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Why is C so fast

We have heard programmers around us talk about C being fast, so in this article, I’ll be attempting to explain the "why".

C is fast because... it has no special features. It was designed to be as close to Machine level as possible. The only benefit being that it was readable (I know, I know, just try to imagine assembly devs using C for the first time back then).

Due to how close it is to machine language, the speed of a C program is loosely determined by the number of statements being executed.

From this, we can begin to see that C is not fast per se... other languages are just slow!

And that is because they have a higher level of abstraction to machine language than C does. That is not necessarily a bad thing since higher-level languages (like Python) provide:

  1. Safety checks
  2. Added complexity
  3. Error handling
  4. Memory management
  5. Automatic garbage collection

The only tradeoff being speed... or is it?

is C really the fastest?

Short answer, Not really. Long answer, it is only fast when the programmer writes optimal code. And even then, there are instances where virtual machine-based languages (like Java) run faster than C. Plus, Assembly is a language too and it's faster than C.

Thanks for reading!


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