Fourth-Generation Programming Language

Fourth-Generation Programming Language

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Fourth-generation programming languages (4GL) are a level above third-generation programming languages (3GL) like Java, C, and Python.

4GLs are designed to be more user-friendly and to increase programmer productivity. They are closer to human language than previous generations and are often domain-specific. They include database query languages, report generator languages, and GUI (Graphical User Interface) builders.

Here are some characteristics of 4GLs:

  1. High-Level Abstraction: 4GLs provide high-level abstractions, which means they handle a lot of the low-level details for you. They are designed to be easier to use, with clear syntax and semantics.
  2. Declarative: Unlike 3GLs which are primarily procedural (you describe step-by-step how a task is to be done), 4GLs are often declarative. This means you describe what the outcome should be, but not necessarily how to achieve it. SQL (Structured Query Language) is a great example of this, where you describe what data you want, but not how to retrieve it.
  3. Domain-Specific: Many 4GLs are designed for specific tasks or domains, such as querying databases (SQL), generating reports, or creating user interfaces.
  4. Efficiency: While 4GLs can greatly speed up development time due to their high-level abstractions and simplicity, they are usually not as efficient in terms of CPU and memory usage as lower-level languages.
  5. Code Generation: Many 4GL tools have features that automatically generate large amounts of code or create entire applications, further speeding up development time.

Examples of 4GLs include SQL for database queries, MATLAB for numerical computation, and tools like Microsoft’s Visual Basic, where you can build an application mainly by dragging and dropping components.

However, 4GLs are not a replacement for 3GLs or lower-level languages. Each type of language has its strengths and is suited to different kinds of tasks. For instance, while 4GLs are great for quickly building a simple database application, you would likely use a 3GL for building a high-performance game or system-level software.

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