Top Ten Oldest Programming Languages

Top Ten Oldest Programming Languages

Discover the origins of computer programming with our list of the Top Ten Oldest Programming Languages. From Fortran to Lisp, explore the evolution of coding languages and their impact on the modern tech world.

In the world of computer programming, innovation is the name of the game. New programming languages are constantly being developed to meet the ever-evolving needs of the tech industry. But have you ever wondered about the origins of programming languages? Which ones paved the way for the ones we use today?

Our Top Ten Oldest Programming Languages article takes you on a journey through time, exploring the ten programming languages that have been around the longest. From Fortran, the oldest language on our list, to Ada, which was developed for the US Department of Defense in the 1980s, we examine each language’s history and significance.

In addition to their historical context, we also examine each language’s unique features and applications. For example, COBOL, which was created in 1959, is still widely used today in the finance and banking industries. Meanwhile, Lisp, which was developed in the late 1950s, has been a popular language for artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Beyond the practical applications of these programming languages, we also explore their impact on the tech industry as a whole. Each language paved the way for the development of new languages and technologies, creating a foundation for the advancements we enjoy today.

Whether you’re a seasoned programmer or simply interested in the history of technology, our Top Ten Oldest Programming Languages article is a must-read. Discover the evolution of computer programming and the languages that started it all.


Fortran, short for “Formula Translation,” is one of the oldest programming languages still in use today. Developed in the 1950s by IBM, Fortran was designed to perform complex scientific and engineering calculations. Its syntax is simple and structured, making it easy to write and read code. Fortran has undergone many iterations over the years, with the latest version, Fortran 2018, released in 2018. Although newer languages have surpassed Fortran in popularity, it remains widely used in scientific computing, particularly in the fields of physics, astronomy, and meteorology.



SQL, short for Structured Query Language, is a programming language used for managing and manipulating data in relational databases. Developed in the 1970s, SQL provides a standardized syntax for accessing and managing data stored in databases. It is used to create, modify, and delete tables and records, as well as to query and extract data for analysis and reporting. SQL is widely used in business and enterprise applications, and is considered a fundamental tool for managing data. Its popularity has led to the development of many variations and extensions of the language, including MySQL, Oracle SQL, and Microsoft SQL Server.



C is a powerful and versatile programming language that was developed in the early 1970s by Dennis Ritchie at Bell Labs. C was created as a general-purpose language for writing operating systems, compilers, and other system software. Its simple syntax, efficient memory management, and low-level access to system resources make it a popular language for developing high-performance applications and embedded systems. C is known for its speed, portability, and ability to work with low-level hardware. Its popularity has also led to the creation of many related languages and frameworks, including C++, Objective-C, and the widely-used Linux operating system. C remains a popular language today, particularly in the fields of system programming, game development, and embedded systems.


BASIC, short for “Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code,” is a programming language that was developed in the 1960s for educational purposes. Its simple syntax and easy-to-learn structure made it a popular choice for beginners learning to program. BASIC was originally implemented on mainframe computers, but later versions were developed for personal computers, including the Apple II and IBM PC. BASIC was widely used in the early days of personal computing, and many of its features, such as control structures and input/output commands, have been incorporated into other programming languages. While BASIC is no longer as widely used as it once was, it remains an important part of computing history and a useful language for teaching programming fundamentals.


LISP, short for “LISt Processor,” is a programming language that was developed in the late 1950s for artificial intelligence research. LISP’s syntax is based on nested lists, which makes it well-suited for processing symbolic data and creating complex algorithms. LISP was one of the first programming languages to support functional programming, a style of programming that emphasizes the use of functions as the primary means of computation. LISP also supports dynamic typing, which allows variables to be assigned different data types at runtime. LISP has been widely used in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and has influenced the development of many other programming languages, including Scheme and Clojure. While LISP is not as widely used as some other programming languages, it remains an important part of computing history and a useful language for certain types of applications.


Pascal is a programming language that was developed in the 1970s by Niklaus Wirth. Named after the mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal, the language was designed to promote good programming practices and to be easy to learn. Pascal’s syntax is simple and structured, and its strict type checking and error handling make it a popular choice for teaching programming fundamentals. Pascal also introduced many features that are now standard in programming languages, such as modular programming, dynamic arrays, and records. Although Pascal has been largely overshadowed by other languages, particularly C and its derivatives, it remains an important part of computing history and a useful language for teaching programming concepts.


Smalltalk is an object-oriented programming language that was developed in the 1970s by Alan Kay, Dan Ingalls, and others at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Smalltalk’s syntax is simple and consistent, and its object-oriented design makes it well-suited for developing large, complex systems. Smalltalk was also one of the first programming languages to support graphical user interfaces, allowing developers to create interactive applications with ease. Despite its age, Smalltalk remains popular in some communities, particularly for developing applications in the finance and insurance industries. Smalltalk has also influenced the development of other object-oriented programming languages, including Objective-C and Ruby.


Ada is a high-level programming language that was developed in the 1970s and 1980s by a team led by Jean Ichbiah at the French company CII Honeywell Bull. Ada was designed to be a reliable, efficient, and secure language for developing large, mission-critical systems, particularly those used by the military and other government organizations. Ada’s syntax is similar to that of Pascal, but it includes many additional features, such as support for real-time systems, concurrency, and object-oriented programming. Ada’s strong typing and error checking features help to ensure that programs are reliable and free from bugs, making it a popular choice for safety-critical applications such as aviation and nuclear power plants. Despite its strengths, Ada has not achieved widespread adoption outside of the military and government sectors.


Matlab, short for “Matrix Laboratory,” is a programming language and interactive environment for numerical computation, visualization, and data analysis. Developed in the 1980s by MathWorks, Matlab provides a powerful set of tools for scientists, engineers, and other professionals who need to analyze and manipulate large amounts of data. Matlab’s syntax is based on mathematical notation, making it easy to express complex mathematical formulas and algorithms. It also includes a variety of built-in functions for signal processing, image processing, and other specialized tasks. Matlab’s interactive environment allows users to explore data and test ideas in real time, making it a popular tool for research and development. Matlab has also been widely adopted in academia, particularly in the fields of engineering, physics, and mathematics.


COBOL, short for “Common Business Oriented Language,” is a programming language that was developed in the late 1950s for business applications. COBOL’s syntax is designed to be easy to read and understand, and its built-in support for file processing and data manipulation make it well-suited for handling large amounts of data. COBOL has been widely used in the financial, insurance, and government sectors, where large-scale data processing is common. Despite its age, COBOL remains in use today, particularly in legacy systems that were built using the language. COBOL has also influenced the development of other programming languages, particularly those designed for business and financial applications.

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