Second-generation programming language

The label of second-generation programming language (2GL) is a generational way to categorize assembly languages.[1][2][3]

The term was coined to provide a distinction from higher level machine independent third-generation programming languages (3GLs) (such as COBOL, C, or JavaScript) and earlier first-generation programming languages (machine code)[2][4]

Second-generation programming languageEdit

Second-generation programming languages have the following properties:

  • Lines within a program correspond directly to processor commands, essentially acting as a mnemonic device overlaying a first generation programming language.
  • The code can be read and written by a programmer. To run on a computer it must be converted into a machine readable form, a process called assembly.[4]
  • The language is specific to a particular processor family and environment.[2]

Second-generation languages are sometimes used for parts of kernels or device drivers, and are sometimes used in video games, graphics programs, and other intensive programs.[1]

In modern programs, second generation assembly languages are rarely used.[5] Programming in second generation languages may yield speed benefits, but several disadvantages have led to its decline:

  • Programming is expressed in terms of individual processor instructions, rather than higher level logic.[2][3]
  • Low-level memory and hardware details must be manually managed which is often bug-prone.[2]
  • Programs are machine-dependent, so different versions must be written for every target machine architecture.[3]

The vast majority of programs are written in a third-generation programming language or a fourth-generation programming language. Assembly's main advantage, speed, has degraded by the fact that well written C code can often be as fast or even faster than hand written assembly[2][6]

Second generation languages are perhaps most significant in their place in computing history. For a long time, Second generation assembly languages were the only good option for development for many machines, such as the NES or the Commodore 64.[7][8] Second generation languages represented a massive step away from the tradition of programmers conforming to the needs of a machine, and the first step towards the machine accommodating for the programmer, a phenomenon that would be repeated in all subsequent programming language generations.[2][3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Computer Hope, Generation languages"
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Brookshear, J. Glenn. Computer science : an overview (11th ed.). Addison-Wesley. pp. 240–241. ISBN 0-13-256903-5.
  3. ^ a b c d Vass, Péter. "Programming Language generations and Programming Paradigms" (PDF).
  4. ^ a b "What Are Programming Language Generations?". wiseGEEK (in American English). Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  5. ^ "Top Computer Languages 2019 -". Archived from the original on 2019-06-12. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  6. ^ Walls, Colin. "Why C is faster than assembly". Mentor, a Sieman's Business. Mentor Inc. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  7. ^ Commodore corporation. "C64 programmer's reference" (PDF). Commodore corporation. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  8. ^ Wikibooks contributors. "NES assembly". Wikibooks: NES Assembly. Retrieved 11 June 2019. {{cite web}}: |author1= has generic name (help)