5 Programming Languages That Should Die

Programming Language Popularity
Programming Languages Popularity

Everyone has a favorite programming language (and probably one they just can’t stand). Then there are those programming languages that we just wish would die. Some are ancient and ripe for abandonment; others have been eclipsed by languages that do many of the same things better. In any case, here are five that deserve a final consignment to the dustbin of dead tech.


Top learning platform Coding Dojo believes in Ruby so little that it’s altering its curriculum so it no longer has to teach Ruby on Rails, a seemingly popular language framework. All the rage in the aughts, Ruby has now slipped to the edge of TIOBE’s top ten, and has similar placement on IEEE’s list.

Rails’ popularity is seemingly on the wane in the wake of JavaScript’s broadened libraries. Because of that, fewer people are using Ruby, which makes it one to watch out for (and not in a good way).


Swift is here to stay. After being introduced in 2014, Apple’s now open-source programming language has taken the iOS developer community by storm.

The only thing keeping Objective-C relevant is Swift’s lack of ABI stability, which will be solved with Swift 5. Though it’s not doomed yet, Objective-C has already ceded ground to Swift on the popularity scale. With Swift ABI stability on the horizon, expect Objective-C to really start tanking.

Visual Basic

This is a tricky one. Technically a ‘technology’ rather than a language, Visual Basic has long been on our list of undesirables, but it’s holding strong on TIOBE’s list (a good indicator that the language is used widely).

Stack Overflow’s recent developer survey is a big reason we’re hoping this language just plain dies. Some 79.5 percent of respondents said they dreaded the language; in fact, it beat out other disciplines such as WordPress, SalesForce and SQL for that dubious distinction.

Visual Basic was built to supplant BASIC, which maybe shows how long in the tooth it is. Still, Microsoft is invested, so we’re probably not going to get our wish. At Build 2017, there were plenty of Visual Basic sessions, which can still be found on the company’s Channel 9 website.


I know, I know: SQL is basically everywhere. The database systems language is pretty boilerplate at this point, though. It’s spawned some offshoots, and even some that try hard (and do a great job) of distancing themselves from SQL altogether.

Services like Realm offer excellent alternatives to SQL. Realm is easily structured into existing codebases, and makes offline functionality a snap. SQL is also one of the least desirable languages to work in, and we just want everyone to be happy.


If you’re asking yourself, “What’s Assembly?” you can guess why it’s on the list. Still in TIOBE’s top-20, Assembly has tanked from inside the top ten to number fourteen on the list. It doesn’t rank on Stack Overflow’s list, and IEEE situates it similarly to TIOBE at #12.

When we examined Assembly earlier this year, we wrote: “Still in use today, Assembly remains slow and tedious. In the time it would take you to write ten lines of Assembly, you could write ten lines of Python or C# that would accomplish far, far more from a software perspective.” That’s a good indicator that the language is hanging around on these lists because of legacy code.

Time To Go!

We think it’s time for these languages (and ‘technology,’ in the case of Visual Basic) to go. They’ve all reached a point where iteration has stalled or ended. These five are simply legacy tools and languages that are hanging on.

There’s good reason to doubt these will go away, though. Legacy code means a developer or team has to work with the language, and refactoring or re-writing a large codebase is tedious (at best). I wouldn’t envy a team charged with finding a better solution for a massive SQL database.

Some languages and tools make that conversion easier than others. Apps and services such as Lyft adopted Swift early on, re-writing their apps from the ground up and eschewing Objective-C entirely. So it can be done.

Some of these languages may also see a resurgence. Ruby itself is a fine language, but Rails seems to be causing its dip in favor and popularity. Others may linger like a barnacle (looking at you, Visual Basic). Whatever happens, these are five disciplines we’d just as soon never see again.

28 Responses to “5 Programming Languages That Should Die”

  1. This is a weak article based on very little fact. Assembly and Ruby… fine, I can understand that. However, Objective-C, SQL and Visual Basic? Visual Basic (vaguely stated) .NET and SQL are still very widely used, and I see them in the field all the time. They’re very much, up-to-date and continue to be developed by Microsoft… even without the marketing presence. Therefore, this must be a shock article, written by a non-developer, stirring up a conversation to gain attention and hits. If that was the reason you posted such a terrible article, then, good job… otherwise, brush up on the facts and back up your arguments.

    • Pete Eddy

      I guess you don think a) Operating system code can be written without pointers and b) compiler design is done.

      As long as people are writing Operating system code, interpreters and compilers you will need either c or c++ AND assembly. And game programmers think your piker if you don’t these languages better than you know English.

  2. Anyone who pushes “hate VB” in almost 2 decades of . Net is simply a fool trying to show fellow fools into believing he/she is some fancy coder. Fact of the matter is that that fool and those who bite, simply doesn’t know.

    Here’s a modern concept, well, “modern”, for those who haven’t known for almost two decades of .Net: applications happily humming along with C# and VB together.

    • Bill Daldo

      Ed – are you kidding me? .NET is the biggest joke in the history of coding, learn how to use anything that isnt MS, and you will be amazed how much better it works – and less code it takes to do the same task, get a clue. Ur just a MS .NET junky that needs to wake up.

  3. OtherGuy

    Assembly does a ton more than you give it credit for. That “machine code” your interpreter is translating your high level language to is Assembly. At the end of the day, you gotta tell the register, memory, and individual mcus how to move the bits, and that is Assembly’s job.

    • William Wallace

      Assembly is extremely important.

      I studied, programmed, and worked on 360/370 and Intel.

      The only way satellites and ships are going anywhere is by native processor coding, not any of the interpreted stuff. They have to be fast, tested and launched.

      FYI: Who remembers “DEADBEEF” 😉


    • Shaun Dougherty

      OtherGuy – Agreed, Assembly is a well used language, and is used by many people still, this guy obviously is young, and doesnt understand the use that assembly has served for decades. Case in point, this page doesnt even know how to code updated forms.

  4. Jim MacFarlane

    Old languages generally do not die. They just get used less. Companies with an investment in them generally are reluctant to rewrite their old code if it us running fine.

    People have been declaring the death of COBOL and perhaps RPG but they are both very much still here. ( Personally I like RPG. It is much different than it was in the old days. )

  5. Assembly language is the only language on the list that is necessary and as such, it will never die.
    Some poor souls write compilers to convert language of your choice to it as microchips don’t understand C, Go, Rust or Python.
    And since assembly language differs from say, a smartphone to a laptop, assembly language programmers help every programmer since their program now runs on every device.
    Kudos to Grace Hopper for inventing the compiler and freeing us from having to write everything in assembly.

  6. Michael

    Calling assembly slow is a sign of great ignorance as far as I am concerned. Then considering it as a tool for software design really just looks bad on you.

    Assembly languages are meant for microcode and firmware design and their definitely not going anywhere in our lifetimes.

    • Rieekan

      “Still in use today, Assembly remains slow and tedious. In the time it would take you to write ten lines of Assembly, you could write ten lines of Python or C# that would accomplish far, far more from a software perspective.”

      Anything that “gets accomplished”, in the end, is assembly and machine code. CODING in Assembly remains slow and tedious (although, plenty of tools exist to help those working at low level). Tightly written assembly cannot be beat for speed. I’d like to see an optimizing compiler do this:


  7. Visual Basic, a “technology”? You don’t know what you are talking about. Ever heard about .NET? I use both C# and “Visual Basic” every day, same libraries, performance, IDE,… By the way, nowadays the term VB.NET is used.
    Are there any relational database systems NOT using SQL as primary language to interact with? Seems if we access the db with different technologies (EF to any db, Hana SL…), under the hood all gets translated to plain old SQL. If you are only able to access your data as a programmer by writing code, and don’t know to write an interactive query, well, good luck.

  8. Andrew Dobson-Frueh

    “Because of that, less people are using Ruby, which makes it one to watch out for (and not in a good way).”

    Should be fewer, not less (countable noun). Good thing we’re not discussing human languages.

  9. David Bowden

    I cut my teeth on 6502 Assembly in the 80s. Apple, Atari, Commodore, Nintendo, and a slew of other machines used 6502 processors then. 6502s and derivatives are still very much a part of our modern world, and will still be at the heart of embedded systems for many years to come.

    Assembly is here to stay.

  10. Tim Western

    I’ll believe Ruby is a dead language when I stop getting hits on Ruby on Rails Dev positions (when rails is not something I do), and also, when I stop seeing new job adds asking for people to do test automation for ATDD using Ruby/Cucumber stack.

  11. What about PHP? The language has at least three ways to do anything, as if it was written by someone with dementia and multiple personalities. Also going to agree with what some others have said and slam .Net for being far too easy to misuse. There isn’t a single truly solid backend solution for web applications.

  12. Vikram Divakar

    Wait… How can Assembly ever become obsolete. All code gets converted to Assembly anyway and any decent programmer be it a software or a hardware engineer needs to know exactly how his/her code actually runs on the hardware. I think having a basic understanding of what it means to program in assembly makes one a better programmer with better appreciation of code and what time and computing complexity actually mean. High level languages come and go. Assembly stays; till of course quantum computing becomes a reality. I guess everybody will have to cross that bridge.

  13. Pulseczar

    Without assembly languages, the only languages processors actually understand, directly, without translation, computers can’t function. I’m hoping by saying we should get rid of assembly language (which one? as every processor has its own assembly language specification), the author meant that people shouldn’t be using it unless its use is necessary, not that we should entirely get rid of assembly languages. Or, I’m hoping the author is making a distinction between assembly languages and machine languages. There is almost no distinction to be made, but an embarrassed person, trying to save face, might could fall back on that. I get the sense, though, that the author just doesn’t really understand what assembly languages are, and really meant that all of them should completely stop being used, which shows kind of a sad lack of understanding of how computers work, beneath the layers of hand-holding software framework, that continue to claim more and more processor cycles and require faster and faster computers.

  14. .NewHater

    Hi, a hater here. Assembly is the soul inside every computer. Each Assembly line is an instruction for the processor.
    Saying that Assembly is a “Programming Language That Should Die” just writes idiot all over your face.

  15. zanyx

    You are a fool, assembly is a very powerful language

    If you can not read the assembly, there is no problem,But you do not have to say the assembly must die

  16. Michael

    The problem you have with Visual Basic is VBA – technology that won’t ever go away. If Microsoft chooses another language they will destroy so many home-brew excel workbooks their phones won’t stop. There are lots of tasks that are just too niche to code an app for, that VBA kicks in on. As a language VB, it is terrible, no awful, but inside Excel, it is magical for business people to make Excel do literally anything they can dream up in an “afternoon”. The Workbook Object Model can be learned in a couple of weeks. The Visual Basic syntax can be learned in a month and you can do OOP albeit not very nicely. Grabbing data off the web directly to a worksheet is a breeze, it can pull data out a database likewise, it can query google maps using XML. Yeah, it’s slow, clunky, bits stuck on over the years all over it – but it works. Everything else yeah they are doomed. VB is also doomed outside of VBA but inside it, you will see it being used in 50 years from now. Then again professional programming and business macro creation is not the same thing so there is no reason to kill VBA. It’s just why Visual Basic is here forever.