Glossary Entry: Programming Language

Quick Definition

A programming language is a special language that programmers use to write instructions that computers can understand.

More detail

A program is simply a collection of instructions. To run a program, the computer just steps through each instruction in order until it reaches either an instruction to exit the program, it reaches the end of the instructions, or something goes horribly wrong and there's no instructions that tell the computer what it's supposed to do in this sort of situation (ie, it crashes).

But, as I'm sure most of the people that have dealt with computers can tell you, computers and humans do not speak the same language. Programming languages get around this by providing humans with a way to write their instructions in a human-readable manner. Files containing these instructions are known as scripts* or source code*, depending on what is needed to allow the computer to understand what's written in the file. Once the programmer is done, another program (such as a compiler* or interpreter*) will take this code and translate it into instructions the computer will be able to understand and execute.

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