Programming Languages: Loved, Loathed, and Long-Standing

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The world of programming languages is vast and ever-evolving. Over the decades, many languages have been introduced, gained popularity, and sometimes faded into obscurity. Yet, some languages, despite being widely criticized, have managed to maintain a strong foothold in the industry. Conversely, others, once heralded as the future, have declined in use. This article delves into this phenomenon, examining why some languages are resilient despite criticism, while others have fallen out of favor. We will explore these dynamics globally, understanding regional preferences and the historical context that has shaped the programming landscape.

Languages with Strong Footing but Bad Reputation



C, developed in the early 1970s at Bell Labs by Dennis Ritchie, is a general-purpose, procedural programming language. It has been foundational in the development of many other languages, including C++, C#, and even Python.


Despite its age and widespread use, C often receives criticism for several reasons:

  1. Manual Memory Management: C requires developers to manage memory manually, leading to potential issues like memory leaks and buffer overflows.
  2. Complex Syntax: The syntax can be terse and complex, making it difficult for beginners.
  3. Lack of Modern Features: Compared to newer languages, C lacks many modern programming features and abstractions.

Why It Persists

C’s continued relevance is due to several factors:

  1. Performance: C is known for its efficiency and speed, making it ideal for system-level programming, embedded systems, and high-performance applications.
  2. Legacy Code: A vast amount of legacy code is written in C. Rewriting these systems in a modern language is often impractical.
  3. Portability: C code can be compiled on a wide variety of computer architectures, enhancing its versatility.



PHP, created by Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994, is a server-side scripting language designed for web development but also used as a general-purpose language.


PHP is frequently maligned for several reasons:

  1. Inconsistent Naming Conventions: The function names and parameter orders are often inconsistent.
  2. Security Flaws: PHP has had a history of security vulnerabilities, often due to improper coding practices.
  3. Mixing of Logic and Presentation: Early PHP code often mixed HTML with business logic, leading to poor code maintainability.

Why It Persists

Despite the criticisms, PHP remains popular due to:

  1. Ease of Use: PHP is relatively easy to learn and use, making it accessible to beginners.
  2. Wide Adoption: Many popular content management systems (CMS) like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal are built on PHP.
  3. Large Community and Ecosystem: PHP has a large and active community, providing a wealth of resources, frameworks, and tools.



JavaScript, developed by Brendan Eich in 1995, is a high-level, often just-in-time compiled language that conforms to the ECMAScript specification. It is the cornerstone of web development, enabling interactive web pages.


JavaScript is often criticized for:

  1. Dynamic Typing: Its dynamic typing can lead to runtime errors and makes debugging more challenging.
  2. Inconsistent Browser Support: Historically, different browsers implemented JavaScript differently, leading to compatibility issues.
  3. Complexity of Asynchronous Code: Managing asynchronous operations can be complex and error-prone.

Why It Persists

JavaScript’s dominance is attributed to:

  1. Ubiquity: It is the only language that runs natively in web browsers, making it indispensable for web development.
  2. Versatility: With the advent of Node.js, JavaScript can be used for server-side programming as well.
  3. Active Development: Continuous evolution and the introduction of new features (like ES6) have kept JavaScript relevant and powerful.



Java, created by James Gosling at Sun Microsystems in 1995, is a high-level, class-based, object-oriented language designed to have as few implementation dependencies as possible.


Java faces criticism for:

  1. Verbose Syntax: Java’s syntax is often seen as verbose and cumbersome.
  2. Performance Overheads: The Java Virtual Machine (JVM) introduces performance overheads compared to compiled languages like C++.
  3. Slow to Adapt: Historically, Java has been slow to adopt modern programming features.

Why It Persists

Java remains popular because:

  1. Platform Independence: Java’s “write once, run anywhere” philosophy makes it highly portable across different platforms.
  2. Enterprise Adoption: Java is widely used in enterprise environments, especially for large-scale backend systems.
  3. Robust Ecosystem: The extensive set of libraries, frameworks (like Spring), and tools available for Java development is unparalleled.



C++, developed by Bjarne Stroustrup in 1985, is an extension of C that includes object-oriented features. It is used in a wide range of applications, from system software to game development.


C++ is often criticized for:

  1. Complexity: The language is complex, with many features and paradigms that can be challenging to master.
  2. Manual Memory Management: Like C, C++ requires manual memory management, leading to similar pitfalls.
  3. Long Compilation Times: Large C++ projects can have lengthy compilation times.

Why It Persists

C++ maintains its position due to:

  1. Performance: C++ offers high performance and fine-grained control over system resources.
  2. Versatility: It supports multiple programming paradigms, including procedural, object-oriented, and generic programming.
  3. Legacy Systems: Many critical systems, especially in finance and gaming, are built with C++ and continue to be maintained.



Fortran, developed in the 1950s by IBM, is one of the oldest high-level programming languages. It is particularly strong in numerical and scientific computing.


Fortran is criticized for:

  1. Outdated Syntax: Its syntax is considered archaic and not user-friendly.
  2. Limited Modern Features: Compared to newer languages, Fortran lacks many modern programming constructs.
  3. Specialized Use: It is seen as a niche language primarily for scientific computing.

Why It Persists

Fortran continues to be used because:

  1. Performance: Fortran is highly optimized for numerical computations and scientific applications.
  2. Legacy Code: A significant amount of scientific and engineering codebases are written in Fortran.
  3. Specialized Libraries: It has specialized libraries for high-performance computing, which are unmatched by other languages.



COBOL, developed in 1959, is a language designed for business, finance, and administrative systems.


COBOL is often derided for:

  1. Verbose Syntax: Its syntax is excessively verbose and cumbersome.
  2. Perceived Obsolescence: Many view COBOL as an outdated language with little relevance to modern programming.
  3. Limited Modern Features: COBOL lacks many features found in contemporary languages.

Why It Persists

Despite the criticisms, COBOL remains important due to:

  1. Legacy Systems: Many critical financial and administrative systems, especially in banking and government, are built on COBOL.
  2. Reliability: COBOL is known for its robustness and reliability in handling large-scale batch and transaction processing.
  3. Demand for Maintenance: There is a continued need for COBOL programmers to maintain and update legacy systems.



Delphi, originally based on the Pascal language developed by Niklaus Wirth in the 1970s, is an integrated development environment (IDE) for rapid application development of desktop, mobile, web, and console software.


Delphi/Pascal faces criticism for:

  1. Limited Market Presence: Compared to more modern languages, Delphi has a smaller market share and community.
  2. Proprietary Nature: Delphi’s reliance on a proprietary IDE can be seen as a limitation.
  3. Perception of Being Outdated: Despite updates, Pascal and Delphi are often perceived as outdated languages.

Why It Persists

Delphi/Pascal endures because:

  1. Ease of Learning: The language’s clear and structured syntax makes it easy to learn.
  2. Rapid Application Development: Delphi’s IDE supports rapid application development, particularly for Windows applications.
  3. Strong Legacy Codebase: Many applications, particularly in Europe and the education sector, still use Pascal/Delphi.



Forth, developed in the 1970s by Charles H. Moore, is a stack-based, procedural programming language known for its simplicity and flexibility.


Forth is often criticized for:

  1. Unconventional Syntax: Its stack-based approach and postfix notation are unusual and difficult for many programmers to grasp.
  2. Minimal Standardization: Forth lacks consistent standards, leading to compatibility issues between different implementations.
  3. Limited Use Cases: It is seen as a niche language with limited applicability outside certain specialized areas.

Why It Persists

Forth continues to be used in certain niches because:

  1. Efficiency: Forth is highly efficient and compact, making it suitable for embedded systems and low-level programming.
  2. Flexibility: The language’s simplicity and extensibility allow for custom implementations tailored to specific needs.
  3. Historical Legacy: Some legacy systems and applications still rely on Forth, particularly in embedded systems.

Languages That Have Fallen Out of Favor



Ada, developed in the early 1980s for the US Department of Defense, was designed for large, long-lived applications where reliability and efficiency are critical.

Reasons for Decline

  1. Complexity: Ada’s complexity and strict type-checking can be seen as barriers to adoption.
  2. Niche Market: Ada is primarily used in defense and aerospace, limiting its broader adoption.
  3. Competition: Newer languages like C++ and Java have overtaken Ada in many of its traditional strongholds.



Perl, developed by Larry Wall in 1987, is a high-level, interpreted language known for its text processing capabilities.

Reasons for Decline

  1. Readability Issues: Perl’s syntax is often criticized for being cryptic and hard to read.
  2. Rise of Alternatives: Languages like Python and Ruby, which offer cleaner syntax and modern features, have supplanted Perl in many areas.
  3. Community Shift: The Perl community has seen a shift towards Perl 6 (now Raku), leading to fragmentation.



Objective-C, developed in the 1980s, was the primary language for macOS and iOS development before the advent of Swift.

Reasons for Decline

  1. Introduction of Swift: Apple’s introduction of Swift, which offers modern syntax and safety features, has led to a decline in Objective-C use.
  2. Complex Syntax: Objective-C’s syntax is seen as more complex compared to Swift.
  3. Performance: Swift’s performance and ease of use have made it the preferred choice for new development on Apple platforms.

Visual Basic


Visual Basic (VB), developed by Microsoft, was a widely used language for rapid application development on Windows.

Reasons for Decline

  1. Shift to .NET: Microsoft’s focus on .NET and the introduction of VB.NET led to a decline in classic VB usage.
  2. Competition: The rise of C# as the dominant language for .NET development has overshadowed VB.NET.
  3. Perceived Obsolescence: VB is often seen as outdated compared to modern languages.

Global Perspectives

North America

In North America, languages like JavaScript, Python, and Java dominate, driven by the tech industry’s demand for web development, data science, and enterprise applications. Despite criticisms, C and C++ remain strong due to their performance advantages in system-level programming.


Europe has a strong tradition of using languages like Java and C++. Additionally, Pascal/Delphi has a notable presence, particularly in education and certain industries. Python’s popularity is also rising, driven by its versatility and ease of learning.


In Asia, particularly in countries like China and India, Java and Python are highly popular due to their extensive use in education and enterprise development. PHP is also widely used for web development, driven by the demand for web applications.

South America

South America sees significant use of Java and PHP, driven by the growth of web and enterprise applications. Python is gaining traction, particularly in education and data science.


In Africa, JavaScript, PHP, and Python are popular, driven by the need for web development and accessible learning resources. Java also has a strong presence in enterprise applications.


Programming languages are tools that evolve with the industry’s needs and the advancement of technology. While some languages receive criticism for various reasons, their continued use is often justified by their unique strengths, historical significance, and the vast ecosystems that support them. Conversely, languages that have fallen out of favor often do so due to the emergence of more modern, efficient alternatives. Understanding the global landscape of programming languages provides insights into the diverse needs and preferences of different regions, reflecting both historical contexts and current technological trends.

As we move forward, it is crucial to recognize the value of both old and new languages, leveraging their strengths to address the challenges of modern computing. Whether a language is loved or loathed, its place in the industry is often a testament to its ability to solve specific problems effectively and efficiently.


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