C (Programming Language)

views updated May 18 2018


C is a high-level programming language that is used to develop many kinds of software, including applications that are used during e-commerce. High-level programming languages are much closer to human language than machine language, through which computer hardware accepts commands. High-level languages eventually get translated to machine language, which is numeric (consisting mainly of zeros and ones). C allows programmers to manipulate the main elementsbytes, bits, and addressesthat influence the way a computer functions.

Although it is a high-level language, C is capable of controlling the computer on which it operates at a low level, much like assembly languagea form of computer language that resides between machine languages and high-level languages. This enables programs written in C to perform in a very stable manner. Its mix of high-and low-level capabilities make C ideal for a wide variety of different uses. Additionally, compared to other programming languages C enables programs to be written in smaller formats that require less memory. Finally, perhaps one of the most popular features of C is its portabilitya characteristic that lies at the heart of its creation.

C was created in 1972 by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie, researchers at AT&T's Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey who also invented the UNIX operating system (a program used to operate computer systems). After creating UNIX, the two programmers needed to enable it for use on many different kinds of computers. Improving upon a language called B that Thompson had developed, they created C to accomplish this task. By doing so, they created the first portable operating system, and UNIX became the first major program to be written in the C language. According to C Programming by Augie Hansen, C went through a long period of development before it was released in Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie's 1978 book The C Programming Language. Later, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) developed a standardized version of the language to make it more acceptable for international use.

In the early 2000s, an enhanced version of C called C++ was widely used by programmers for just about every kind of program imaginable, especially on Windows and Macintosh systems. Developed at Bell Labs by Bjarne Stroustrup, C++ was effective for creating games, interpreters, spreadsheets, word processors, project managers, and more. In addition to the features of C, C++ contained many improvements, and it supported object-oriented programming (OOP)techniques that allow programmers to increase efficiency and reduce complexity.


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Hansen, Augie. C Programming. New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Publishing Co., Inc. 1989.

"The Origins of C and C++." Cyberdiem, January 30, 2001. Available from www.cyberdiem.com/vin/learn.html.



views updated May 09 2018

C A programming language originally developed for implementation of the UNIX operating system. C is the preferred language for systems software development in the UNIX environment, and is widely used on personal computers. It combines the control and data structures of a modern high-level language with the ability to address the machine hardware at a level more usually associated with assembly language. The terse syntax is attractive to professional programmers, and the compilers generate very efficient object code. C is derived from BCPL, via a short-lived predecessor B. See also Turbo languages.