The Programming Language Hierarchy


Modern web design and user interface crafting appear to be some sort of alchemical magic trick- turning lines of programming commands into visual and interactive elements. This is however not the case, what appears to be a magical process is actually just a compilation of software layered on top of each other to serve the purpose of connecting human language to a dialect at the computer can understand. In many ways programs in languages act as a liaison between humans and machines and today we're going to learn how this magic occurs.

The Programming Language Hierarchy

Most utilization of Software in the modern day is scripted and written in high-to-mid level languages. What does that mean you may ask?

These programming languages hold a strong abstraction from the details of the computer, meaning that there are layers of prewritten lower-level programming code used in conjunction with them. High-level languages have various advantages, the primary advantages being accessibility, readability, and automation.

How It Started

The initial development of the first high-level programming language, Plankalkül, was delayed and unsuccessful due to the Second World War. The first widely known high-level language was called Fortran, a machine-independent development of IBM’s earlier systems utilizing a computer complier — a tool utilized to convert a syntactical programming language to a format that can be comprehended by the computer.

Modern Day High-Level Languages

Examples of modern-day high-level programming languages include Ruby, Java, Python, Perl, and many more. The readability and accessibility of these languages have allowed developers to build the modern-day web and technology sector.

Open source continues to be the main driver behind the development and “stacking” order of programming languages. As more developers engage in software infrastructure, advancements will continue to be made in programming accessibility. Imagine a world where everyone is able to read, write, and create with code.

Let’s breakdown the hierarchy:

Hardware — This is the physical machinery and parts that make up an operating system. Arguably the most important piece of hardware vital to any computer system is the Central Processing Unit (CPU). This is the portion of a computer that retrieves and executes instructions.

Machine Language — A machine language is defined as a computer programming language consisting of binary or hexadecimal instructions that a computer can respond to directly.

Assembly Language — An assembly language is a low-level programming language designed for a specific type of processor. It may be produced by compiling source code from a high-level programming language (such as C/C++) but can also be written from scratch (TechTerms).

High-Level Language As described before, a high-level programming language holds a strong abstraction from the details of the computer allowing it to be read and written more clearly by developers.


It’s important for Software Developers to understand how their utilization of high-level languages trickles down the programming language hierarchy. Although programming itself is not magic, what is magical is the compilation of human innovation that has accumulated to result in modern-day Software development.

Software Engineer focused on Full Stack development with MERN stack and Ruby experience. Interested in sharing my learning journey with aspiring developers.

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