C ++ is a free-form, statically typed, compiled object-oriented programming language. It was developed by Bjarne Stroustrup from the late 1970s as an extension of the C programming language – “C with classes”. The language was standardized in 1998, and, like many programming languages, is undergoing continual development. The main aim of current developers of C++ is to make it a better language to support new users as well as the most expert programmers.
The language is guided by several principles including how it should:
- Be focused on addressing and improving real programs
- Allow for the programming styles of all programmers
- Be able to implement every feature, with an openness to allowing features rather than a prevention of bad coding
- Coexist with other programming languages without needing its own environment
The object-oriented aspect of C++ is an example of the hybrid nature of the language. Although not a true superset of C, C++ is sometimes thought of as an extension of it, which means it is possible to code using C++ in a C-line manner, or alternatively, in an object-oriented style.
C++ is considered a middle-level language, consisting of both low-level and high-level language features. The low-level features of C++ mean that is can be used to develop system-related applications, such as drivers and embedded firmware. The high-level aspects, including object-oriented features such as multiple inheritance, polymorphism and encapsulation, allow C++ to be used for developing large applications with multiple functionality and shared resources.
One powerful feature of C++ is its collection of predefined classes – data types that are built in to the language and can be declared and reused in a flexible manner. This can reduce the amount of coding required of the programmer. Another feature is operator overloading, which allows the programmer to redefine the meaning of the most basic parts of the programming language, such as the “+” (plus) or “-” (minus) symbols.
For example, we do not normally associate a “subtraction” capability with character strings, but with C++, we could define the “-” (minus) operator to mean “remove one string from another string”.
This would allow us to code as follows:
string s1 = “the quick brown fox”;
string s2 = “brown”;
string s3 = s1 – s2;
– and the result in string s3 would be “the quick fox”.
The latest version, C++ 17, is a significant achievement, and it has made improvements in sophisticated areas such as abstraction mechanisms. C++ developers plan to develop a new version of the language every three years. Although backwards compatibility with older versions of the language is an important consideration, C++ will continue to add new features and to simplify existing features, to preserve its status as a powerful and modern computer programming language.
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