Computers have become an integral and essential part of our lives and lifestyle. It understands all instructions through languages that we call programs. We give all our instructions to the computer via programs to get them to perform specific tasks. Computer programs can be further categorized into two broad types. They are low-level languages and high-level languages. Here we would try to understand them and the major differences between them. Read on!
Examples of a high-level language and low-level language
There are only two types of low-level language i.e. Assembly Language and Machine Code.
Now, let us differentiate these two.
We start by defining the two terms first. A high-level language is more human-friendly. They are machine-independent, portable and better understood by the humans and programmers. They are crafted by combining mathematical symbols and natural language symbols and characters. Based more on real-world scenarios; they are implemented primarily for the development of a program. These languages do not need to memorize the architecture and registers of a CPU. They are easy to debug, maintain and used for building various applications.
In contrast, low-level languages are machine-dependent as they decide how the hardware elements of the computer would interact. These resemble the native binary language of the computer and thus are difficult for programmers to understand. These require extensive knowledge of the hardware components of a computer and their configuration. These are non-portable, difficult to debug and highly prone to incautious errors. A tiresome and time-consuming task; the language is defined by the hardware design.
- Platform Dependencies
From here, we start comparing the two languages. First, we talk about the platform that here implies the Computer hardware or its Configuration. The definition has made it evident that it is the low-level language that is platform dependent. They can run on the same hardware with the specified configuration. If you change the hardware configuration; they would not run.
In contrast, high-level languages are platform-independent and can run on all types of hardware with different configurations. Simultaneously, it must be noted that even though they are system hardware configuration independent; they are not operating system independent.
- Program Speed
Because low-level language is written in binary or assembly language; they have fewer syntaxes, keywords, functions and class libraries. Consequently, they do not need any compilation or interpretation and can interact directly with the memory and registers.
In contrast, high-level language uses English statements which are like human language. Thus, they cannot interact directly with the computer hardware like the memory and registers of the computer and require a compiler or an interpreter that translates them to machine language.
From the above arguments; it is evident that low-level language exhibits a faster speed.
- Memory Efficiency
Low-level languages are more memory-efficient and consume far less memory than high-level languages. Most of the time, high-level languages run inside a specific runtime environment. Moreover, several other programs run concurrently to increase its optimal efficiency. All this takes the memory consumption notches higher for a high-level language.
High-level languages closely resemble human languages. It is much easier to remember English statements than a computer language. The low-level language is machine friendly and has just two types. The first is the binary language that has only 0’s and 1’s. The other language is the Assembly language that type of symbols called mnemonics. Learning its different sets of instructions for different architecture is almost close to impossible. Moreover, to assimilate and learn this language, you need to have the knowledge and experience of the specific machine architecture.
Thus, we can conclude that high-level languages are not only easy to understand and memorize but also easy to read, write and modify.
Low-level languages are machine-dependent and thus different for different architectures. Thus, they are not portable.
But high-level languages comprise of English statements that need a compiler or interpreter to convert them to machine language. You need to use different compilers for different machine architectures and to the source to its specific machine language. Thus, high-level languages are portable.
Speed and performance and directly proportional and thus the performance of higher speed language, i.e. the low-level languages are better compared to the higher-level languages.
- Abstraction Level
The low-level language resembles closely to the language of the computer and thus, they show less or no abstraction from the hardware. In contrast, the high-level language run on top of the machine language. They interact with the hardware via the layers of the operating system and other software. Thus, high-level language exhibits a higher layer of abstraction.
High-level languages are much easier and more flexible to handle than the low-level languages. Compared to low-level language, they have huge libraries with a dense set of keywords, Data types, functions, etc. Thus, they can be easily developed with far less resource and effort. This flexibility is absent in low-level languages and is difficult and inflexible to handle.
- Debugging and maintenance
Be it a small syntactical error or big memory leaks; detecting them or maintaining them is a more tedious and time-consuming process in a low-level language. Moreover, they are more error-prone and difficult to debug.
In contrast, high-level languages show fewer errors. Nearly all of their syntactical errors can be identified by the compilers and interpreters and can be fixed. They are also easy to maintain as well as debug.
You find far less support for low-level languages than the high-level languages. The number of professionals for low-level languages pales in comparison to the number of professionals available for the high-level ones.
Because of their virtues and traits like high speed, no abstraction and direct communication with the hardware, low-level languages are generally used to develop all kinds of operating systems and their embedded systems.
In contrast, high-level languages are used to develop a plethora of applications like utility software, desktop applications, websites, mobile applications, etc.
What are the advantages of high-level language over low-level language?
By now, it is evident that high-level languages are more advantageous than low-level languages. They are:
- More user-friendly
- Provide a better user interface
- Helps programmers use a more modular approach
- Are easier and faster to code and debug
- Increases the programmer’s productivity
We hope that by now you can clearly understand the difference between the two types of computer languages and their various applications. However, we need both to make the maximum and most efficient use of computers.