today.

For this issue’s highlighted language, we’re going really old-school. We’re going to talk about one of the early workhorse languages used to program hardware and write operating systems for over 40 years: C!

C is old, but still incredibly important. All major operating systems today have a core of millions of lines of C code. That’s not just “legacy” code either, left behind because it was too much of a pain to migrate to something more modern. No, C is a useful and indispensable language with few true competitors (except, perhaps, for Rust which we’ll talk about in a future issue).

“But what if I don’t want to write an operating system?” you might ask. Even still, if you want to program an Arduino or code up something for embedded hardware you’re going to want to use C.

Now that I’ve hyped it, let’s talk about exactly what C is and why it’s so unique and important. To explain that, we’re going to take a digression to talk about runtime systems for programming languages.

When you write code in Scratch, Python, Ruby, or most other languages you never have to think about how the data you use gets made. You can create a list or an array and just add elements to it as you need. When you’re done using those data structures you can just forget about them and they’ll be taken care of, erased by the garbage collector at runtime. If you’re wondering what a garbage collector is, you can check out an older article here. The short-and-sweet version is that a garbage collector for a programming language is code that takes care of figuring out what data is no longer used in the program, chooses when to get rid of it, and then destroys the old data in order to free up memory.

 

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Also In The February 2019 Issue

The craft world and the tech world collide in this fun, hands-on activity.

For twenty three years, since 1996, cars have used computers to control different parts of the car.

Synchronizing games with players from all around the world is no easy task.

A simple thought experiment sheds light on the dangers of AI. Can we stop the earth being buried in paperclips?

‘Files’ may be easy concepts for humans, but not for computers. What’s going on inside your operating system?

Two ways to play Minecraft with an overarching storyline. Experience the game like never before!

Helping kids fall in love with coding through Minecraft mods and Raspberry Pis.

A better, smoother way to direct your theatrical masterpiece.

How hackers can steal the messages you send over the internet, and how to tell if your communications are secure.

It’s not as simple as it seems. Can you solve this classic programming problem?

Ever wondered what happens when you connect to a website? Time to dive into the secrets of networking!

Links from the bottom of all the February 2019 articles, collected in one place for you to print, share, or bookmark.

Interesting stories about science and technology for February 2019.