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Case Insensitive Programming Languages

Instructor: David Gloag
In this lesson, we'll take a look at programming languages, what they are, define case insensitivity and why case insensitive languages are important. We'll then give some examples of languages that are case insensitive.

Our World and Technology

Technology is an integral part of our society. It's hard to find a device that doesn't have a computer in it these days. They are in our phones, our televisions, and even some refrigerators with the continued growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). They determine the particulars of how the devices works and what it can do. It should come as no surprise then that we need some way to control these computers, a means to provide them with instructions that govern their operation. One such way is through the use of a programming language.

Programming Languages

A programming language is a group of instructions, meant to be combined in a number of ways, that determine how a computer works. Think of them as similar to a spoken language, like English. You have a number of symbols that you combine to convey your meaning to the computer, like words in a sentence. Computer languages are meant to be easy to read and understand by those that use them. However, understanding doesn't always come immediately. Some knowledge of the programming language is required. Programming languages vary in things like purpose, makeup, and case sensitivity. And, there are many available.

What is Case Insensitivity?

Case insensitivity describes a programming language's inability to distinguish between upper and lower case versions of a letter in the language's character set. For example, the letter 'c' is considered to be the same as the letter 'C', even though internally the computer sees a 'c' as 99, and a 'C' as 67. Therefore, identifiers like 'count' and 'Count' are considered the same in this type of language. These values are determined by the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII). Other representations are possible, such as Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code (EBCDIC), but in that code the upper and lower case values are different.

Importance of Case Insensitivity

Case insensitive programming languages were important in the past because they reduced the resource requirements on the early computer systems. You didn't need lower case letters, keyboard shift keys, and the processing needed to handle them. We say 'were' because, with the computing power available today, there isn't much need for case insensitivity. These languages still exist though and are in-use. Mostly, because they were ingrained in the early days, and there wasn't much point in changing them. To this day, many programmers like the idea that the language will catch capitalization errors, and treat 'count', 'Count', and 'coUnt' as the same symbol.

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