A universally accepted definition of a programming language does not exist – different scholars employ different approaches to it. Put plainly, a programming language is a set of instructions used for creating computer programs. The choice of languages out there is vast and there is no language suitable for all purposes. The language used by the programmer in each specific case depends on the program. Some languages are pretty much suitable for only mathematical and engineering applications, others for business and graphics, still others for creating games. However, there are a number of ways to define a programming language. Say, what the language is used for: it is something used to write programs. Unlike natural languages, which are for communication between people, while a programming language is for interaction between computer and a person, therefore protocols and other codes for inter-computer communication are not programming languages. A programming language has to provide means for manipulating the data and execution of commands. It is said, that the language must at least have something like variables and looping commands.
My first programming language was the Hyper Text Markup Language – HTML. Strictly speaking, it is not a programming language in essence, as it doesn’t have all the properties listed above – no variable storage and no looping procedures. Some call this kind of language still a programming language, but I disagree and consider HTML to be a Markup language (which is already suggested by its name). A markup language combines text that carries some meaning and additional information about this text, that is how it should be presented. There are many such languages, like, PostScript used for marking up pages for printers and so on. Another difference is that HTML is never compiled, but instead, the source is always open and interpreted by the browsing software on user’s computer.
The first time I encountered HTML was when my browser reported an error on page and asked whether or not I want to debug, I hit the “yes” button and saw HTML code of my page. Tags were not colored (it didn’t matter for me back then, though) and frankly, what I saw didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. However, I did see parts of readable text. My next encounter with the HTML was in the classroom at school. I picked this computer science and not another one because I was pretty excited about creating web pages. Of course, now we have so-called WYSIWYG (stands for What You See Is What You Get) editors like Microsoft FrontPage, but we had to learn the basics anyway and started off with the concept of hyperlinking – that is something that is most basic to the web than anything else. The first page I have created myself was any programmer’s classic “Hello World”. Then we went on to “link”, “style”, “head” tags. It was fun seeing how a bunch of rather meaningless (for an outsider) symbols and words translate into nice web pages. So it was a whole new language for me (not programming language, though, as a I have already argued).
It took awhile until our teacher got down to embedding scripts into our pages, but it is another story.
I found my HTML class not only interesting but useful too. I felt myself more professional of a designer, because we also learned about the basics of user’s perception of page, that is how to create the page so that the visitor stays on it longer.
Any web page is created using HTML, it doesn’t have to be pure HTML of course, as there are PHP and ASP languages, which are in fact real programming languages. It is also used to create those fancy e-mails.
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