beanz Magazine

What is a High Level Language?

Bob Manson (North Shore Rescue) on Flickr

What are the differences between high level languages and machine languages? And how do these differences impact coding?

Python, Perl, Haskell, Lua, and many other programming languages are high level languages. When you code with these languages, you use familiar concepts, for example, loops and data stores.

However, your code is processed by the computer with very different often unfamiliar concepts such as binary numbers and machine language. These internal details are hidden from high level languages. For example, you do not need to know how to assign data to a specific memory register in your computer when you assign a value to a variable in PHP.

Where do high level languages come from? Machine languages, the first computer programming languages, evolved into assembly languages which evolved into high level languages.

Machine languages deal directly with registers to store data and memory addresses for the computer hardware. Assembly languages only work with a specific computer processor and environment. Assembly languages are compiled (or converted) into machine code by a software utility called an assembler. The machine code is then run on a computer.

In contrast, high level languages work with many different operating systems and deal with variables, arrays, and other other abstract ideas easily understood by humans. The conversion from high level to machine code is transparent to coders and people who use software created by high level programming languages.

There are a other useful details to know about high level programming languages:how they are executed, how they work internally, and how they work with data.


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