Researching career paths as diverse as mobile app development, AI programming, high-performance computing, and embedded hardware can turn up recommendations to learn one of the many variants of the C programming language. C is an old, powerful language whose descendants are used in numerous projects.
But with so many offshoots of C, it can be difficult to understand their differences, which makes choosing one to learn all the more frustrating. Career Karma knows all about how important choosing the right language to learn is, so we’re here to help.
Background on the C Languages
The original variant of C was invented in the 1970’s by the world-famous master programmer Dennis Richie. He built it to facilitate the development of new iterations of Unix, a popular open source operating system. Prior to C, Unix development had been done in Assembly. This is the lowest level programming a person can do, only one or two steps above 1s and 0s.
Though C is considered a low-level language, it’s still higher-level than Assembly, and Unix development became much easier.
PhD student Bjarne Stroustrup developed the intermediate programming language C++ a decade later. His goal was to take C and add features of object-oriented programming to make it more powerful without sacrificing the efficiency of C.
Microsoft team built C# in the early 2000’s. It’s a high-level language, which means it handles things like variable checking and garbage collection, which low-level languages don’t do. In many ways, C# is more complicated than C or C++, but since its syntax makes it easier to avoid mistakes, it can be easier to learn.
Objective-C is another object-oriented descendant of C with syntax differences that make it better suited to tasks like GUI design than C++.
How Are the Major Varieties of C Used?
C remains one of the most widely-used programming languages of all time. It’s still used to program operating systems and embedded-systems hardware. Many open source projects are also written in C.
C++ is also widely used. Lots of applications, like Adobe Illustrator and Google Chrome, are built in C++. For building something resource intensive like a game, C++ offers the benefits of being close to the hardware without the difficulty of writing code in old-fashioned C.
As C# was developed at Microsoft, it’s typically used in conjunction with Microsoft’s .NET framework. C# finds use in developing web applications, web services, software for the Windows platform, and even unexpected places like control systems for factor robotics.
Finally, Objective-C finds most of its use in development of iOS applications. Early on, Apple turned to Objective-C because they wanted an object-oriented language to work in, and this was before there were many, many such languages available. Objective-C isn’t strictly limited to Apple projects, but these are the only mainstream uses of Objective-C
Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of the powerful members of the C programming language family!