Most popular programming languages 1965-2019 (visualised)

Ola Fosheim Grøstad ola.fosheim.grostad at
Fri Oct 11 11:52:27 UTC 2019

On Friday, 11 October 2019 at 11:23:34 UTC, IGotD- wrote:
> On Friday, 11 October 2019 at 11:08:55 UTC, Chris wrote:
>>> the best apps/games were written in pure machine language to 
>>> get most out of very limited hardware. Embedded programming 
>>> was also typically done in machine language.
> This is actually an urban legend. The applications that needed 
> most of performance in the 1980s were mostly written C (Borland 
> C was really popular during the 80s) with a few optimized parts 
> done in assembler. Very few programs were done in pure 
> assembler. There wasn't any need to write everything in 
> assembler except certain optimized loops.

A lot of programming for 8-bit computers  were done in pure 
assembler. Also embedded cpus like 6800 were quite limited (256 
bytes static RAM), so assembler was in many ways suitable.

16-bit computers like the IBM PC had more RAM, but even people 
who wrote in Turbo Pascal in the late 80s would drop down to 
assembler for performance where needed.

> It is simple check this as you can just search your old DOS 
> .exe file for Borland for example and you will be surprised how 
> many DOS programs used C during the 80s.

So maybe it wasn't clear from what I wrote, but in my experience 
there were essentially two segments up to 1986:

1. The limited "16-bit" 8088 CPU with 8-bit data-bus for IBM and 
CP/M business oriented machines that could address more than 64KB.

2. The 8-bit small business/home owner segment that often hat 
16/32/64/128 KB of RAM and Z80 or 6502/6510  CPUS. Although I 
know that some established developers in the later years used 
crosscompilers when writing for 8-bit CPUs that wasn't what most 
did in the early days.

Then later some computers shipped with more than 1 CPU so that 
they both could be used for business and games, wasn't the 
Commodore 128 one of those? I believe it also had some kind of 
bank switching mechanism so that it was possible to access 128KB, 
but I didn't use this one myself. I have heared that it was used 
for cross platform development of Commodore 64 software, so they 
would write software on the CBM128 and execute it on the CBM64, 
obviously that would make it possible to use better tools.

The first assembler I used on the C64, was written in BASIC, read 
from tape. If my machine language program crashed, then I would 
have to reload the assembler from tape... There were better 
solutions around, like ROM cartridges... but either way, you had 
to be patient.

IIRC the most known 8-bit game composer Rob Hubbard wrote his 
music engine in assembler and entered his tunes in hex... These 
players were very small as they were added to games that already 
were cramped for space and the tunes had to be several minutes 
long. I believe he sometimes would use RAM areas that sat behind 
memory mapped areas and the like (ROM/Registers) because memory 
was so tight.

> I suspect as previously mentioned that this survey is based on 
> large companies. Ada has a suspiciously large cut during the 
> 80s. Also what is based on? Per worker, per product, per 
> company? Ada was probably big during the 80s because it was the 
> height of the cold war but still a bit too high I think.

It certainly seems high if you include countries outside the US. 
I also strongly suspect many US software development companies in 
the 80s simply wanted to be able to take on Ada development as a 
strategic "we have consultants that know Ada" thing, since the US 
government required Ada, but those programmers might also do 
C/Pascal in their daily work when working on other projects...

More information about the Digitalmars-d mailing list