When it comes to programming, there are really two types of language: legacy languages and modern languages. Legacy languages are languages that have always and likely will always be in demand. These are languages that are still extremely well-supported and have been consistently developed; knowing them will undoubtedly always be valuable. But there are also modern languages that are fairly new and state-of-the-art. A talented programmer will often know a mix of these.
The Legacy Languages
It’s easy to understand why some languages have remained in vogue. After all, a language is a method of communication. Once languages become popular, they become well-supported; once they are well-supported, they become entrenched. These languages have existed for two decades or more and have been improved upon throughout this time. They are superb foundational tools.
- C. C has now separated into C, C++, and C#. All of these are object-oriented iterations of the same language, but they’re also very different. C is widely considered to be defunct, while C++ is considered to be the natural evolution of the language. C# is newer still.
- Java. Java is still one of the most accessible cross-platform languages available today. Over the years, Java has become even better optimized and standardized, making it one of the most important languages for any programmer to learn.
- Python. Python is often lauded as one of the most accessible languages available. Python has a fairly low learning curve and has been used to introduce programmers into the field for decades.
- PHP. PHP remains the foremost language of web development. Web designers, web developers, and web engineers will all virtually require a strong background in PHP. Though ASP is still a competitor, it accounts for only a fraction of the web applications in use today.
- SQL. Database architecture and administration is nearly always done in SQL today. Structured Query Language (SQL) isn’t technically a programming language as such, it’s a query language. Data scientists and analysts will need to understand SQL if they are to build database-intensive applications.
Most programmers should know at least one or two of these legacy languages. The downside to legacy languages, however, is that everyone knows them. Because everyone knows these languages, it is a very competitive market; it’s difficult to distinguish yourself as a C programmer or a Java programmer.
The Modern Languages
Modern languages have often been developed to answer very specific questions. Because the legacy languages have general purpose skills essentially locked down, these tools are designed to be better. In order to be better than such a comprehensive language, these languages have to be specialized.
- Hack. Some believe that Hack may be the successor to PHP. Facebook recently transitioned much of its code base from PHP to Hack, leading many developers to gain an interest. Hack is designed to be more structured and better optimized than PHP.
- Swift. Perhaps the most popular of the new languages, Swift was specifically developed for iOS programming. Invented in 2014, Swift is very similar to C++ and Objective-C. Developers who are interested in focusing on mobile development may find Swift extremely useful, especially for rapid deployment.
- Google Go. Google Go is a programming language developed by Google employees to supplant Java, C++, and other similar legacy languages. Though it has understandably taken some time to gain traction, it has been used by some extensive projects such as BBC and SoundCloud.
Those who want to specialize can differentiate themselves from their competition through the knowledge of these modern languages. Modern languages tend to be more focused and rigidly structured, but by the same token they may not have as much support.
Ideally, most programmers will have a fairly wide arsenal of languages they know. Foundation languages such as the legacy languages will likely be desired for many years to come, but those on the cusp of technology may find themselves even more sought after on the open job marketplace. For more information about the languages that are most in demand, you may want to review the job listings available at Software Specialists.