Developers have been using programming languages for decades to build ingenious new tools and streamline the coding process. So far, it’s worked out pretty well for us. Advancements in programming languages and software development overall have helped us push the boundaries of what is possible. Businesses have gotten more efficient, humans have gotten more productive and have become more entertained than ever before. And the basic elements of our economic infrastructure, including the secure exchange of money, have been fundamentally reinvented.
So where do programming languages go from here? Are we in store for the emergence of one, comprehensive mega-language? Or could programming languages disappear altogether?
The Function of Programming Languages
Before we delve into speculative territory, what’s established the real function of programming languages. Why did we create programming languages and what are they used for today?
At the most fundamental level, computers only process code in binary: ones and zeros. If you were going to program a complex software application using only ones and zeros, it would take an absurdly long time – and it would be almost impossible to track down any bugs plaguing the app’s functionality.
Programming languages work to simplify the coding process for developers and take coding to a more abstract level. You can think of them as an interface that allows software developers to communicate with computers in a form that both parties can understand. Instead of relying on binary digits, programmers can use words, functions, and other, more readable entries. It makes the programming process much simpler it makes it easier to find errors when necessary. Because of this, programming languages also make programming much more accessible to a larger number of people.
Key Elements for Future Programming Languages
What are future programmers going to need from their programming languages? That’s a big and complicated question, especially considering we don’t know what humanity’s technological needs are going to be in the near or distant future. However, we can speculate about some important elements that all future programming languages are going to need to have.
- Easy API calls. Today’s apps and tools need to make frequent exchanges with each other, with the cloud, and with other databases. That’s why modern programming languages need to have easy and convenient API calls available.
- Automation. It’s easy to understand why developers favor automation: it makes everything easier. With the help of automation in a programming language, you can simplify your most menial tasks, test for bugs, and deploy code faster and more effectively.
- Special purpose languages. To date, some of the most successful programming languages have been ones that can be used for just about anything. But as our needs become more focused and more refined, it’s going to be more important for “special purpose” languages to emerge – highly concentrated programming languages that are exclusively good for one or two types of applications.
- Easy learning curve. Everyone is going to be a programmer in the future – at least to an extent. Simple apps and scripts, like ones that make spreadsheet management easier, are going to be in demand by professionals and amateurs alike. That’s why new programming languages need to have the simplest, most accessible learning curve; they need to be easily learnable if they’re going to survive.
- Abstract. The original purpose of programming languages was to convert the highly technical realm of coding to a higher layer of abstraction. In the future, programming languages may take this abstraction to an even higher level – grouping functions and simplifying commands to be even more intuitive.
- Potential for expansion. It’s hard to imagine what kinds of devices we’ll invent (and grow to need) in the future. That’s why tomorrow’s programming languages need to be flexible and allow plenty of room for further growth and development. You can’t just make a language for today; you have to make a language for the decades to come.
Promising New Programming Languages
What about specific programming languages on the horizon?
Demands for Coders
The evolution of programming languages will necessarily have an impact on programmers and software developers today. Whether you like it or not, the landscape of programming languages available is going to evolve. You can either evolve with it or struggle with your adherence to coding practices that are no longer relevant.
Obviously, you’ll need to learn a new programming language if it’s a necessity for a niche project you’re working on. Even so, there are many benefits to transforming enterprises into the digital world, including having your developers learn multiple programming languages.
- Project versatility. Being familiar with multiple programming languages gives you the opportunity to work on many different types of projects. If you’re a freelancer or if you own your own business, that means you get to broaden your client base tremendously. If you’re searching for a job or if you’re currently employed, that means you’re going to be much more valuable (and you’re probably going to stand to make more money). Given the diversity of technology is available is constantly increasing, it always pays do you have a diverse skill set.
- Personal adaptability. Learning new languages is also a great way to improve your own adaptability. It’s easy to become complacent when you’re handling the same responsibilities day in and day out. You can make a decent career for yourself this way, but you’re never going to reach your true potential. By contrast, if you make it a point to learn new languages (especially new and promising ones), you’ll set yourself up to be much more adaptable.
- Broadened conceptual thinking. If you only focus on one programming language, it doesn’t matter how much time you spend with it or how much expertise you’ve cultivated; you’re going to be limited in how you think. Just has learning multiple human languages can make you more creative and allow you to process information more abstractly, learning multiple programming languages can boost your conceptual thinking.
- Staying current. Of course in some ways, learning new programming languages is just a way of staying current. It’s a form of ongoing education that’s necessary if you want to continue competing with your peers.
The Role of Low-Code and No-Code Programming
We should also talk about the future possibilities of low-code and no-code programming. As the names suggest, these types of programming try to limit or completely eliminate the need for personal programming input. Most people are so devoid of technical knowledge they have trouble remembering and securing a simple password, so these types of applications have tremendous potential to become popular.
We can already see the beginnings of an era of no-code programming; today’s website builders allow users to create entire websites from scratch using nothing more than WYSIWYG editors. In the near future, there may be similar tools that allow people to program entire apps from the ground up with no prior coding experience. Some could argue that this paves the way for the abolition of all programming languages, but we’re still going to need core programming languages to program those tools.
The Programming Language Revolution
Thankfully, the programming world will never be destroyed and recreated from the ground up. Instead, these changes will manifest gradually and iteratively, giving us all a chance to keep up with our ongoing education and continue learning well into the future. Keep watch for new languages on the horizon, and if you’re a programmer, keep challenging yourself by learning new things.