JavaScript, an interpreted language

JavaScript is an interpreted language rather than a compiled language. What is meant by the terms interpreted and compiled?

Well, to let you in on a secret, your computer doesn’t really understand JavaScript at all. It needs some- thing to interpret the JavaScript code and convert it into something that it understands; hence it is an interpreted language. Computers understand only machine code, which is essentially a string of binary numbers (that is, a string of zeros and ones). As the browser goes through the JavaScript, it passes it to a special program called an interpreter, which converts the JavaScript to the machine code your computer understands. It’s a bit like having a translator translate English to Spanish, for example. The impor-

tant point to note is that the conversion of the JavaScript happens at the time the code is run; it has to be repeated every time this happens. JavaScript is not the only interpreted language; there are others, including VBScript.

The alternative compiled language is one in which the program code is converted to machine code before it’s actually run, and this conversion has to be done only once. The programmer uses a compiler to convert the code that he wrote to machine code, and this machine code is run by the program’s user. Compiled languages include Visual Basic and C++. Using a real-world analogy, it’s a bit like having a Spanish translator verbally tell you in English what a Spanish document says. Unless you change the document, you can use it without retranslation as much as you like.

Perhaps this is a good point to dispel a widespread myth: JavaScript is not the script version of the Java language. In fact, although they share the same name, that’s virtually all they do share. Particularly good news is that JavaScript is much, much easier to learn and use than Java. In fact, languages like JavaScript are the easiest of all languages to learn, but they are still surprisingly powerful.

Courtesy : Beginning JavaScript, Wilton & McPeak

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