High-Level Vs Low-Level Programming Languages


High-Level Vs Low-Level Programming Languages

The computer is a processor which understands only 0’s & 1’s. This is because it is made up of a large number of switches that can be either on or off.
When we give commands to a computer by writing code, we are essentially just deciding the states of these switches. Hence, the computer understands only 0’s & 1’s. But it is not easy for us to write code in 0’s & 1’s. What would you understand when you see the code below:

11100001 11110000 10101010 00110011 00011100
11111100 00111000 00011101 01010110 11100001

Not much, right? Or maybe you do, but most don’t. So, programming languages are created. Using these languages, we can write code in a better and more understandable way but the code would still be translated into 0 & 1 because that is the only thing the computer knows. The translation is done by what is known as a compiler.

For example, we can write code in hexadecimal, which really reduces the length of it’s binary equivalent and hence, is much easier for us to write. But it is still very hard to understand. So, we started to introduce English words into the code. We can do big things by just small English words without writing all the hex code.
The compiler would then convert those English words to the equivalent machine code (code which the machine understands).

Hence, all the programming languages that are closer to the machine code (code which the computer understands) are low-level languages and the ones which are closer to the English language (what humans understand) are high-level languages. Languages might contain keywords and sentences from the English words or words derived from the English words. They may be short and misspelled versions of the English words.

programming levels

Now, if high-level languages are similar to English and hence, very easy to understand and write, then why do we need low-level languages? The answer is simple.
High-level languages need to be converted to low-level and hence, have slower execution and also a larger file size than the low-level counterparts for the same code.

So, there is a trade-off between high-level and low-level programming languages. The advantages and disadvantages of both high-level and low-level languages are given below. The first two are the advantages of high-level languages over low-level languages while the last two are advantages of low-level languages over high-level languages.

High-Level Vs Low-Level Languages:

High-Level Languages Low-Level Languages
Low development time High development time
Easy to write and edit Difficult to write and edit
Slower execution Faster execution
Larger file size Small file size

Note that the level of language is also, in many cases, decided relative to other languages. For example, compared to machine language(which is the lowest level of all languages), C is a higher-level languages but compared to Java, it is a lower level language.

But, in general, C is a mid-level language since it contains elements from the English language as well as a number of machine friendly constructs. Hence, C programming language has both advantages – high development speed as well as compact size of program.

SEE ALSO Binary Search in C


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