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The Science Of Computers
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An assembler program translates the source code, a list of mnemonic operation codes and symbolic operands, into object code, that is into machine language, and executes the program.
Each assembly language, however, can be used with only one type of CPU chip or microprocessor. Programmers who expended much time and effort to learn how to program one computer had to learn a new programming style each time they worked on another machine. What was needed was a shorthand method by which one symbolic statement could represent a sequence of many machine-language instructions, and a way that would allow the same program to run on several types of machines. These needs led to the development of high-level languages.
High-level languages often use English words-for example, LIST, PRINT, OPEN, and so on-as commands that might stand for a sequence of tens or hundreds of machine-language instructions. The commands are entered from the keyboard or from a program in memory or in a storage device, and they are intercepted by a program that translates them into machine-language instructions.
Translator programs are of two kinds: interpreters and compilers. With an interpreter, programs that loop back to re-execute part of their instructions reinterpret the same instruction each time it appears, so interpreted programs run much more slowly than machine-language programs. Compilers, by contrast, translate an entire program into machine language prior to execution, so such programs run as rapidly as though they were written directly in machine language.
The American computer scientist Grace Hopper is credited with implementing the first commercially oriented computer language. After programming an experimental computer at Harvard University, she worked on the UNIVAC I and II computers and developed a commercially usable high-level programming language called FLOW-MATIC. To facilitate computer use in scientific applications, IBM then developed a language that would simplify work involving complicated mathematical formulas. Begun in 1954 and completed in 1957, FORTRAN (FORmula TRANslator) was the first comprehensive high-level programming language that was widely used.
In 1957 the Association for Computing Machinery in the United States set out to develop a universal language that would correct some of FORTRAN's shortcomings. A year later they released ALGOL (ALGOrithmic Language), another scientifically oriented language; widely used in Europe in the 1960s and 1970s, it has since been superseded by newer languages, while FORTRAN continues to be used because of the huge investment in existing programs.