C++ vs Python: History, Characteristics and Comparative Analysis

Ahmed
10 min readNov 29, 2023

Table of Contents:

1- Introduction

2- C++: Tracing Its Roots and Evolution Over the Years

3- Python: Origins and Evolution Through Time

4- Major Differences between the Two Languages

5- Conclusion

1- Introduction

In programming field, the choice of language is a pivotal decision that profoundly shapes the development landscape. This exploration undertakes a comparative analysis of two stalwarts in the programming domain: C++ and Python. With divergent historical roots, distinct definitions, and applications spanning a spectrum of industries, these languages stand as formidable contenders in the developer’s toolkit.

Figure 1: Python Calling C++ (Source: blueyonder.com)

This comprehensive examination aims to unravel the intricacies of C++ and Python, shedding light on their evolution, characteristics, and the inherent disparities that delineate their usage. As we embark on this analytical journey, the goal is to provide a nuanced understanding of these languages, empowering developers to make informed choices based on project requisites and preferences.

Figure 2: Most used programming languages as per Stack overflow in 2019 (Source: boosthigh.com)

2- C++: Tracing Its Roots and Evolution Over the Years

C++ emerged as a high-level, versatile programming language crafted by Bjarne Stroustrup in 1979. It stands as an extension of the C programming language, commonly referred to as “C with classes.” The introduction of object-oriented programming marked a significant milestone within the C++ language. The origin of C++ can be traced back to the 1970s, an era dominated by the development of the C programming language. Created by Dennis Ritchie at Bell Labs, C swiftly became a favored choice for systems programming due to its efficiency and cross-platform adaptability.

Figure 3: A Timeline Description of C++ Evolution (Source: geeksforgeeks.org)

The narrative commences with the inception of C, a language that set the stage for subsequent developments. Spearheaded by Ritchie, C gained widespread acclaim for its functional prowess, becoming the de facto language for low-level programming. In the latter part of the 1970s, Bjarne Stroustrup, also at Bell Labs, embarked on a mission to augment C’s capabilities. His objective was to integrate the principles of object-oriented programming, a paradigm that promised enhanced modularity and code organization. The result of Stroustrup’s endeavors materialized in the form of C++, a language extension of C that incorporated object-oriented features. Officially designated as C++ in 1983, this evolution marked a significant departure from traditional programming approaches, introducing concepts like classes and polymorphism.

Figure 4: Honoring the Legacy of Dennis Macalistair Ritchie, Pioneer of the “C” Programming Language and Unix Operating System: A Tribute. (Source: High Tech History)

The origin of C++ can be traced back to the 1970s, an era dominated by the development of the C programming language. Created by Dennis Ritchie at Bell Labs, C swiftly became a favored choice for systems programming due to its efficiency and cross-platform adaptability. Our narrative commences with the inception of C, a language that set the stage for subsequent developments. Spearheaded by Ritchie, C gained widespread acclaim for its functional prowess, becoming the de facto language for low-level programming.

In the latter part of the 1970s, Bjarne Stroustrup, also at Bell Labs, embarked on a mission to augment C’s capabilities. His objective was to integrate the principles of object-oriented programming, a paradigm that promised enhanced modularity and code organization. The result of Stroustrup’s endeavors materialized in the form of C++, a language extension of C that incorporated object-oriented features. Officially designated as C++ in 1983, this evolution marked a significant departure from traditional programming approaches, introducing concepts like classes and polymorphism.

2.1. C++ as a General-Purpose Language:

While initially designed for operating system coding, C++ has evolved into a versatile, cross-platform programming language. Widely utilized across diverse contexts, it supports object-oriented, procedural, and generic programming, earning it the moniker of the ‘Swiss pocket knife’ among coding languages.

Figure 5: C++ Ten Main Features (Source: geeksforgeeks.org)

2.2. Technical Overview:

From a technical standpoint, C++ is a compiled programming language that empowers users to organize data and code into comprehensible programs. The code is then translated by the coding platform or compiler into instructions executable by a computer, rendering it a highly efficient and swift language.

2.3. Code Reusability and Efficiency:

A key factor driving the choice of C++ as a programming language, often prompting comparisons with Python, is its ability to enable code reuse. This feature allows users to save time by leveraging previously written code instructions, eliminating the need to rewrite identical functions. Additionally, C++ permits the combination of data and instructions into ‘classes,’ facilitating the construction of intricate functions that may surpass the capabilities of other coding languages.

Notably recognized as an object-oriented programming language, C++ was initially tailored for system programming and embedded systems. However, its scope expanded to encompass a diverse range of applications, including desktop applications, video games, and servers like e-commerce, Web search, or SQL servers. Moreover, C++ found utility in performance-critical applications, exemplified by its application in telephone switches.

3- Python: Origins and Evolution Through Time

Python, crafted by Guido van Rossum in 1991, stands as a high-level, general-purpose programming language. The primary objective behind the creation of Python was to prioritize simplicity in programming. Noteworthy features, such as indentation for enhanced code readability and a robust set of library functions, contribute to the language’s strength.

Figure 6: Python Releases Since January 94 Till March 2019 (Source: geeksforgeeks.org)

The roots of Python trace back to the late 1980s when Guido van Rossum, a Dutch programmer, initiated the development of a new scripting language. This undertaking was driven by a desire for a more practical and extensible language, culminating in the birth of Python. Van Rossum’s motivation stemmed from addressing shortcomings in existing languages. He envisioned a language that prioritized code readability and offered constructs facilitating clear program expression. The result was a language that embodied simplicity and ease of use.

Python’s inaugural version, Python 0.9.0, was released in 1991. Swiftly evolving, Python 1.0 followed in 1994, showcasing the language’s commitment to modularity, exception handling, and an extensive standard library. These elements laid the groundwork for Python’s burgeoning ecosystem. As the Python community expanded, so did the language’s capabilities. The Python 2.x series, initiated in 2000, introduced features like list comprehensions and a garbage collector, solidifying Python’s standing as a versatile and user-friendly language.

The release of Python 3.0 in 2008 marked a deliberate departure from the status quo. Guided by a commitment to rectify inconsistencies and enhance language simplicity, the 3.x series aimed to foster a more coherent and efficient code base.

3.1. Python’s Characteristics:

Python stands out as a cross-platform, object-oriented programming language with high-level interactivity and dynamic semantics. Notably, its popularity stems from distinctive features like dynamic typing and dynamic binding, making it a favored choice for rapidly developing applications.

Figure 7: Twelve Main Features of Python (Source: scaler.com)

3.2. Primary Usage:

In its fundamental capacity, Python serves as a scripting and automation language. Beyond complex application development, it functions as a tool to seamlessly connect existing components within a code or software. A noteworthy attribute is its highly readable syntax, facilitating easy learning, maintenance, and debugging.

3.3. Is Python Worth Learning?: Certainly. Python is hailed as one of the most versatile programming languages. Its relative ease of learning and utilization, even for those without prior coding experience, positions it as one of the world’s most widely adopted programming languages.

Recognized as a leading programming language in the 2018 Top Programming Languages by IEEE, Python owes its prominence and strength in the industry to its widespread popularity and straightforward design.

4- Main Differences between the Two Languages:

Figure 8: Different Features Between Python and C++ (Source: Geeksforgeeks.org)

4.1. Compilation:

C++ operates as a compiled language where the compiler transforms source code into object code for execution. In contrast, Python is interpreted, allowing direct interpretation of code without the need for compilation.

  • C++ generally offers better performance as it is compiled directly into machine code, providing low-level access to system resources.
  • Python is an interpreted language and may have performance overhead due to the dynamic typing and other abstractions.

4.2. Usage:

C++, with its numerous features and complex syntax, poses challenges for code creation. Python, known for its simplicity and clear syntax, offers a more straightforward coding experience.

  • C++ is commonly used for systems programming, game development, performance-critical applications, and other situations where low-level control over hardware is essential.
  • Python is often chosen for web development, scripting, data analysis, artificial intelligence, and tasks that prioritize readability and development speed.

4.3. Nature of Language:

C++ is statically typed, ensuring variable declarations and data types are verified at compile time to prevent runtime errors. In contrast, Python is dynamically typed, with no compile-time type checking, making it susceptible to errors.

Figure 9: Five Main Characteristics Differences between Python & C++ (Source: codilime.com)
  • C++ supports both procedural and object-oriented programming paradigms, allowing for a mix of low-level and high-level programming.
  • Python is a multi-paradigm language with a strong emphasis on object-oriented programming and support for functional programming features.

4.4. Portability:

C++ lacks portability, requiring code recompilation for different platforms. Python, however, is portable and cross-platform, allowing code execution on various platforms.

4.5. Memory Management:

C++ involves manual memory management without automatic garbage collection. Python, in contrast, incorporates automatic garbage collection and system-controlled memory management.

  • C++ gives the programmer more control over memory management, requiring manual allocation and deallocation of memory using new and delete or malloc and free.
  • Python has automatic memory management through garbage collection, relieving the programmer from explicit memory management tasks.

4.6. Syntax:

C++ isn’t suitable for rapid prototyping. Python, on the other hand, supports rapid prototyping, enabling the creation of code for future application development using higher-level languages.

Figure 10: Integrating Python into a C++ Project Using Visual Studio (Source: Microsoft.com)
  • C++ is a statically typed language with a more complex syntax, requiring explicit variable declarations and data types.
  • Python is dynamically typed, allowing for more flexibility, and has a simpler syntax with a focus on readability.

4.7. Scope of Variables:

C++ restricts variable scope to blocks and loops, marked by curly braces. In Python, variables remain accessible beyond block or loop boundaries.

4.8. Installation:

C++ installation on Windows is straightforward, while Python installation is considered more challenging.

4.9. Types:

C++ binds data types to names, checked at compile time to reduce runtime errors. Python binds data types to values and checks them at runtime, potentially leading to runtime errors.

  • C++ is statically typed, meaning variable types need to be declared at compile-time.
  • Python is dynamically typed, allowing for more flexibility as variable types are determined at runtime.

4.10. Functions:

C++ requires matching parameter and return types during function call and definition. Python imposes no such restrictions on parameter and return types.

4.11. Efficiency:

C++ code complexity can hinder maintenance as solutions grow. Python, with its clean code and simple syntax, offers easier maintenance.

  • Python is often considered more productive for certain tasks due to its concise syntax and dynamic typing, leading to faster development.
  • C++ may have a steeper learning curve and may require more lines of code to accomplish certain tasks.

4.12. Syntax Complexity:

C++ employs clear code demarcation with blocks and semicolons, ensuring well-organized syntax. In Python, indentation replaces blocks and semicolons, contributing to a distinct syntax.

4.13. Speed of Execution:

C++ excels in speed, making it preferable for applications like gaming platforms. Python runs relatively slower, with slower execution than Java, making it suitable for applications prioritizing other factors over speed. In summary, C++ and Python have different strengths and are often chosen based on the specific requirements of a project and the preferences of the development team.

Let’s encapsulate the previously mentioned distinctions in a tabular format.

5- Conclusion

In the culmination of this comparative exploration between C++ and Python, it is evident that these programming languages, though rooted in different historical epochs, have become stalwarts in the ever-evolving landscape of software development. C++, a progeny of the efficient C language, evolved into a versatile entity with the infusion of object-oriented programming principles by Bjarne Stroustrup. Its journey from low-level systems programming to a diverse array of applications, including desktop software and performance-critical systems, exemplifies its adaptability.

Figure 11: C vs Python (Source: Javatpoint.com)

On the other hand, Python, conceived by Guido van Rossum with a focus on simplicity, has ascended to eminence as a cross-platform, object-oriented language. Python’s readability, dynamic semantics, and extensive standard library make it a preferred choice for tasks ranging from scripting and automation to complex application development and artificial intelligence.

This exploration, devoid of embellishments, serves as a pragmatic guide for developers. The decision between C++ and Python hinges on the nuanced requirements of a project, whether it be the meticulous control demanded by systems programming or the swift development facilitated by a high-level, readable syntax.

As developers navigate the labyrinth of programming languages, armed with an understanding of C++ and Python devoid of superlatives, they are better equipped to make judicious choices aligned with the essence of their projects. The landscape is diverse, and the efficacy of these languages lies in their contextual relevance and the harmony they strike with the objectives at hand.

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Ahmed

Data scientist | Security Researcher | Cloud Specialist | Digital Creator https://mawgoud.medium.com/subscribe