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So we ended last episode with programming at the hardware level with things like plugboards and huge panels of switches, but what was really needed was a more versatile way to program computers – software! For much of this series we’ve been talking about machine code, or the 1’s and 0’s our computers read to perform operations, but giving our computers instructions in 1’s and 0’s is incredibly inefficient, and a “higher-level” language was needed. This led to the development of assembly code and assemblers that allow us to use operands and mnemonics to more easily write programs, but assembly language is still tied to underlying hardware. So by 1952 Navy officer Grace Hopper had helped created the first high-level programming language A-0 and compiler to translate that code to our machines. This would eventually lead to IBM’s Fortran and then a golden age of computing languages over the coming decades. Most importantly, these new languages utilized new abstractions to make programming easier and more powerful giving more and more people the ability to create new and amazing things.
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