Which Programming Language Should You Learn? Python Vs PHP Vs C++

2018-02-15by Josh Althuser

High-paying programming jobs have a healthy job outlook. In fact, demand exceeds supply. There are fewer highly-skilled programmers and developers than there are job openings. Because of this, learning a high-level programming language can be a great career choice for those looking for better paying jobs.


Learning to code can also be enormously satisfying. It tests your ability to think critically as you solve real-world puzzles with specially-crafted algorithms and elegant functions with the help of an open-source community.


There are plenty of programming languages to learn. Some cult favorites include Lua, Scheme, and Ada. More popular high-level languages include C++, Java, and Python. Which one you choose to learn depends on your interests, your goals, and the kinds of projects you want to develop.


PHP and Python are high-level scripting languages used for server-side communication, which means it processes user input, queries data, and performs database operations for web apps. It’s the other side of HTML, CSS, Javascript. These languages dictate how a website looks, how it’s organized, and how a user interacts with it. PHP and Python are scripting languages that can do the heavy-lifting of a website.


In contrast, C++ and Java are high-level object-oriented languages used for a variety of applications, from video games to defence systems. So while C++ and Java are extremely powerful languages, PHP development is better suited for certain applications like web programming.


High level means that your code resembles natural human language. What does this mean? As you probably already know, computers use a binary language. So instead of using the English alphabet, which is made up of 26 letters, binary has only two components: 0 and 1. These 0s and 1s represent electrical signals in the computer’s hardware. A certain sequence of 0s and 1s causes a computer to do one thing or another.


When programmers first began coding, they all coded using binary. This is the lowest level. Assembly language, which communicates directly to your computer’s hardware, uses some English phrases and abbreviations, and is one step above binary.


High level languages like C++, Java, Python, and PHP are so far removed that they resemble English sentences and mathematical proofs. You don’t have to tell the computer’s hardware what to do. You can code general abstractions. You can code a program that asks a user to input any number, for example. Your program can tell you if that number is prime, even, or odd. Or you can manipulate input. The list goes on and on.


With these languages, you can code complex applications, build databases, and create dynamic video games in a relatively short amount of time. Much of the work of communicating with the computer is taken out as you can concentrate on building great software. In addition, your code will be machine-independent, so it can work on lots of different devices. So you won’t have to worry about how one processor is built versus another. This makes your code much more powerful.


What’s the difference between object-oriented and scripting languages? The lines are blurred with hybrid languages like Python and PHP, but generally, object-oriented languages are built around the idea that we can program reusable objects. This means that instead of programming a bunch of functionalities that we have to program again and again, we can code an object that performs functionalities. This uses the concept of encapsulation, which is just as the name implies. We can have objects that encapsulate certain functions. This helps with code reuse, which makes development faster.


Python uses multiple paradigms: object-oriented, procedural, and functional. It’s a scripting language that allows you to code with objects. In addition, it’s much easier to read and write than complex C++ programs. It’s much more flexible than C and can pack a bigger punch with fewer lines of code. At the same time, Python programs can be tougher to optimize.


Although Python is flexible, it currently only powers 1% of the web. PHP, on the other hand, powers over 80%. Why? Python wasn’t built for just web applications. It can used for nearly anything, similar to C++. As such, PHP, while stricter in terms of syntax and usage, was created exclusively for server-side communication.


Which coding language you decide to learn depends on your specific needs. Continue to do your own research, play around with the popular IDEs for each language, and test out example programs. Begin simplistic coding projects yourself and see what you’re attracted to. Odds are if you’re attracted to server-side scripting, you’ll pick up PHP. If you’re more attracted to easy-to-code, dynamic, and secure applications, Python is the best bet. If you want to spend time on a steep learning curve and desire to create all sorts of powerful, optimized programs and apps, you may want to invest in learning C++. Whatever you decide, your coding journey will certainly be rewarding.

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Josh Althuser

Josh Althauser is an entrepreneur with a background in design and M&A. He's also a developer, open source advocate, and designer. You may connect with him on Twitter.

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