What's your favorite "dead" language?

Take our poll and find out what our writers think about dead languages.
122 readers like this.
hands programming

WOCinTech Chat. Modified by Opensource.com. CC BY-SA 4.0

We recently asked our writers this question: what's your favorite "dead" language? Some of the responses were not at all what we were expecting. For starters, perhaps we should have specified that we were asking about programming languages.

"Latin." —Chris Short

"Middle English. Pre-Chaucer, really (which feels a little modern). Something like Malory's 'Le Morte D'Arthur' is about right." —Mike Bursell

Once we got on the right topic, the most common responses were Pascal, C, Assembly, and Perl. However, it's still a little fuzzy as to if those languages are truly dead. 

"Pascal (with Object Oriented extensions, so Turbo Pascal). It is a complete and clear language, and this is the language that I used throughout my initial programming education, up to the first year of university. " —Luigi Toscano

"Pascal, fond memories of learning programming and using a language that required tens of floppies to install Borland Pascal." —Steve Morris

"Is C dead? I have to wonder given the recent trend of conflating C and C++ together, e.g. C/C++.  A dead and doesn't know it yet language is SPARCV9 assembly. I really enjoyed writing and reading SPARC assembly. Prior to SPARC I'd been exposed to Motorola 680x0 and 6502, the Intel 8086 and IBM POWER. One of the cool/funny things POWER had going for it was the EIEIO mnemonic (Enforce In-order Execution of I/O) which lent itself to some 'poetic' programs. Certainly dead because it was never alive are extensions to the PDP-11 assembly instruction set that made the usenet rounds in the early 90s. It had gems like: FLI (flash lights impressively), HCF (halt and catch fire), PPA (print paper airplanes) and SML (shift memory left)." —Erik O'Shaughnessy

"Some people consider C to be a dead language these days, with the popularity of other programming languages like Python. But I still like C for the flexibility it offers. If I'm writing a program, I usually write it in C." —Jim Hall

"Perl, though I don't know if that qualifies as 'dead.' It certainly isn't as popular as it used to be." —Jay LaCroix

"Perl, but it's not dead yet!" —Brian J. Atkisson

"'Favourite' from the point of view 'no more code in the dirty XY, hurray!': Perl, Java (the time will come.. :)). 'Favourite' from the point of view 'I enjoyed the old good times of the nowadays dead language': Pascal." —Pavel Moravec

"Haskell, it is awesome and definitely deserves more attention." —Kiko Fernández

"NOMAD, my first database language working with databases, I learned it on an IBM 4381 mainframe." —Sarah Thornton

"TCL. Used to love using expect to automate interactive terminal tasks in multiple hosts. Nowadays there's an Ansible module for everything (including one for expect!)" —Eric Burgueño 

"COBOL. My university class was one of the last to have this included in the curriculum. I quickly understood why it was so pervasive and useful." —Andrew Ludwar

"ZIL (Zork Implementation Language), invented by Infocom to code Text Adventures." —Ethan Dicks

"Tough one. I'd say LISP, although I almost never used it since I left the project where I learned and used it for two years, 1995-1996. I also like awk quite a lot. It's not dead, by all means, many people use it. But since it's somewhere between a strong 'tool' (grep, sed) and a 'real' language (e.g. Perl/Python/Ruby), many people tend to ignore it these days." —Yedidyah Bar David

"x86 assembler. It's 'favorite' in a sort of it feels good when you stop sort of way. On the one hand, assembler gives you direct visibility into what's happening at a certain level of the CPU. Values go into registers and certain instructions execute. On the other hand, 16-bit x86 assembly in particular had a particularly confusing way of segmenting memory, not to mention that "little-endian" x86 memory operations require an extra level of mental gymnastics when reading memory at a low level." —Gordon Haff

Do you believe in dead languages? Can a language truly be dead if it still compiles and executes? Maybe there are no dead languages — only dead compilers.

"I don't believe in dead languages." —David O’Brien

Or are you new to the industry? Do you dare place a bet on what your first language fatality will be?

"I haven't been around long enough to have a favorite 'dead' language yet." —Andrew Euredjian

Whatever the case may be, there is no correct answer (or at least not one we can all agree on).

Take our poll to let us know your favorite "dead" language. If none of our options suit your answer, tell us why in the comments.

What to read next
User profile image.
Lauren is the managing editor for Opensource.com. When she's not organizing the editorial calendar or digging into the data, she can be found going on adventures with her family and German shepherd rescue dog, Quailford. She is passionate about spreading awareness of how open source technology and principles can be applied to areas outside the tech industry such as education and government.


For what I know COBOL is far from being a "dead" langage, a lot of banks, insurance companies or big firms use it already and " there’s still 220 billion lines of COBOL code currently being used in production today " ;')

Interesting article about that :
> https://thenewstack.io/cobol-everywhere-will-maintain/


I'm actually at the Perl Conference in Pittsburgh today, and will be speaking tomorrow about "dead" languages. TL;DR: There really aren't any.

dBase 3+ / Clipper summer '87.

This post is very disappointing.

The poll seems designed to offend a lot of language practitioners while pandering to loud but ignorant masses who'll come racing to click a poll and slag on languages.

Maybe before creating a poll about "dead" languages to pander for the clicks, someone should make sure that none of the entries appear on the TIOBE index or other reputable language statistics reports. For instance, C currently sits at #2 of TIOBE, above Python. Perl sits at #16, just below Go.

Prolog. I used to love it in school. Never used it in 30+ years professional life.

Pascal was always so easy to go from what you intended to a real program with no crap in between. Not verbose, didn't need megs of libraries, two step compilation at most..... Was C's inclusion as a dead language a joke or just to catch out the pretend developers?

Still don’t get it, what do this post aim at archiving? Moreover, how do you define dead?

Many old magazine from 1980s talk about Logo language. I never see or read about it today.

PL/M, although it's so close to being C that most people wouldn't know the difference. I still use Perl, but miss the thrills of debugging assembler on both the Z80 and 80186. I still have an American Arium logic analyzer around here somewhere with the '186 plugins.

Also from the pedagogical realms, and even more obscure than Logo, was PILOT. I (largely) wrote the Wikipedia article about it.


Very interesting post. Is C really considered dead?

It is very hard to decide. I loved APL because it was my first language in high school, and because Ken Iverson was a neighbor who used to drive his daughter and me to band practice before elementary school.

I loved Clipper because it was the first language that I used for work, changing my career direction.

I also loved Turbo Pascal, which changed my programming style and helped me to create very user friendly applications.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.