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What is C Language?

C is a programming language. It was the first massively popular programming language that enabled developers to create new software programs for computers. The C means “Computer”. C is often looked at as a first general step towards learning programming. When you get in college, the first thing you learn as a computer science student will be the C language, but why? Well, that’s because C is easy to understand, and it teaches you about some of the most common programming skills which you will inherit from it and can use in other programming languages as well.

Today, in this article, we are going to talk about C. This programming language is three decades old but still considered one of the most commonly used programming languages to develop applications and other programs. We will talk about some benefits of C, its history, where can we see it working around us, and is it worth learning the C programming language in 2022? Well, let’s find out.

History of C Programming Language

As we said earlier, tons of programming languages are being used nowadays to create an application. These languages are pretty new, but still, they don’t hold anything against the C programming language. Well, what is the reason behind it? For this question to be answered, we need to look at the history of C, which started in Bell Labs in the early 1970s. The individual responsible for developing C was Dennis Ritchie, who was working as a computer science engineer in Bell Labs.

During the initial years of development, C used to be called a system implementation language which was derived from BCPL, and it did come with a structure of its own which developers need to follow; if they want to use C. Then, another employee at Bell Labs named Ken Thompson came up with the idea of creating a new programming language for the Unix platform. He then started his work by modifying the BCPL system language and formed B. But there was a significant issue with B: its slow nature. Also, it couldn’t work with the PDP-11 features, so B was not widely accepted.

But the issues found in B resulted in Ritchie improving his language and making it better so that everyone can use it. This resulted in the language that we now know as the C programming language. By 1973, the modern C, which we use now, was invented along with its compiler. This led developers to rewrite the Unix kernel so that it could benefit from PDP-11. With these changes taking place, it became pretty evident that C has the potential to become a strong programming language that can be used worldwide.

Early Implementation

Most of the Linux that we have with us right now is written in C. In addition, databases such as Oracle database, MySQL, MS SQL server were partially developed using the C programming language. Also, you can find traces of C in many of the operating system’s Kernel. The programming languages like Python, Perl, and others like them use compilers or interpreters, which are written in C.

Usage of C in Today’s World

C has come a long way from its first release in 1973, but after all this time, C is still a standard programming language that is used in creating lower-level programs. Also, C made the way easier for developers to develop new or updated versions of C such as C++, Objective C, C#, and another version of C, each of them having their specialty.

Components of C Programming Language

Any C program that you can find will have some essential components, which makes it a complete program. In this section, we are going to explain to you those components and how they are used in a program. Let’s take the example of a simple “hello world” program written in C language, and from there, we will show each component of the program.

#include <stdio.h>

int main() {

// printf() displays the string inside quotation

printf(“Hello, World!”);

return 0;

}

Preprocessor Directives

#include <stdio.h>

When a program is completed, and you try to compile it, the first it goes from before being compiled is the preprocessors, a program present in the compiler. To add preprocessor directives to your program, you need to start with the hash symbol (#). Also, keep in mind that when you are writing a C program, these directives need to be placed at the program’s start. If you put it in between them, there are chances that your program will start showing errors.

After writing hash (#) at the start, you need to write the header file which you want to include for this specific program. The header file is the one that contains the information about the function that you should use in a program. Keep in mind the header file will always end with the “.h” extension. The “stdio.h” header file contains information about the input and the output functions. Once you have defined the header file at the start, you can use any of the functions defined inside that header file.

When the program is sent to a compiler, the preprocessor directives lines will add a copy of the stdio.h header file. The C compiler will supply this header file copy. If your program needs more than one header, you need to place them one after the other. There are multiple header files that you can add, for example, math.h, stdio.h, and others.

Functions

int main()

A function is like a self-contained block of code; we call them procedure or subroutine in other programming languages. A function is like a series of statements that are grouped together and then given a name. These make it easier for a developer to differentiate parts of the program from each other. For example, if you have a program in which you made a calculator, then it is best to create functions for all the different operations separately to make the code look more organized and easy to read.

When you are writing a C program, you will find there is more than one function used. But “main()” has to be present in every program. The main function is unique because when the OS starts executing the code, the main() function will be called automatically. If you don’t define it, you will end up running into the error.

Statements

printf(“Hello, World!”);

return 0;

A statement is more of a command to the computer which it needs to execute. There is a general rule for writing statements: all of them will end with the semicolon(;), but keep in mind you will also find some exceptions to it when you are writing the code.

Comments

// printf() displays the string inside quotation

/* this is an

Example of

Multi-line

Comment in

C programming */

Comments are basically your sticky notes for the program, and they will also help in increasing the readability of your program. With the use of comments, a programmer can make others understand why he has used the specific function or the statement while writing the code. Please keep in mind comments are not your programming statements. As a result, they are ignored by the compiler program.

You can add a comment anywhere in a program where you feel like your code needs some explanation. There are two methods to write a code, the first is the single-line comment, and the second way is the multi-line comment.

Benefits of Using C Programming Language

The grip that C programming brings to the development isn’t comparable in any form. You can find C being the core part of almost every software program which you are using right now. From databases to the compiler to Kernels, you will find that the C programming language is used here and there to complete the application’s development. Given below, we have listed down some of the main benefits that you get when using C as your programming language.

Easy to Understand

So you have seen our example code of “Hello World”, even without knowing anything about programming, a person can make out what the program is doing and what will be the output of the program. That is how simple and easy to understand C is for non-specialists. In addition to this, C is quite a portable language as programs that are developed in it are pretty fast and efficient. This makes C a much easier programming language than others.

A person can quickly understand the concepts of C because there is not so much to it as it has a small number of keywords or symbols. Moreover, to understand the working of C, you don’t have to be a computer science expert. Just start with one tutorial video at a time, and slowly you will begin understanding its concepts with no prior knowledge. Lastly, C comes with system-generated and user-defined functions, and you can use both of them in your program to get the desired result.

High Number of Libraries

C comes with many built-in functions made from system-generated functions, and it can also be user-defined. These general functions are developed to be used in a program to perform specific tasks, and they can be used anywhere in the program after you declare their libraries.

Writing Code in C is Easy

Another reason C is such a popular programming language is that it is pretty efficient in handling the list of things that developers want to achieve from it. A person who knows most of the things about C can easily create a software program using it with no problem at all. On the other hand, if you don’t know a programming language, it is better to start with C and learn from its structure-oriented programming. C will be the backbone of developing effective solutions or software in comparison to other programming languages.

Developing a Program in C Low Cost

Creating something from scratch takes time, and it will be expensive as well. But when you are developing a project in C, you will find that it takes less time due to its simple structure. Also, you don’t have to worry about seeing if you have made any mistake or not when you are writing the code because it will show up instantly. Moreover, when you hire someone to complete the project for you, they will also charge less in comparison to using another programming language.

Execution Speed is Fast

If you are looking for a way to execute a program in a short time, then it is best to use C for writing its code. Since C comes with fewer instructions, it can be executed much faster than other programming languages like Java, PHP, Ruby, and others.

Debugging a Code is Simple

There are no complex statements that you have to be worried about, so it becomes easy for a developer to see the code and debug it in no time. Let’s take an example here, suppose you encountered some problem when you were executing a program. Then all you need to do is press Ctrl + D to stop the process of execution and check the code. As a result, you can step back one line at a time and continue working until you reach the line of your code that is causing the error.

C Uses Dynamic Memory Allocation

When you are creating a program in C, you can use memory allocation in two ways, the first one being dynamically and the other being statistically. When using dynamic allocation, we are not sure how much space will be required to create a data structure during the runtime process.

But when we are using the static allocation, then we need to use a fixed amount of memory before even starting the execution of the application. As a result, this feature will make use more flexible than any other language such as Java, where we need to declare all the variables a final.

With the use of dynamic allocation, you get to distribute memory at the run time. As a result, when you are writing a program in C, you can appoint memory as you write the code.

Things to Keep in Mind When Using C

Given below are some tips and tricks that will help you write better code in the C programming language. These tips are helpful for both newcomers and veterans in the field of programming.

Use Creative Names

When you are working on a project, it is best to be a little more creative and give names to functions and variables that you are using in the code. A great code is one that reads like a human language. Yes, we know it is impossible to make the whole source code read that way, but we can add in the small snippets in functions and variables to make them look more human-friendly. For example string=read_next_word();

Don’t Forget to Write Function

Whenever you write a code and use it more than once, it is better to put it inside the function. It doesn’t matter if the code is a one-liner or of a single page. With this, your code will have much better clarity, and anyone can quickly understand it as well.

Take Breaks During Coding Sessions

Writing code is like an art, and you need to take some breaks to think outside the box for the problem which you need to solve. Writing up a code is easy, but the errors that occur after we compile the program take a lot of time. Also, when you are making these changes, it is better to go slow and steady while checking the result.

The thing is, when you tempt yourself to hop around the code to fix it from several places, you will end up creating more problems than before, and in no time, you will double the errors in your code. Thus, taking a step-by-step approach will be a good idea.

Break Large Project into Smaller Modules

No one in the world wants to scroll down a 500 line of code; as a result, it is better to break out the functions into modules. Group the related functions into similar files. Every C program has an output file, an input file, an initialization file, etc. Each file here is compiled and linked separately to write a code. This will result in file sizes being smaller, and if they are compiled perfectly, you are good to go and leave them as it is to work on other modules of your project.

Conclusion

So this is what C programming is all about; no matter what people say, C is the king of the programming world even if new programming languages emerge in the future. Still, C is not going to lose its charm. That’s why it is beneficial for you to learn the C programming language even in 2022 and will always be. C is the most fundamental programming language. You get to learn so much from it that once you master it, it becomes easy to master other programming languages.

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Vijay Singh Khatri
Vijay Singh Khatri
Graduate in Computer Science, specialized in Digital Marketing. I am very fond of writing tech articles and creating my own blog to teach my audience.

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