Importance of C Programming Language

Categories: C Programming language C language

Importance of C Programming Language


C is a procedural language that supports structured programming; it has a static system and a compiler written in C itself. Since its release, C became a milestone in computing history and has become the most critical component throughout the computer industry.


Dennis Ritchie wrote an article explaining the reason for C's success which are enumerated as follows:


  • The success of Unix was the most important factor as Unix used C for building its utilities, its success had carried C.


  • C remained a simple and small language meant for building system components. C was held to be sufficiently abstract that humans can read – which is why C is considered a middle-level language.


  • C was not designed in isolation but to write useful tools that interact with large systems. C is regarded as a tool to build larger tools. Moreover, C's core library covers the essential needs of most programmers but does not supply too many of them.


Because C works very closely with the processor, performance-critical applications are mostly written in C. Because of its unmatched popularity, programming languages derived a familiar C-style syntax and the set of constructs that came with C (e.g., pointers, macros, etc.). C have become the backbone of modern computing systems – operating systems, compilers, interpreters, third-party libraries, and databases. In addition, C is a small language that is designed to cost minimal performance overhead which makes it ideal for embedded systems.

Systems that are Programmed in the C Language

Operating Systems, at their core, are commonly implemented in C as it deals with finer grains of control and does not need a lot of abstraction that C++ or Rust – the language that exists in system-level programming – offers. As a result, Windows, Linux, Mac, and Android have kernel implementation written in C while other utilities are written in other languages – C++, C#, Objective-C, Java, and Rust.


We can observe that the choice of languages in OS implementation varies as per the context of utility purposes. That is to say, at the very core, C is held with close importance for critical sections of the OS.


  • Microsoft Windows

According to an OS engineer from Microsoft, the Windows Kernel and its utilities are almost entirely written in C, C++, and C# for Windows while some areas of code are written in assembly (Waite, 2009).


  • Linux

Linux Kernel. Linus Torvalds noted that the choice of C is the only sane choice arguing that C++ and other languages should not be used in the kernel (Torvalds, 2007).


  • Mac

OS X. The OS X architecture is shown below. The Kernel and Core of OS X are utilities written in C and C++ (Halvorsen & Clarke, 2012). The language choice for C and C++ is evidently due to performance-critical areas of the software.


  • Mobile

Android OS. An article from Wikipedia noted that Android OS is written on top of the Linux kernel. We can observe the layering of the Android OS below.


  • Databases

As you can imagine crafting a database means managing memory. Database vendors consider efficient memory use as well as performance for retrieving contents in a database. Because of this, the world's leading database SQL vendors (Oracle and MySQL) decided to build their infrastructure in C. For embedded applications, SQLite3 has notably stated that the C programming language is used due to its portability on hardware and about any operating system (SQLite, 2021).


  • 3D Movies

3D movies involve a lot of scene rendering and animations which are tasks that are both computationally intensive and resource expensive. Software systems that enable creators to render 3D graphics like AudoDesk, Blender, and Adobe AFX need to consider a language that uses computer resources very well with a very minimal overhead which lends itself to using C/C++.


  • Embedded Systems

C is an economical language of choice for a domain that puts a hard limit on computing resources –limited computing power, memory, and so on. C provides you the tools to manually manage memory and make processes more efficient.


Advantages in Learning C Programming

  • C gives you low-level control for creating efficient and highly performant programs.
  • C is a small and simple language to learn – it only has 32 keywords. Likewise, there are no set prerequisites to start programming in C.
  • Because of C's simplicity the design space eliminates the burden of bulk systems which results in the simpler implementation of design decisions.
  • C is highly portable because it is designed to be portable. Portable programs can run on different systems with little or no modification.
  • High-level programming language libraries rely heavily upon a C module. Python, Julia, MATLAB, and R rely on C. Designing a wrapper between a high-level language to gain performance almost always lends itself to writing a C module.
  • Because of C's unmatched popularity over decades, programming languages took inspiration in their design and syntax. That said, learning C first will give a very solid foundation to explore the sea of modern programming languages. Put another way, if you want to have a solid grasp of programming concepts start with C.

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