Over the years there have been a huge number of different programming languages released and used. Most of these different programming languages have been proven popular for different applications. If you have worked in the IT industry during the late 1990s, you probably remember the rush to find programmers who knew COBOL. This was one of the first business-focused programming languages, praised for its stability and robustness more than its speed or ease of use.
However, when the concerns about the millennium bug surfaced, businesses needed to find programmers who knew enough COBOL. They are the ones qualified enough to ‘fix’ the legacy applications that were powering banks, utility companies and other large enterprise companies. This meant that many younger programmers were in a rush to learn this old, outdated language.
Most of the younger programmers, however, prefer more the modern languages. Beginners often learn with Visual BASIC or with an education-specific language such as Smalltalk. This teaches object-oriented programming concepts. This language will stand the beginner in good stead when they move on to other languages.
FORTRAN is another language used in the world of science which enjoyed a similar resurgence in popularity. However, the most important languages are the ones that are used in real businesses today. C++ and C#, for example, are fast, stable and highly flexible languages that are ideal for writing desktop applications. Java is another very popular language which is praised for its portability. Java applications can be written on one platform and then executed on many others. This is because the Java ‘just in time compiler’ handles the execution of the program, rather than the program being compiled before it is run, and the executable being sent to the user. This means that you can write an application on Windows and have it run on Linux, Mac OS and any other popular platform.
Web applications consist of a front end and a back end. In terms of programming language popularity, there was a time when Perl and PHP were the two most popular languages for back-end coding, with MySQL being the database of choice. This is no longer really the case. Technologies such as Ruby on Rails are becoming more popular because they are highly structured and stable. This means that it is going to be easier for developers who are making big, complex web applications to create code that is easy to maintain.
If you are considering learning a programming language, the popularity of the language today should not really be your primary concern, at least not for your first language. Try to pick something that is easy to learn and teaches good practice. Procedural languages, for example, are probably a waste because most languages are object-oriented these days. Something like Python, which is quite beginner-friendly, is a good choice. This is because the lessons you’ll learn while getting to grips with Python will serve you well for other languages as well.
Pick a programming language that interests you. It must be something that has a strong following online so that you can easily ask for help. From there, you will be able to learn other languages quite easily. You will also have a long and successful career as a programmer – focusing on desktop, web or cross device application development as your mood takes you.