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Source code: What exactly is a source code?

Computers - regardless of whether it's your home PC, modern smartphones or computers from industry and science - work in the binary system: on / off, loaded / not loaded, 1/0. A sequence of states (bits) tells the computer what to do. While in the early days of computer technology commands were actually created with these two states, there has long been a move towards writing applications in a human-readable programming language. That may sound strange at first, because as a layman, you will mostly recognize confused gibberish even in a source code.

"Human readable" is in this context, however, as a counter-term to "machine readable" to understand. While computers only work with numbers, people use words to communicate. Just like foreign languages, you have to learn the various programming languages ​​first before you can use them.

Different programming languages

There are hundreds of different programming languages. One cannot necessarily say that there are better or worse per se, because this must always be seen in the context of the project and depends on the application for which the source code is used. To the most famous programming languages belong:

In order for the computer to understand these languages, however, they must then be translated into machine code.

Compiler & Interpreter

In order for computers to be able to process the source code written by programmers, a translator stand between the two - in the form of an additional program. This auxiliary application can appear either in the form of a compiler or as an interpreter:

  • Compiler: This type of application translates (compiles) the source code into code that can be understood and executed by the processor. This machine code can be saved in the form of an executable file.
  • interpreter: An interpreter translates the source code line by line and executes it directly. The compilation process is much faster than with a compiler, but the execution is slower and requires a large amount of memory.

You don't have a free choice: the programming language determines whether a compiler or an interpreter has to be used. Nowadays, an interim solution is increasingly being used: Just-in-time compilation (JIT). This type of translation tries to combine the advantages of both programs (fast analysis and fast execution). B. used in browsers to deal more effectively with JavaScript, PHP or Java.

Markup languages

The basic structure of a website is also referred to as a source code. However, the basis for this is not a programming language, but the markup language HTML. A markup language defines how content is structured. So, with HTML z. B. Define headings, paragraphs or highlighting. An HTML document is not in itself a program, but it can contain one, for example in the form of JavaScript code. The same applies to other markup languages, such as XML.