In this appendix, I examine the position of Visual Basic as a programming language by taking a somewhat closer look at high-level and low-level languages, with some examples for comparison.
A low-level language is characterized by its ability to manipulate the computer’s operating system and hardware more or less directly. For instance, a programmer using a low-level language may be able to easily turn on the motor of a floppy drive, check the status bits of the printer interface, or look at individual sectors on a disk, whereas these tasks may be difficult, if not impossible, with a high-level language. Another benefit of low-level languages is that they tend to perform tasks more quickly than high-level languages.
On the other hand, the power to manipulate the computer at a low level comes at a price. Low-level languages are generally more cryptic—they tend to be farther removed from ordinary spoken languages and are therefore harder to learn, remember, and use. High-level languages (and application-level languages, which many people would refer to simply as high-level languages) tend to be more user-friendly, but the price we pay for that friendliness is less control over the computer and slower running programs.
To illustrate, consider the task of printing some text. A low-level language may only be able to send individual characters to a printer. The process of printing with a low-level language might go something like the following: ...