Computer Science Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

Which was the first computer language?

Expert Answers info

Stephen Wamaitha eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write345 answers

starTop subjects are Business, Literature, and History

It is difficult to clearly state the first computer language, because the machines went through a series of changes and developments. In other words, the programming language was different for every computer.

The first programming language was written in the 1840s by Ada Lovelace. She wrote down the code for assessing Bernoulli numbers with the Analytical Engine. However, her program was only theoretical, and it was never fully implemented. Although many acknowledge her genius, her code is not recognized as the first official computer language.

In the 1940s, Konrad Zuse wrote the first high-level program for an electronic computer. It was called Plankalkul, and it was not implemented until 1998. Given the length of time it took to make Zuse's program functional, the language is not considered as the first programming language.

That honor goes to FORTRAN, which was the first fully functional program for a computer. It was launched in 1957 by IBM.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

brettd eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write4,576 answers

starTop subjects are History, Social Sciences, and Literature

I believe the computer language you are looking for in this answer is called FORTRAN.  This was really the first high level programming language, invented by scientists and mathematicians in the 1950s working for International Business Machines (IBM).

FORTRAN's name comes from The IBM Mathematical Formula Translating System. A man anmed John W. Backus was credited with the original idea and proposal, though people didn't think it was practical until they really started to develop the idea as a team.  The first computer to use this language was not launched until 1957.

It was also the first computer language that operated on a number of computing platforms, sort of a very primitive, early forerunner of Bill Gates' MS-DOS.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial



krishna-agrawala | Student

Computer language, or, more correctly, computer programming language are systems of notations and instructions used to instruct or program a computer to perform the operations it is required to perform. The programming languages are classified as fist generation (1G), Second generation (2G) and third Generation (3G) according to the extent of detailed instructions required to be specified. 1G languages, also called machine languages, were the first ones to be developed that specified detailed operation to be performed by the machine. Such programming languages were specific to each type of computer. Such languages, developed in early 1950,s were used by earliest computers like UNIVAC I.

The Machine languages were very cumbersome to use, as each operation by the computer had to be specified in great detail. To make things easier, the 2G languages were developed later in 1950's 1950's. These languages called assemblers or assembly language, that included facility to specify operations using mnemonics and micro instructions. These languages were also machine specific. The computer itself was programmed to convert the program written in these languages to machine language.

Finally, starting from late 1950's the 3G languages made it possible to specify the operations to be performed by computer  in terms of simple arithmetical formula, logic, or other simple words and phrases in English language. These included Languages such as FORTRAN and COBOL. These two names have been formed by shortening the phrases "formula translation" and "common business oriented language".