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Introduction to C and C++

The history of C and C++, their uses and differences

by John Kopp

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Welcome to easyCPlusCPlus.com's C/C++ site

If you're interested in learning about C or C++, this is the place. We have a series of online courses and tutorials that will teach you either language from the start.

A Brief History Of C

The C programming language was developed at Bell Labs during the early 1970's. Quite unpredictably it derived from a computer language named B and from an earlier language BCPL. Initially designed as a system programming language under UNIX it expanded to have wide usage on many different systems. The earlier versions of C became know as K&R C after the authors of an earlier book, "The C Programming Language" by Kernighan and Ritchie. As the language further developed and standardized, a version know as ANSI (American National Standards Institute) C became dominant. As you study this language expect to see references to both K&R and ANSI C. Although it is no longer the language of choice for most new development, it still is used for some system and network programming as well as for embedded systems. More importantly, there is still a tremendous amount of legacy software still coded in this language and this software is still actively maintained.

A Brief History Of C++

Bjarne Stroustrup at Bell Labs initially developed C++ during the early 1980's. It was designed to support the features of C such as efficiency and low-level support for system level coding. Added to this were features such as classes with inheritance and virtual functions, derived from the Simula67 language, and operator overloading, derived from Algol68. Don't worry about understanding all the terms just yet, they are explained in easyCPlusPlus's C++ tutorials. C++ is best described as a superset of C, with full support for object-oriented programming. This language is in wide spread use.

Differences between C and C++

Although the languages share common syntax they are very different in nature. C is a procedural language. When approaching a programming challenge the general method of solution is to break the task into successively smaller subtasks. This is known as top-down design. C++ is an object-oriented language. To solve a problem with C++ the first step is to design classes that are abstractions of physical objects. These classes contain both the state of the object, its members, and the capabilities of the object, its methods. After the classes are designed, a program is written that uses these classes to solve the task at hand.

Do You Need To Know C Before Learning C++?

Although this question is still a source of debate, and many including the author of this article learned C first, I believe the answer is no. The features of C are supported by C++. After learning C++ you will be able to read and understand most of what you would see in any C program you might encounter and can fill in any missing details easily. Additionally, the techniques used to solve programming problems in an object-oriented language such as C++ differ from a procedural language such as C. C programmers who need to study C++ must unlearn some of their programming techniques and replace them with techniques for object-oriented design.

Best wishes for success,
John

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