What are Compilers and Interpreters?

Jan 13, 2022

3 Min Read

Compilers and interpreters turn high-level code into bits of commands that a machine can decipher. On the other hand, assemblers take low-level programming languages and compile them into code decipherable by machines. The translation process contains several steps. Coders can also use various tools to enhance their programming experience and write better code.

Assembly language needs to be analyzed by a machine. However, the instructions contained in the code can not be directly interpreted by the machine. High-level aspects of the Assembly language can be written without the help of a machine. By default, machines can decipher commands given in a binary language – in the form of 0s and 1s. Writing such commands directly would take forever. Therefore, high-level programming languages were developed as a sort of intermediary between humans and machines. Software written in these languages is made up of source code. The computer can not act upon commands written in this fashion. It must be translated into basic-level code that is understandable by the machine.

Specific tools can translate regular software code written in programming languages into low-level machine code. Such tools are categorized as Language Processors.

There are three different kinds of language processors:

Compiler

The tool that processes high-level language code and transforms it into equivalent machine language code is a compiler. These systems take code written in high-level languages and produce the same commands in object code.

As long as there are no critical bugs in a source code, it can be compiled into object code without any problems. However, if there are errors, the compiler will point out the lines of code that contain these errors. You can use these notes to find and remove the errors. Once you do, the compiler can successfully translate source code into object code.

Assembler 

Tools that translate assembly programming languages into object code are called assemblers. These tools use assembly language commands as a source code. These commands are used as input for assembler tools. Assembler’s output is structured as an object code consisting of commands deciphered by the machines.

Assemblers communicate the programmer’s instructions to the machine. Such commands are labeled as mnemonics. A few examples include ADD, MUL, MUX, and others. Assembler is the primary tool to translate mnemonic code into machine-understandable code. The structure of the machine can influence these commands. For instance, two machines – intel 8085 and 8086 have various structures. 

Interpreter  

Language processors that execute every line after another are called interpreters. These tools accept the input of source programs written in high-level code. They analyze every line of code and translate them into commands understandable by the computer. If the interpreter encounters a bug in a statement on a certain line, it stops executing and reports the type of message. If the error is fixed, the interpreter acts upon the following line of code in the queue. The interpreter does not translate source code into low-level code. Instead, it executes high-level code directly without translating it. 

Compiler vs. Interpreter – Differences

Compiler

A compiler allows machines to decipher the code after transforming the high-level code into binary code.

Interpreter

An interpreter also translates the code, but one line at a time.

Compiler

Analyzing the entire source code takes compiler a lot of time. However, the program itself is executed more quickly.

Interpreter

With an interpreter, less time is consumed by analyzing the source code. However, executing the program itself takes more time.

Compiler

Debugging the compiled code is more difficult because errors are detected after the compiler has scanned the entire file. Errors can be hard to find

Interpreter

The interpreter is more user-friendly when detecting problems as it stops executing once it has found an error in the line.

Compiler

The compiler needs more resources to generate the code that the machines can analyze.

Interpreter

The interpreter does not create object code. Therefore it requires less operational memory.

Compiler

Produces object code

Interpreter

Object code is not created

Compiler 

More secure way to process code

Interpreter

Relatively more susceptible to security threats

Compiler

Programming languages that use this method: C, C++, Java

Interpreter

Programming languages that use this pattern: Python, Perl, JavaScript, Ruby

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