C++ is ranked the fastest-growing programming language according to TIOBE’s September 2020 Programming Community index. A general-purpose, object-oriented programming language, C++ was designed by Bjarne Stroustrup in 1979 as an extension of the C language.
Even today, after almost four decades of its existence, C++ continues to be the preferred language of programmers and developers. In this article, we’ll look into what makes C++ so popular and delve into the practical applications of the language and how to build a career in the field.
What is C++ Programming?
C++ is an enhanced and extended version of C programming language, developed by Bjarne Stroustrup in 1979 as part of his Ph.D. project. Bjarne developed what he called ‘C with Classes’ (later renamed C++) because he felt limited by the existing programming languages that were not ideal for large scale projects. He used C to build what he wanted because C was already a general-purpose language that was efficient and fast in its operations.
C++ is a sophisticated, efficient, general-purpose programming language. The free-form, statically-typed, multi-paradigm, and typically compiled programming language is most suitable for intermediate-level programmers. However, those who want to start their programming journey with C++ will find that they can quickly learn programming concepts that will carry them a long way in their career.
What’s Behind the Enduring Appeal and Growth of C++?
C++ can be found just about everywhere. Around 4.4 million developers worldwide use the language. Many modern systems like search engines, VR applications, databases, operating systems, web browsers, and even movie productions are powered by the C++ code. Adobe products, Unreal Engine, and the Chrome and Firefox browsers are built with C++. It is quite preferred in performance-critical areas due to its high speed. Plus, the latest release of C++20 standard is making C++ the fastest growing language in the developer community.
Considering the popularity and relevance of C++, it is a language worth learning even in 2021. C++ has an immense job market extending over various industries like Finance, Application Development, Game Development, Virtual Reality, etc.
The most popular use of C++ is for developing extensive software infrastructure and applications running on limited resources. C++ has the unique ability to directly manipulate the hardware or machine it runs on. Thus, programmers can adjust their code to run an application efficiently in any environment, even with hardware space or energy constraints. Such applications of C++ run quickly and efficiently on various devices, making C++ the perfect choice for several vital applications.
C++ Background and History
C++ was first released in 1985, but it was not until 1998 that the first standardized version—C++98—was released. In 2003, C++03, the following standard, was published with the primary intention of fixing bugs identified in C++98 and to ensure that the language had greater portability and consistency.
The next major upgrade to the language arrived eight years later (2011) and was named C++11. After that, C++14 was released and made simple improvements, and bug fixes to C++11 before the next major release: C++17. The current C++17 version has several new features and a much more extensive standard library. Based on the current three-year cycle, the next release is slated for release in 2020 and will be named C++20.
Figure 2: C++ roadmap
The use of C++17 has grown by 10 percent since last year (2018), according to JetBrains, as people continue to adopt the new C++ standards. Projections show that one-third of all developers plan to adopt C++17 within the next year.
Figure 3: Adoption of different C++ standards
Benefits of C++
As a feature-rich programming language, C++ brings a lot of benefits to the table, all of which can’t be enumerated in the scope of this article. However, as a beginner, here are some of the benefits that you should be aware of:
- Speed. Low-level programming languages are much faster than higher-level programming languages like Java and Python. Since C++ is an extended version of C, a low-level programming language, it is one of the fastest programming languages available.
- Efficiency. C++ has a standard template library (STL) that can be used extensively when coding. These libraries provide efficient algorithms that allow the programmer to save time and effort that would otherwise be expended creating code.
- Freedom to choose programming styles. C++ supports about seven different styles of coding, making it a multi-paradigm programming language. As such, you can select a style that fits your use case without having to use objects.
- Ability to break down complex problems into smaller sets. C++ is partially an object-oriented programming language, which means that you can solve complex issues intuitively by creating objects. Additionally, C++ functions allow you to break down code into logical blocks that are clear, easy to understand, and easy to test and modify.
- Ability to catch errors before execution. C++ is statically typed, which means that the compiler does not make assumptions about what the programmer types. The benefit is that the compiler can catch bugs and errors before execution, which can save time in the long run.
Figure 4: C++ features
The Practical Applications of C++
In this section, we discuss the top seven application areas that use C++.
Most Operating Systems like Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac OS X, Symbian OS, and even mobile operating systems like IOS were developed using C++. Generally, operating systems need to be fast and efficient at handling system resources. The fact that C++ is a high-speed programming language with a wide range of system-level functions makes it an ideal choice for writing operating systems.
C++ was developed out of the need to analyze distributed applications of the UNIX Operating System, which was the first OS to be built using a programming language like C.
C++ being close to the hardware is one of the most widely used programming languages in game development. Games with graphics as an integral part of their structure make use of C++ and its high speed. Gaming requires a lot of resource-intensive functions to facilitate multiplayer sessions. C++ can optimally use resources, provide multiplayer networking, and is suited to override the complexities of 3D games.
C++ has been used to create popular games like World of Warcraft, Counter-Strike, game engines like Unreal Engine, and gaming consoles like Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch.
GUI Based Applications
Many highly used GUI (Graphical User Interface) based and desktop applications are developed with C++ due to its high speed. Some examples are applications of Adobe systems like Illustrator, Photoshop, and Win Amp Media Player from Microsoft – these are all developed using C++.
Your current web browser is probably programmed in C++. It powers the backend services that retrieve information from databases and translate code into interactive web pages. With C++, browsers can operate with high speed and minimum delay so that it doesn’t take long for content to appear on our screens.
C++ is used to develop the most popular web browsers we use today like:
- Internet Explorer
- Google Chrome
- Mozilla Firefox
- Netscape Navigator
Database Management System
Popular database management tools like MySQL, Oracle, Postgres, and MongoDB were developed in C++. MySQL is the world’s most popular open-source database that is used by most organizations. These databases form an integral part of major applications created by giants like Google, Netflix, YouTube, and Adobe. Features of C++ like file handling, high speed, reliability, functions, classes, and objects make it ideal for data management.
Cloud Computing and Distributed Applications
C++ becomes an automatic choice for implementing cloud storage systems as it is close to the hardware or machine-level language. It is quite compatible with machines. Hence, large companies that use cloud computing and distributed applications use C++ as it provides multithreading support that can build concurrent applications along with load tolerance to the hardware system.
Bloomberg is a distributed RDBMS application used for providing accurate financial news and information to investors in real-time. C++ has been used to write the development environment and libraries for Bloomberg.
The standard library of C++ has a wide variety of in-built functions. Performance and speed become important for high-level mathematical computations. Therefore, most libraries use C++ as their core programming language. C++ is an ideal candidate for a backend programming language that offers libraries to several new and popular high-level libraries, including Machine language libraries.
For example, TensorFlow – a powerful, open-source, machine learning library created by the Brain Team of Google – was developed with applications of C++ in the backend.
Why Learn C++?
Now that you’re aware of some of the use-cases of C++ as a programming language, it’s much easier to determine whether it will benefit your career path, hobby, or as a future up-skilling goal. If you are still not clear about it, here are a few reasons why you should learn C++:
- It will help you understand computer architecture. Since C++ is a low-level language that directly interacts with hardware, it allows you to learn how computer memory works and how information is stored.
- There are an extensive community and many open source projects. If you want to learn or adapt applications for your use, C++ provides plenty of repositories. For example, GitHub alone has more than half a million repositories from which to choose. StackOverflow, the best Q&A platform for developers, has almost half a million questions pertaining to C++ and excellent answers from seasoned C++ developers.
- It’s widely used. C++ is used to build operating systems, browsers, games, and well-recognized applications like Adobe products (e.g., Photoshop), Facebook, Autodesk products, and much more. Some say that C++ is so widely used that it is irreplaceable.
C++ Career Prospects
With just C++ programming expertise, you will have excellent job opportunities, salaries, and career prospects. However, for a career based on programming languages such as Java and Python (which are in more demand than C++) or for careers based on front-end, back-end, and full-stack development, you will go a lot further with C++ expertise. Furthermore, in development domains such as software testing, you are expected to know C++.
The potential salary you can expect to earn after learning C++ will depend on your skill level, geographical location, employer, whether you’re working as a freelancer, and other factors.
How to Build a Career in C++
Though C++ is not an easy language to learn, the range of applications that can be developed using the language is impressive. The question is, how much C++ do you need to know to bag a job in the field? The answer should be ‘there’s always more to learn – no matter if you are a beginner or an expert with 20 years of programming experience. The more knowledge and skill you have, the more likely you’ll end up landing a respectable job.
If you possess C++ skills or are interested in learning the language to build a career in C++, consider getting in touch with the team at Simplilearn – the world’s leading online certification Bootcamp.
There are bright job prospects and various avenues in C++ programming for professionals with extensive knowledge. There are different types of jobs that will help you build a career in C++.
Some of these are:
- Junior Programmer
- Senior Programmer
- Software Developer
- Software Developer Engineer
- Quality Analyst
- Game Programmer
- C++ Analyst
- Programming Architect
- Backend Developer
- Embedded Engineer
- Database Developer
Industry giants like Google, Amazon, Flipkart, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Infosys, Sun Microsystems, and others hire C++ professionals. So, there’s no dearth of jobs if you have the right skills.
C++ Developers are much in demand, and they enjoy some of the high-paying jobs in the industry. The average base pay of a C++ developer is about $103,035 per year. The amount of money you make as a C++ programmer will, however, depend on your skillset, qualifications, and expertise.
Useful Tips and Other Things to Keep in Mind
With either approach, (self-taught or instructor-led), you will need to go through several C++ tutorials and books to fully understand what you learn. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you begin your journey:
- You need to make a long-term commitment. The amount of time and energy it takes to learn C++ will vary depending on your level of commitment. Depending on your current situation and previous experiences, the time it takes to learn C++ will vary. In any case, don’t expect to learn C++ in a week thoroughly.
- You need to apply yourself thoughtfully. There is a lot to learn, and it can be overwhelming to get through the C++ basics. As such, you need to take the time to understand the fundamentals and seek support from peers and more experienced C++ programmers.
- Follow guidelines and C++ standards. Guidelines encourage you to focus on simple rules that help you get the job done effectively. Building on such a strong foundation will help you build on what you have learned without having to always go back to basics every time you encounter a different setting or particular purpose.
- Practice, practice, and more practice. Whichever approach you use to learn C++, taking the time to apply what you have learned is the best way to know that you understand what you have learned.
- Find errors and broken code to fix. Whether you build your applications or try to fix other people's code, you learn the most when you try to fix these issues, because you are forced to tap into different areas that you have learned.
- Read different people's C++ codes and learn different styles of coding. Learning on your own can give you tunnel vision, which can prevent you from acquiring new ideas or more straightforward ways to do what you have learned. Understanding how other people think by reading their code can, therefore, be invaluable to your C++ journey.
- Join a community and attend conferences. There are many useful communities that you can join that can help you with your C++ learning journey, e.g., Codechef, StackOverflow, and CodeProject.
Figure 6: Commonly used sources of C++ guidelines and standardsWatch the video below to learn about some basic topics that will help you understand C++ better.
Now that you are well versed with the wide range of C++ applications, go ahead and explore the career prospects of C++ that we mentioned in this article and clear your vision to embark on the right track.
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