Outdated and Outmoded: The Legacy of Obsolete Programming Languages

In this article, we’ll take a trip down memory lane and look at some of the old programming languages that have become obsolete over time. Not all programming languages have stood the test of time, and some are no longer widely used. 

We’ll delve into why these languages have been replaced by newer ones and give you some examples, dates, and a rundown of the pros and cons of the oldest programming languages compared to the current ones.


COBOL, short for Common Business-Oriented Language, was a high-level programming language that was developed in the 1950s specifically for business purposes. During the 60s and 70s, COBOL was a popular choice, but its use has since declined.

On the bright side, COBOL was designed to be easy to read and comprehend, making it a hit in the business world. Plus, its support for structured programming and modular design made it simple to write and maintain large programs.
However, COBOL has its drawbacks too. It’s a verbose language, which means it takes a lot of code to get simple tasks done. Additionally, it doesn’t have support for modern programming concepts such as object-oriented programming and generic types.

Even though COBOL is still used in some legacy systems like financial and government applications, it’s not widely taught or used for new development anymore.

Read: 8 Programming Languages that Every Teachie Should Master


FORTRAN (Formula Translation) was a popular high-level programming language in the 1950s, used mainly for scientific and engineering purposes. Despite its heyday in the 60s and 70s, it’s since fallen out of favor.

Pros: FORTRAN was designed to handle numerical computations with ease, making it a top choice for science and engineering. Plus, its structured programming and modular design made writing and maintaining large programs a breeze.
Cons: However, FORTRAN could be quite verbose and required a lot of code for simple tasks. And, it didn’t support modern programming concepts like object-oriented programming and generic types.

Today, FORTRAN still exists in some legacy systems in scientific and engineering fields, but it’s no longer a widely taught or used language for new developments.

Read: 15 Programming Myths You Definitely Didn’t Know About

3 – LISP

LISP, which stands for List Processing, was a popular language in the 1950s for AI and symbolic processing. Though it was widely used in the 60s and 70s, it’s since fallen out of favor. LISP offers some major advantages – it’s great for symbolic processing and AI, and its flexible syntax allows for creating new control structures and data types. But, it’s also got some downsides – it’s a tough language to learn, especially for those used to imperative languages like C or Java, and it doesn’t support modern programming concepts like OOP and generic types. Although LISP is still used in some R&D settings, it’s not widely taught or used in new development.

Read: Linux vs Windows: Which is better for programming

4 – Pascal

Pascal was once a big deal, used for teaching and science in the 70s and 80s. But, it’s lost its spark over time. It was a user-friendly language that was easy to pick up, with structured programming and modular design. But, Pascal has fallen behind with its lack of support for modern programming concepts like OOP and generic types, and it’s a bit verbose, making it tough to accomplish simple tasks with lots of code.

These days, modern programming languages like Java and C# offer better OOP support and more concise syntax, making them easier to work with. While Pascal is still taught in some educational settings, it’s not widely used for new development.

Read: JavaScript is the best programming language for beginners: Is it true or not

5 – Assembler

Assembler is a low-level programming language for writing programs for specific computers or microprocessors. It’s a direct representation of machine code and not transferable to other systems.

Pros: Assembler is fast and efficient, giving the programmer direct control over the hardware. It’s also great for small programs and low-level system programming.
Cons: It’s tough to learn and use, requiring a deep understanding of hardware and its instructions. And since programs are specific to a certain computer or microprocessor, it’s not portable to other systems.
Compared to modern languages: Modern programming languages like C and C++ offer better portability and an easier-to-write, higher-level syntax.

Assembler is still used in some low-level programming, like writing device drivers or OS kernels, but it’s not widely taught or used for new projects.

Read: Top 8 Powerful Tools Developers Use for Laravel Web Development

6 – Basic

BASIC, short for Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, was a high-level programming language created in the 60s to make coding simple and accessible for students. It was a hit in the 70s and 80s but has since lost popularity.

BASIC’s selling point was its ease of use, making it perfect for educational settings. It also had structure, making it a breeze to write and maintain big programs. However, it’s got its shortcomings like lacking support for the latest programming techniques such as object-oriented programming and generic types, and being verbose.

Nowadays, modern programming languages like Java and Python have surpassed BASIC with their support for object-oriented programming and concise syntax. While BASIC may still be taught in some educational settings, it’s no longer a popular choice for new development projects.

7 – Prolog

Prolog, or Programming in Logic, is a high-level language designed for AI and symbolic processing in the 1970s. It’s great for tasks like natural language processing and theorem proving.

The good: Prolog is a powerful tool, especially for AI and symbolic processing, and it’s flexible syntax makes it easy to create new control structures and data types.

The not-so-good: Prolog can be tough to learn, especially for those used to imperative languages like C or Java. And, it doesn’t have the latest programming concepts like OOP or generic types.

Today, Prolog is still used in some research and development, but it’s no longer widely taught or used for new projects.

Read: PHP or Ruby: Which One to Use for Web App Development

8 – Haskell

Haskell is a high-level language made for functional programming in the 1990s. It’s great for symbolic processing and theorem proving, thanks to being based on lambda calculus.

Pros: Haskell is a powerful language for functional programming and symbolic processing, with a flexible syntax for creating new control structures and data types.
Cons: It’s tough to learn, especially for folks used to imperative languages like C or Java. And, it doesn’t have support for modern programming concepts like OOP or generic types.

9 – Ada

Ada is a computer language named after Ada Lovelace, a computer science pioneer. Developed in the 1970s by the US Department of Defense (DoD), its goal was to create a high-level language that could be used to develop defense systems and be standardized across the board. The project was led by Jean Ichbiah and his team at CII Honeywell Bull in France.

Ada was made to be modern, easy to maintain, and modular, so it could be used for a wide range of applications. It was especially created to handle big, complex software systems and for use in safety-critical systems like aircraft controls and medical devices.

Ada got its first official stamp in 1980 and has seen several updates since then. The latest one, Ada 2012, was published in 2012 and included new improvements and features. Today, Ada is still being used for defense systems, air traffic control, and railway systems.

10 – Erlang

Erlang is a programming language and runtime environment that was developed by Ericsson in the 1980s for telephony systems. It’s known for its ability to build scalable, distributed, and fault-tolerant systems. With features like concurrent processing and hot code loading, it’s great for high-volume systems that need to be highly available. Erlang is used in telecoms, messaging, and databases, and is the base of projects like RabbitMQ and Elixir. The main perks of Erlang are scalability and fault-tolerance, but its limited pool of experienced developers and steep learning curve are drawbacks.

Read: Google’s ongoing artificial intelligence applications

The future of programming languages

Programming languages are the foundation of the software development world and have come a long way. Let’s take a look at what’s in store for the future of programming languages, including the latest trends and new tech.

Artificial intelligence:

The field of AI is booming and programming languages are stepping up to keep pace. Many programming languages, like Python, are great for AI development due to their simplicity and helpful libraries like TensorFlow. Meanwhile, others, like Lisp and Prolog, were born for AI with their support for symbolic processing and logical reasoning.

Read: How to Install ChatGPT on Ubuntu 22.04

One big trend in AI is the use of neural networks, inspired by the human brain. These networks are made up of interconnected nodes and can be trained to spot patterns and make predictions with data inputs. Programming languages are now being designed with features that make building and training these networks easier, like automatic differentiation and GPU acceleration.

Another trend is the use of natural language processing (NLP), which lets computers understand and speak human-like language. NLP is used in chatbots, translation services, and text summarization. Programming languages are also being designed with features to make working with text data and building NLP applications easier, like regular expressions and Unicode support.

Read: Сurrent capabilities of artificial intelligence

Machine learning:

Programming’s changing, especially when it comes to AI. Languages are being updated to make it easier to create machine learning apps, with features like linear algebra support and optimization. Python and R are popular for ML due to libraries like scikit-learn and caret. And some up-and-comers, like Julia and Haskell, are making a name for themselves with their numerical abilities. One big trend in ML is deep learning, using neural networks with multiple layers to identify complex data patterns. Deep learning’s being used for all sorts of things, from image and speech recognition to self-driving cars. And programming languages are making it easier to develop and train these models, with features like tensor support and auto differentiation.

Read: How to create a Modern Python Development Environment

Data science:

Data science is all about crunching numbers and making sense of data using statistics and machine learning. Programming languages are being updated with features to help make data science a breeze, like support for arrays and data frames. Python and R are popular for data science because of libraries like NumPy and Pandas, but other languages like Julia and Scala are also getting in on the action with their performance and numerical skills. A big trend in data science is handling massive amounts of data, known as big data, and programming languages are adapting with features like distributed computing and in-memory processing.


To wrap it up, some programming languages have become outdated, like COBOL, FORTRAN, LISP, Pascal, Assembler, BASIC, Prolog, and Haskell. They used to be popular but have since been replaced by newer, more advanced languages. These old languages may have a few perks, but they’re generally behind the times and aren’t a good fit for new projects.

AI and machine learning are driving the development of new programming languages. Some are ideal for these tasks, while others were made specifically for them. Neural networks and NLP are the hot topics in AI, and machine learning uses algorithms to figure out what data means and make decisions based on it. Deep learning, a branch of machine learning, uses brain-inspired networks to understand complex data. Data science combines stats and machine learning to understand data, and big data is a trend in this field too.

To succeed in their work, it’s vital for programmers to stay up-to-date with the latest languages and technologies.


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Nikolaus Oosterhof

Nikolaus holds a degree in software development and has a strong passion for all things tech-related, especially gadgets with screens. Though he is nostalgic for older phone models, he's a retired gamer and continues to enjoy programming in open-source environments. Additionally, Nikolaus enjoys writing about Linux, macOS and Windows and has experience designing web pages.

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