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Computer Languages

Computers can 'speak' many languages nowadays. But how do they do this?

To commmunicate with a computer's 'brain' you need to communicate via a computer language. Put very simply, the computer needs input from you in the form of a series of 'on' 'off' electrical signals. It will then process that information in accordance with a 'program' - a set of instructions that tell it how to respond to particular input - and give an output to the user - you!.

The 'brain' of the computer is the CPU - the central processing unit. Simple processors execute instructions one after the other, superscalar processors are capable of executing several instructions at once.

A program is set out in 'lines of coding'. The computer works through the lines of the program sequentially - one after the other. Content of the lines of code can influence the program flow. It may be influenced by special 'jump' instructions that tell it to go to a numbered line. Conditional jumps can be used. These get the computer to compare parameters and depending on the result of that comparisson the program flow continues at the next line or a jump is made to another line in the program.

How easy it is to write a program depends on the 'level' of it. The higher the level of the program the more it is related to human language and thought processes. The lower the level the nearer it is to machine speak - binary!

The construction of these programs depends on the type of language used by the programmer. There are three categories of program language:

As well as full languages there are script languages (for example JavaScript) and little langauges. These are dealt with in separate sections.