Languages are the primary tools for understanding and communicating with people. As we progressed as a species, we started to develop language in order to communicate with each other. As years went by and technology progressed, we moved on to inventing programming languages.
What’s a mix of random decimals to the untrained eye, is a refined alphabet with no limit to its possibilities for tech-savvy programmers. Stick with us to find out more about the digital currency phenomenon called the Bitcoin blockchain and the languages used to create it.
What Is Bitcoin?
First of all, we should cover the basics before we delve into the specifics of programming languages and other cryptocurrencies.
Bitcoin (BTC) is the first cryptocurrency and it was launched back in 2009. To this day, its financial and social powers grow. Bitcoin was created by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto, who is speculated not to be a single person but rather a whole team. In any case, they managed to take the world by storm.
Basically, Bitcoin works like a transaction proxy with fewer fees and more anonymity than traditional payment mechanisms. Bitcoin is powered by a decentralized public ledger called a blockchain. Every Bitcoin transaction, starting from the first, is recorded and kept on this blockchain.
What Is Blockchain Technology?
Bitcoin is created, traded, stored, and exchanged through a decentralized ledger system called a blockchain. This might sound complicated, but its core concept is pretty straightforward.
A blockchain is a type of database that stores collections of data on a computer network. The main goal is to store and distribute data without allowing any individual member or entity the ability to edit or tamper with it in any way. Every change on the blockchain must be verified by the majority of its users, i.e the miners, but we’ll discuss mining in more detail later in the article. The first blockchain system was created in 1991 and was used as a system where document timestamps could not be altered, yet the first application of blockchains that spread across the world was in 2009 when Bitcoin transactions were created.
It basically works as a system of blocks that are filled with transaction data, each with a limited capacity. Miners fill these blocks with data by solving mathematical problems. When a block is filled with data, it is added to the chain of blocks created by the previous blocks and a new one takes its place. This is what’s referred to as mining.
Bitcoin mining is the process of verifying and recording transactions in a public blockchain ledger. Usually, miners solve difficult mathematical problems with the use of high-end computers. These problems cannot be solved by hand and are giving even the most powerful hardware a run for its money. The first miner that solves these problems, or fills 1MB worth of transaction data in the block, is rewarded with crypto assets (in this case, BTC). Their solution is then distributed across the network so that other users can verify it. Approximately, a block is filled every 10 minutes, then the whole cycle begins again.
A peer-to-peer or P2P network is the basis of Bitcoin mining. The network is created when two or more PCs are connected and share resources without the need for a server. The P2P construction of blockchain enables all cryptocurrencies to be transferred worldwide, excluding the need for an intermediary or server.
What Are Programming Languages?
Programming languages are the tools of the trade that programmers use to “tell” the computer how to do their bidding.
The first programming languages looked like ones and zeros. These languages fall into two classifications: low-level and high-level languages.
Low-level languages are machine-coded or binary (using ones and zeros) and they’re more difficult for humans to understand. The benefit of these is that they’re fast and offer greater control of how the computer will operate.
High-level languages are closer to the way we communicate. They use words like run, object, order, request, class, etc. This means that they’re easier to write compared to low-level languages, yet they are slower to translate into machine code for the computer.
The good news is that as computers become more powerful, the runtime difference between the languages is measured in milliseconds, so usually, it’s better to stick to high-level ones.
The Programming Languages of Bitcoin
The Original Language Application: C++
The native tongue of all tech languages and Bitcoin’s foundation, C++, was created back in 1985 by Bjarne Stroustrup, a Danish computer scientist.
Bjarne actually stated that he doesn’t like that Bitcoin-qt was written in his brainchild language. The reason for this is the electricity consumption that Bitcoin mining requires, which is equal to the amount of electricity consumed by a settlement with 8 million residents.
C++ was developed as an improvement and a cross-platform of C, and it provides programmers with a higher degree of control over the system and memory resources. C++ is praised because of its flexibility regarding platforms, as programmers can transport it and use it to create programs on different operating systems and platforms with relative ease.
There are, of course, some disadvantages to using C++. First of all, this programming language contains some of the most complex concepts. For example, pointers are very difficult to grasp and their handling in inexperienced hands may lead to system crashes and frustrations, but how else will people learn? Another drawback is the lack of a garbage collector, making it harder to flush unnecessary data.
On the whole, C++ is a great program if you’re looking to dive into the ocean of blockchains and cryptocurrency. It comes with a learning curve but it’s worthwhile, especially since it offers multiple classes that can act as boundaries between different APIs. Currently, it’s used by more than 4 million developers, including both Android developers and Bitcoin miners. The first reference implementation, Bitcoin Core, was written in C++ by Satoshi Nakamoto, so you might want to give it a try. Other than Bitcoin, C++ is also used to develop cryptocurrencies like Litecoin, Ripple, Stellar, and EOS.
Java is the jack of all trades for blockchain programming. It’s a general-purpose programming language. Since its launch back in 1995, Java rose to the top 3 language applications with over 9 million users to date. It is the most well-liked program, running strong for over two decades. Programmers have stated that it’s one of the most effective languages ever designed for the distributed environment of the internet. NEM’s Bitcoin Core was entirely designed using Java.
As with any other programming language, Java comes with its own benefits and limitations. One of the major benefits of Java is the simplicity of the program: it’s very straightforward to use, write, debug, and compile. In simple words, Java can be used as a stepping stone for learning other languages. Java is much less complicated than its cousin C++ because it uses automatic memory allocation and has a garbage collector.
Java permits forming standard codes and its code is reusable. It can run on any hardware and doesn’t need any special software – even older GPUs and CPUs can run it. The only prerequisite is that JVM (Java Virtual Machine) is present in the system.
On the flip side, Java has some functionality disadvantages compared to other programs. It consumes too much memory and is remarkably slower than other languages like C++ or C. Its GUI when using the Swift toolkit rather lacks in simplicity and when compared to other native applications. The memory is managed through a garbage collector algorithm, and whenever it runs, the speed and performance of the application are affected. This is because all other threads need to be stopped for the garbage collector thread to work.
All in all, Java is one of the best beginner applications to start your journey with. It’s much simpler than the rest of the language programs, though it offers versatile use. It held the number-one ranking on the TIOBE index, but in the last couple of years, that spot has been taken by C.
Python is a preferred programming language that offers some of the best versatility among its language peers, some of which are Ruby and Swift. Created in 1991, it’s generally used in creating dApps (decentralized apps) and smart contracts. This multipurpose language is suitable for dealing with data, mathematical equations, and is most popularly used these days in the mobile app and video game development industries.
Unlike Java, Python isn’t restricted to web development. Similar to the other coding languages, Python uses an interpreter which executes the finalized lines of code. There are a lot of free resources for learning the language and with English syntax at its basis, it’s considered one of the least finicky and most elementary languages to read.
The benefits sure outweigh the faults with this language. The community is very large and it offers constant support, which helps maintain its accessibility for both beginners and pros.
Python’s faults are mostly tolerable. It’s slower than C++, but it’s also more high-level than C++ and not as close to the hardware. Mobile development is not recommended with Python and it’s considered weak when compared to Carbonelle. Memory consumption is also a small problem due to the data type’s flexibility; in other words, it’s not recommended for memory-intensive tasks.
All things considered, Python is an excellent programming language, especially for beginners. With a strong community and open access, Python has a well-earned spot in the hearts of blockchain developers.
The name, incidentally, has nothing to do with reptiles. Instead, its creator is just an avid fan of Monty Python. The most popular blockchain projects in the industry made using Python are NEO, Steem, Fabric, and Hyperledger.
Ethereum is a more recent blockchain platform that sports its own cryptocurrency called Ether (ETH) and has its own language application called Solidity. Currently, it’s second in value, losing the first spot to BTC. It was created and launched in 2015 by a group of blockchain experts. However, Ethereum was never really meant to be competing against Bitcoin. Rather, it’s meant to complement it.
Ethereum is described as a programmable blockchain network. The difference between ETH and BTC is that Ethereum’s network behaves and functions as an open market for financial servers, but it also facilitates the development and purchase of video games and Dapps (decentralized apps) that can be purchased with Ether and are highly secured against scams, theft, or any kind of censorship. One of its creators, Vitalik Buterin, has earned the title of “the world’s first crypto billionaire”.
Solidity has various advantages and disadvantages, and we will address some of them here. As an object-oriented programming language for creating smart contracts, it creates a safe and easy channel for agreements between any two parties that decide on the terms without an intermediary. There are multiple safe-type functions that are supported in Solidity via ABI (Application Binary Interface).
As always, there are a few caveats. Not being able to upgrade and add extra features to a contract is one of them. Plus, Solidity is still considered as a new language and the bugs are not yet ironed out when compared to older, more well-known languages. Of course in time, with more and more developers working on perfecting Solidity, the language will measure up.
All in all, besides its early day’s limitations, Solidity is a rising star in the tech world and it’s definitely worth learning, as dApps and smart contracts are the future of blockchain technology.
There are various languages which aren’t yet as powerful and widespread as the ones we talked about, yet are still worth mentioning, especially if you like to give underdogs a chance. We’ve selected the ones that stand out as rising stars. These honorable mentions can, and oftentimes are used for Bitcoin mining, but they’re not yet up to par with the more refined and professional languages. Think of them as the indie genre of the Bitcoin industry.
- PHP stands for Personal Homepage. It’s a server-side scripting language used to develop web applications, dynamic websites and static websites. PHP scripts can only be interpreted when the server has PHP installed.
- Rust is an open-source programming language that focuses on speed, memory safety, and parallelism. It’s got an active community of coders who maintain the code base and gradually enhance it. Mozilla now sponsors the Rust open project.
- Ruby is a brand new, built-from-scratch scripting language for back and front-end web development. It’s very robust and dynamically built with object-oriented language. Its syntax is so high-level that even a rookie can start using it and get the feel of it. People who don’t know how to code claim that they could understand Ruby without much effort.
- Golang was first published in 2009. It’s an open-source language developed by a team of Google workers and other contributors. Its purpose is to simplify the process of software development, especially for complex architecture and processes.
A Few Words Before You Go…
There are many different languages in the Bitcoin network ecosystem. In this article, we touched upon some of them. There are a number of specifications and various tutorials on the internet, and most of them are free if you don’t mind the hard work of teaching yourself without expert help. Before you get started, you can listen to podcasts, as there are many on this subject, in order to get a better feel of the world of programming and data structures. Github is another goldmine of programming topics and tutorials.
It’s a fact that cryptocurrencies are growing rapidly, and if you want to stay ahead of the game, you should probably become a part of their widespread architecture. There’s no better way to do this than to start programming in a language of your choosing.