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What Is a Toy Language?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 September 2016
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    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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In computing, a toy language is a term that refers to a type of programming language that is used for general purposes of instruction, but is typically inadequate when it comes to actually executing the programming itself. Considered somewhat incomplete, a toy language is helpful in conveying broad ideas but is usually not utilized when it comes to creating software programs that are intended for specific applications, such as in a production environment. This type of computer language does work well with the development of programming that aids in conceptual tasks.

One of the more productive applications of toy language is during the research and development phase of new software products or upgrades to existing products. Here, the goal is often to get an idea of which features can be added to allow the desired range of functions with the software. If a given idea for a feature proves viable, then the programmer can move on from the use of toy languages and begin creating the code that is more fleshed out in terms of the mathematics and the code that ultimately is incorporated into the programming. With this approach, using toy language can make it easier to weed out ideas for processes that might make the software cumbersome for end users.

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Toy language can also be helpful in learning and instructional environments, such as in computer information systems classes at a university. The language can be used to convey general ideas without getting deeply into the actual programming, making it easy to prepare students for delving into the more complicated aspects of the process once the basic idea is understood and mastered. Once those basic understandings are in place, it is possible to move on to developing the mathematics that underpin the creation of code for the functions under consideration. It is also possible to use toy language in this type of environment to help those who are not well versed in programming protocols to understand what is happening with a given program.

While not the ideal choice for a number of applications and uses, toy language does provide the benefit of making it possible to research ideas. The language is also helpful in articulating those ideas in a broad sense to individuals without a strong programming background. While somewhat limited in its applications, toy language can pave the way for more complete and robust programming that results in the development of software programs that will function well in a number of settings.

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