The Difference Between Compiled Vs Interpreted Languages

Every computer processes code in 1s and 0s. As humans, however, we speak a different language. That’s where programming languages come in; they provide a high-level abstraction over machine language. These high-level languages are often split into two types: compiled and interpreted languages. Compiled and interpreted languages are very different when it comes to programming. The most important thing is in their respective titles. But, the most important aspect for developers is speed. Let me explain, starting with the interpreted languages.


Interpreted Languages

Interpreted languages are programming languages that are read line by line and interpreted into machine instructions by an interpreter. They are often slower than compiled languages because they are never converted into a final form that is closer to machine language. Some languages like this are JavaScript, Python, and Ruby. Now, if you notice, these languages all have interesting similarities that often define interpreted languages.

Each language does not have explicit types. Types are interpreted at runtime. This means that any code could possibly have errors because types could change at any time. This is a downside at runtime and requires careful programming moderation by the developer. The positive is that developers can write code more quickly. This applies to all the languages mentioned above.

These are the core concepts of interpreted languages. Now, let’s discuss compiled languages.


Compiled Languages

As mentioned before, programming languages are abstractions over machine code. Compiled languages let you write code at a higher level of abstraction, but the code you write is compiled (converted) to a form that machines can understand. The main result of this is that code execution is much faster than an interpreted language. Some examples of languages like this are C, Java, OCaml, and C++. Just like interpreted languages, these programming languages have commonalities.

Each of these languages promotes explicit declaration; types must be defined. For example, in C and Java, you must declare integers as integers with the “int” type. This applies to other types as well. The upside is that it reduces errors, improves code clarity, and more. The disadvantage is that the code takes a longer time to write. You could say there is way more red tape. Now, this may compel you to ask what language to learn or use in a project.

The answer is it depends on which language suits your needs and timeframe. If you want to get a prototype up and running quickly, choose an interpreted language. If you want to create secure and fast systems, a compiled language may be a better choice due to the strictness of the languages. The most important thing to take from this post is the information on tradeoffs of each language when it comes to using them.


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