History of C++ Programming

C++ is a powerful and versatile programming language that has played a significant role in the evolution of software development. Born out of the C programming language, C++ was created to enhance the capabilities of C by introducing object-oriented programming features. In this tutorial, we'll delve into the fascinating history of C++, tracing its origins, key milestones, and the factors that contributed to its widespread adoption.

Origins and Birth of C++

  • C Language : To understand the history of C++, we must first look at the precursor: the C programming language. Developed at Bell Labs by Dennis Ritchie in the early 1970s, C became a widely used and influential language. Known for its simplicity and efficiency, C played a crucial role in the development of operating systems, including the UNIX operating system.

  • Bjarne Stroustrup's Vision : In the late 1970s, Bjarne Stroustrup, a Danish computer scientist, started working at Bell Labs. Stroustrup was initially focused on enhancing the C language to support the development of complex systems. His vision was to create a language that combined the efficiency of C with the high-level abstractions of Simula, a pioneering object-oriented programming language.

  • C with Classes : In 1979, Stroustrup started working on a new language that he initially called "C with Classes." The concept was to extend C to include classes, which are a fundamental aspect of object-oriented programming. The addition of classes allowed for the creation of user-defined types and supported features like data abstraction and encapsulation.

  • Evolution into C++ : As Stroustrup continued to refine and expand his language, it evolved into what we now know as C++. The name "C++" was adopted in 1983, representing an increment in the version number of C with Classes. The "++" symbol in programming signifies an increment, emphasizing the evolutionary nature of the language.

Key Milestones in the Development of C++

  • Release of C++ (1983) : The first edition of "The C++ Programming Language," a seminal book by Bjarne Stroustrup, was published in 1983. This marked the official introduction of C++ to the programming community. The book served as both a tutorial and a reference for the language, helping programmers understand its principles and features.

  • C++98 Standard : The first standardized version of C++, known as C++98, was released in 1998. This standardization aimed to bring consistency and clarity to the language. It introduced features like the Standard Template Library (STL), exception handling, and namespaces, further enhancing the language's capabilities.

  • C++11 : The year 2011 saw the release of C++11, a major update to the language. This release introduced numerous features, including auto keyword for type inference, lambda expressions, range-based for loops, and smart pointers. C++11 marked a significant step forward in making the language more expressive and modern.

  • C++14 and C++17 : Subsequent updates, namely C++14 and C++17, brought incremental improvements and additional features. C++14 focused on refining and fixing issues in C++11, while C++17 introduced features like parallel algorithms, filesystem library, and improvements to existing functionalities.

  • C++20 : The C++20 standard, finalized in December 2020, is the latest major release at the time of writing. It brings numerous enhancements, including concepts for better template metaprogramming, ranges library for handling sequences of elements, and coroutines for asynchronous programming.

Factors Contributing to C++'s Popularity

  • Efficiency : One of the primary reasons for C++'s popularity is its efficiency. C++ allows low-level manipulation of memory, making it suitable for tasks that demand high performance. This efficiency is crucial in domains such as system programming, game development, and embedded systems.

  • Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) : C++'s incorporation of object-oriented programming features, including classes, objects, inheritance, and polymorphism, has been instrumental in its widespread adoption. OOP promotes code organization, reusability, and the creation of modular software systems.

  • Compatibility with C : C++ is designed to be compatible with C, allowing developers to use C code in C++ programs seamlessly. This backward compatibility facilitated the transition of existing C projects to C++ and contributed to the language's acceptance.

  • Standard Template Library (STL) : The introduction of the Standard Template Library (STL) in C++98 provided a powerful set of generic classes and algorithms. The STL simplifies complex data structures and operations, enabling developers to write efficient and concise code.

  • Community Support : The vibrant and active C++ community has played a crucial role in the language's success. Open-source projects, forums, conferences, and online resources have contributed to the exchange of knowledge, best practices, and the evolution of the language.

Timeline of C++ Programming Language

  • C++ was developed by Bjarne Stroustrup in 1979 at Bell Labs in New Jersey, USA.
  • Earlier Stroustrup was working on a language called called Simula. Simula is considered as the first programming language to support the object oriented programming paradigm. Simula had features that were very helpful for large software development, but the language was too slow for practical use. Later, he started working on C++ and used his previous knowledge of OOP learned from Simula.
  • Stroustrup's wanted to add object-oriented programming features into the existing C language. He included classes, inheritance, default function arguments, and strong type checking in addition to all the existing features of the C language.
  • C++ is a superset of C. C++ programming language is extension to C Language. It was originally named C with Classes but later it was renamed C++ in 1983.
  • The first C++ compiler was named Cfront, which was an extension of a C compiler called CPre. Cfront compiler translates C++ program to a C program.
  • The increment operator(++) of C language. Therefore we called C++ as “Incremented C” means Extension to C.
  • In 1985, Stroustrup published the first reference to the language "The C++ Programming Language". Till now, there was no official standards available which became the definitive reference for the language.
  • C++ 2.0 was released in 1989, followed by second edition of C++ Programming Language reference. New features of C++ 2.0 was multiple inheritance, static and const member functions, abstract classes and protected members.
  • In 2011, C++11 standard was released adding some new features and extension of standard C++ libraries. C++14 is the current version, released n 2014 with minor bug fixes.
  • A major version release of C++ called C++17 is planned for 2017.

Bjarne Stroustrup, the creator of C++



C++ has a rich history marked by continuous evolution, driven by the vision of Bjarne Stroustrup and the contributions of a dedicated community. From its humble beginnings as an extension of C to its status as a powerful, feature-rich language, C++ has left an indelible mark on the world of programming. Its efficiency, support for OOP, and adaptability across various domains have solidified its place in the programming landscape. While challenges exist, ongoing standardization efforts and community support ensure that C++ remains a dynamic and relevant language for years to come. Understanding the history of C++ provides valuable insights into its design principles, evolution, and the factors that have contributed to its enduring success.