Is Python sending Java and co. into retirement for good?

Programming languages are more than just a tool for developers. They embody vibrant communities and ecosystems and are measured in popularity and usage surveys such as the Tiobe Index. But theatrical swansongs to individual languages, philosophizing about their imminent demise and fall into irrelevance, have also long been part of everyday life.

This commentary does not intend to follow in this footsteps. On the contrary, instead of having endless discussions in the developer world about the rise and fall of individual languages, we should take a look at reality. Here we can see that between all the trends, hypes and supposed extinction, many more languages survive and fulfill a purpose than it appears on the surface. It also shows that programming languages cannot simply be declared superfluous or even dead – at least as we know them today. On the contrary, they are becoming more compatible with each other and are finding specialized use cases.

The currently undisputed Python has experienced its success story with the emergence of AI, data science and machine learning – and has thus moved directly into the fast lane. In view of this meteoric rise, it is easy to forget that the language has been around since 1991 and has not played a serious role in the IT world for decades. Today, it is at the top of the podium and there is no end in sight to its rise. Does this mean we have to retire older languages? Not for a long time yet, as the example of C++ shows time and again: for years, the object-oriented language has been predicted to be doomed, but its numerous use cases, efficiency and versatility ensure that C++, which was developed in the early 1980s, remains stubbornly at the top of the indices.

Programming languages cannot be argued away, the market and the respective communities ultimately have a greater influence than the comments section on the Internet. Last but not least, the widespread legacy applications, in whose depths completely different antiques are still doing their job, are also decisive. The Delphi conference, which is still taking place, will be able to confirm this. Nevertheless, the emergence of new technologies, especially AI, is having a major impact on which languages receive how much attention and which new generations of programmers study at universities. What does this mean for “oldies” like Java, C# or C?

Of course, no one has a digital crystal ball, but a look at the historical development shows that a large number of languages have co-existed for years. Even if Python will continue to be the measure of all things in AI-enthusiastic times, Java, C++ and the like will remain with us for a long time to come – because the use case is there and entire generations of developers will not give up their passion overnight. Looking even further into the future, however, the question arises as to whether our current idea of the programming language concept will endure in the long term. With the further development of AI co-pilots and generative models as interpreters for natural language to assembler, a real turning point would not be unlikely. Why shouldn’t AI one day compile directly in assembler and no longer take the detour via a language such as Python or Java? Perhaps this is why, in the long term, the question is whether programming languages as we know them today will generally be replaced in the future. Until then, many lines of code will still be compiled – in Python, in Java, in C++ and yes, also in Delphi.

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