Most Popular Programming Languages 1965-2019

I find this absolutely fascinating. I’ve programmed in Fortran, Pascal, Basic, Assembler, C, C++, Javascript and Python lived long enough to see quite the fashion for most of these languages come and go on a relatively short timescale. Perhaps it provides a salutary lesson for those who think their current Python codes will always be useful?

14 Responses to “Most Popular Programming Languages 1965-2019”

  1. That was very entertaining. I took my first programming class in 1970. Fortran, of course.

  2. My first program was in (Pegasus?) autocode in about 1966 on an English Electric DEUCE – so called because it was the second computer they had built. MTBF was about 5 minutes. There was a walkway down the middle so the valves could be changed.
    Algol68 (with the RSRE Malvern compiler) was the most satisfying language I ever used – even better than PDP8 assembler.

  3. Even more depressing than seeing Fortran drop off the chart in 1998 is the fact that the midpoint is not until 1992! 😐

  4. C probably became popular in large part because unix is written in C and, in order to recompile the kernel, every unix implementation must have at least a minimal C compiler.

    Of course, which language is most popular depends very much on the area of use. In some fields, Fortran still reigns supreme, as it is the best at what it does. I know people hiring—young—COBOL programmers.

  5. Of course, real programmers use FORTRAN. (Note that a good Fortran programmer can program Fortran in any language.)

    (The WordPress spell checker is behind the times, because it thinks that Fortran must be all upper case. Those times are long gone, both in the source code and in the name of the language. Most people here probably wouldn’t recognize Fortran at all, and those who do might not recognize modern Fortran.)

  6. John Peacock Says:

    Looking at this history makes me happy that I resisted passing temptations of trying to get fully proficient in C and Java. But I am spending increasing time writing Python. This is not driven by the language as such (although it does have enough similarity to Fortran that I don’t spend all my time being irritated by the syntax) – but it’s the extensive free powerful packages that make the difference. My gateway drug was HealPy, as there seemed no other free way to manipulate Healpix maps (although I did get as far as writing Fortran that could deal with the coordinate system and read/write Healpix maps). The Python libraries have the usual deficiencies of encouraging people to use black boxes with insufficient understanding, but I suppose the older generation has no right to be critical: I’ve written innumerable lines of Fortran that use an FFT subroutine, but I’ve never understood in full detail how it works. And I have zero understanding of how Fortran compilers can turn my equations into machine code. Anyway, as the set of free applications grows, it will make it harder for a new language to supplant Python, so my guess is that its new dominance will last longer than some of the short-lived champions of years gone by.

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