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10 Years of Programming Language Evolution By Cabe Atwell, 10.03.19
We are so fond of our devices. Camera phones enable us to document our most precious moments, and the Internet and its many communication tools keep us connected to friends and family far away. It isn’t often that we think about the programming languages that make our connected world possible, but it’s worth noting that there have been recent shifts in the popularity of certain programming languages that could give us clues about where the digital world is headed, and also remind us of how far we’ve come.
Python ranks #1
(It is worth noting IEEE Spectrum’s ranking includes all programming languages used to support hardware and software applications within the context electronics and electrical engineering. IEEE generates its ranking based on 11 metrics from eight sources, including The IEEE, Reddit, Stack Overflow, Twitter, Google, GitHub, CareerBuilder, Hacker News, and GitHub.)
Rankings from 10 years ago
In 2010, the TIOBE Programming Index ranked the top 10 languages in order as follows: Java, C, C++, PHP, (Visual) Basic, C#, Python, Objective-C, Perl, and Ruby.
In its very first ranking in 2014, IEEE’s ranking also included C#, PHP, and Ruby.
For some languages, such as Ruby and Ruby on Rails, runtime speed and boot speed just aren’t fast enough to support a full-scale commercial product. For other languages, like PHP, poor security was a huge factor that kept companies such as Facebook from continuing to utilize the language.
Other factors: mobile devices, wearables
There are a few other factors that could have impacted the popularity of programming languages. The inherent security of the language is one factor. Another is the increase in popularity of mobile devices. In 2018, 70% of all Americans owned smartphones and 50% owned tablets. Of those mobile users, 90% of their time spent online was spent using an app, not using the Internet.
This is an important factor when looking at the popularity of programming languages, as some languages are better suited for mobile-app development and use with portable devices such as tablets and smartphones, which brings us to another factor: hardware.
Wearables and devices that support our everyday functions are increasing in popularity, including everything from sleep & activity monitors to smartwatches and posture wearables. As wearables increase in popularity and standard desktop-based software decreases, the popularity of programming languages that can support this demand is bound to increase.
A lot has changed in the last decade, and more changes will occur as we move towards an ever more connected future. For now, the languages that are most versatile and secure will remain the most widely used, but who knows what the future of programming will look like, especially with the continual advancements of electronics engineering (like the memristor). The future is as open-ended as we make it.
Cabe Atwell is an electrical engineer living in the Chicago area.