Evolution of Programming Languages

This diagram shows the family tree of all the “Major Programming Languages” and all those that influenced or were influenced by them. Both the selection of what constitutes a “major” programming language and which languages influenced which were determined by Wikipedia and are limited in their accuracy by the articles there on the various languages.

The Evolution of Programming Languages
Full Diagram
DIA source (diagramming software)

16 Replies to “Evolution of Programming Languages”

  1. I’m not seeing Forth, although it is listed as a major language by Wikipedia. Of course, sometimes I don’t see things that are there.

  2. From my perspective Java was heavily influenced by Smalltalk, but your diagram does not make that evident.

  3. I used the data from Wikipedia. If there was no mention in the article, the line was not drawn. Otherwise I could have agonised over it for months (and wouldn’t have even heard of some of these).

    So if you don’t like the conclusions you /could/ edit Wikipedia! Don’t forget your citations though!

  4. Smalltalk was also influence by Lisp.

    “the greatest single programming language ever designed”
    – Alan Kay, on Lisp

  5. Somebody has beat you doing this:


    Ok, it’s a line diagram, but still…

  6. Javascript inherits heavily from Perl, including its use of regexp, list, and object literals and short-circuit logical operators.

  7. Between BASIC and “Visual Basic” either Quick Basic or PDS should be in there, and FreeBASIC also inherits from Quick Basic.


  8. Yes, as this post makes abundantly clear: http://www.cs.umd.edu/users/seanl/stuff/java-objc.html

    So Wikipedia is now somewhat more accurate than it was in March. I shan’t claim all the credit 😉

  9. Pingback: Evolution des languages de programmation
  10. Which Wikipedia article are you referring to as a source for this so-called list of “major” programming languages? You don’t link to it, and a search for “major programming languages” on WP doesn’t turn up an article of that title.

    There is one for Programming Languages (https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Programming_language) and it does mention Forth.

    This article and the pages linked from it (particularly the Tiobe index and langpop.com) is probably a better starting point: https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Measuring_programming_language_popularity

    Another language that has achieved popularity since this posting, 5 years ago, is Erlang, which branches off from Prolog.

  11. I’m really excited that someone linked to this diagram I drew more than five years ago, but I’m even less interested in getting into whether Forth is or is not a programming language than I was in March 2006. Feel free to make your own diagram and link it up in the comments.

  12. Delphi is not (or was not) a programming language. It is an IDE for the Object Pascal programming language. The same language that (later versions of) Turbo Pascal used.

  13. Looking at the comments, I suppose some parts of the diagram could be considered “controversial” (perhaps there will be a v2.0 with adjustments based on user feedback and sources other than Wikipedia?), but I still think it’s very cool, very nerdy/geeky (good), and reflects great effort. Do you have a vector version (instead of png)? This would be a great thing to blow up to poster size.

  14. Couldn’t see Octave/MATLAB on there. Maybe more of a 5th generation language like R I suppose.

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