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programming language

A programming language is a formal language along with computational semantics used for writing programs, which instruct a machine (physical or virtual) to perform some kind of computation, operation, and/or organize the flow of data and control between devices. Programming languages are typically intended to be used by humans, but may also be a result of a source code generator. Programming languages can be used to create programs by implementing various algorithms that change the control flow depending on various conditions that occur.


In the late 1700s, the British mathematician, Charles Babbage invented the concept of a programmable computer with the design of the Difference engine. The original design was to make a mechanical calculator for computing polynomials. While the original machine was never fully completed due to multiple reasons, his concepts have lived on. In 1837 Babbage described plans for an Analytical Engine. His computer was designed to be digital, programmable using punch cards, with memory for up to 1000 numbers. Had it been completed, it would have been the first Turing-complete computational machine.

The 1900s brought the formalization of programming languages through mathematical abstractions and algorithms due to concepts such as Alonzo Church's lambda calculus and Alan Turing's Turing machines.

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