Programming Languages

10 Best Programming Languages for Embedded Systems

Programming Languages for Embedded Systems
Written by Martins D. Okoi

As we continue to expand our technological horizons by making anything that we can to be smart, the importance of embedded systems is becoming more apparent and many programmers are beginning to concentrate on IoT projects and there is no better time than now for you to start building your embedded systems programming-related skills and you need to know the most appropriate languages to use.

Embedded systems programming languages are different from others in the sense that they are perfect for low-level system access and require relatively fewer resources than others. So, without further ado, here’s a list of the best programming languages for embedded systems.

1. C Programming Language

C is a statically typed high-level programming language created by Dennis Ritchie with the aim of providing a language relatively easier to write code in compared to Assembly which was the more widely used language at the time.

The C programming language is blazing fast and even allows developers to design custom compilers quickly. It has built-in pointers which provide access to low-level system components, a large ecosystem that’s welcoming to developers, a loose data typing policy, etc. – all features which have made it pretty much the default language for embedded systems.

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2. C++ Programming Language

C++ was created as an extension of C and it is just as fast and powerful coupled with modern improvements that make it more desirable to veteran developers. Its namespace feature prevents naming conflicts, boasts the ability to overload constructors and functions, works with templates, etc.

C++ has many features that are typically lacking in C e.g. developers can use inline functions instead of macro definitions. It is also more beginner friendly than its predecessor.

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3. Python Programming Language

Python is an interpreted, high-level, general-purpose programming language created by Guido van Rossum with an emphasis on code readability and a soft spot for white-space.

It has, since its inception, established itself as an ideal language for both general-purpose and task-specific tasks ranging from developing games to analyzing large data sets.

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Python offers its users an excellent environment for automation tests, processing data in real time, working with networks and connected software, and prototyping.

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4. Java

Java is a class-based, object-oriented programming language designed by James Gosling as an improvement of the C++ programming language. It provides its users with enterprise-worthy stability, the ability to write once and run anywhere thanks to its Virtual Machine which enables one to port it across different IoT platforms.

Java is fast, excellent at handling exceptions, runs smoothly even on old generation software, and emphasizes several beneficial coding practicing such as encapsulation, and above all, it is easy to learn with a rich library of functions and documentation.

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5. Rust

Rust is a modern multi-paradigm, safety-focused, programming language designed to offer high performance and memory safety. It features a syntax similar to that of C++ with excellent implementation of high-level concepts.

Rust allows developers to port their code across several system types, contains remarkable tools for managing memory using both dynamic and static methods, and can be easily integrated into existing C or C++ code bases.

Get started with Rust

6. JavaScript

JavaScript is arguably the world’s most loved general-purpose, dynamic programming language these days. Once thought of as a language for the web alone, JS is now the most recommended language to beginners.

There’s even a law known as Atwood’s Law that states:

Any application that can be written in JavaScript, will eventually be written in JavaScript.

JavaScript features a revolutionary event loop that makes it work beautifully with network devices. It has native support for parsing regular expressions, is event-driven, and features a virtually unending list of libraries for any project you can think of, including embedded systems.

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7. B#

B# is a small, modern, object-oriented language created explicitly for small footprint embedded systems. It is designed to be fast and compact with classes, handlers, interfaces, and high-level mapping.

B# is an ideal language for embedded systems because according to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

B# manages to keep the operators, statements, and expressions of the core while providing developers with a portable way to access system hardware.

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Get started with B#

8. Embedded C++

Embedded C++ is a descendant of C++ specifically designed for embedded systems programming as it addresses the shortcomings that C++ has in embedded applications.

It was created as a result of the collaboration of major CPU manufacturers e.g. Hitachi, Toshiba, and Fujitsu to include only the aspects of C++ that are vital to embedded systems and omits features like namespaces, multiple inheritances, exception handling, etc.

Getting Started With Embedded Systems

9. C#

C# is a strongly-typed, component-oriented programming language created by one of the world’s biggest companies – Microsoft. Developers who program in C# enjoy exceptional debugging features, built-in support for object-oriented and structured programming, memory efficiency, etc.

C# is informally referred to as Microsoft’s implementation of Java with extra features missing in C++ with a focus on enterprise development. It has a large community of developers and several libraries for all types of projects.

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10. Lua

Lua (pronounced LOO-ah) is a robust, memory-friendly, multi-paradigm, cross-platform program language designed for embedded software. It features a straightforward syntax, is easily configurable, supports creating polymorphic components, etc.

Lua is speedy and cross-platform right out of the box, its applications can be used side by side with C programs, and its semantics can be extended in unique ways that allow developers to configure it as they want.

Getting Started With Lua

That wraps up my list but do keep in mind that the language you should use for any programming tasks ultimately depends on a handful of factors e.g the project scope, the available resources, and your development philosophy.

As usual, feel free to drop your thoughts in the discussion section below.

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About the author

Martins D. Okoi

Martins Divine Okoi is a graduate of Computer Science with a passion for Linux and the Open Source community. He works as a Graphic Designer, Web Developer, and programmer.