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Difference Between C and Java Language: Contrasts Explained

Published: 4th October, 2023
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Gurneet Kaur

Data Science Consultant at almaBetter

Explore the Difference between C and Java! From syntax to applications, learn how these programming giants differ and suit your development needs effortlessly.

Let’s dive deeper into the difference between Java and C. Two giants stand tall in the world of programming languages: C and Java. Though distinct, these languages hold unique strengths and practical applications. For developers, comprehending the nuances between these two is akin to mastering the tools of the trade. In this blog, we'll uncover the essential disparities that set C and Java apart, equipping you with the knowledge to make well-informed choices for your upcoming projects and come up with the answer to what is difference between C and Java?

C programming language, often hailed as the father of modern programming languages, embodies efficiency and simplicity. Consider this: in C, you have precise control over memory allocation, allowing optimal performance in tasks like system programming and embedded systems development.

Java programming language, on the other hand, champions versatility and portability. With its "Write Once, Run Anywhere" mantra, Java code can seamlessly run on diverse platforms, making it a go-to choice for web, mobile, and desktop applications.

As we delve deeper, we'll explore the differences of C vs Java, weigh their pros and cons, and ultimately answer the perennial question: C or Java – which suits your project best? So, fasten your seatbelts and embark on this illuminating journey through code and creativity.

Introduction to C

Let's begin our exploration with C, a programming language with a storied history and enduring popularity in software development. C is renowned for its elegance in simplicity and efficiency, making it a top choice for a wide array of applications, including system programming, embedded systems, and much more.

During the early 1970s, Dennis Ritchie developed C as a procedural programming language at Bell Labs. Despite its age, the flexibility and efficiency of this programming language maintains its popularity.

C's hallmark is its simplicity. It provides a concise and straightforward syntax that allows developers to express complex operations with minimal effort. This simplicity lends itself well to tasks where efficiency and performance are paramount.

For instance, C's low-level capabilities in system programming enable developers to interact directly with hardware components, ensuring precise control. When an operating system needs to communicate with hardware, it uses a device driver. This crucial software is an intermediary, enabling the two to work together. C's efficiency shines here as it permits direct memory access and manipulation, a fundamental requirement for writing efficient device drivers.

C's efficiency is indispensable in embedded systems, such as those found in smartphones or IoT devices. These systems often have limited resources, and C's ability to efficiently manage memory and hardware resources is a game-changer.

So, as we venture deeper into programming languages, keep in mind that C's simplicity and efficiency make it a timeless contender in software development, offering a solid foundation upon which developers continue to build innovative solutions.

Key Features of C

C stands out among programming languages due to its unique and powerful features, contributing to its enduring popularity.

  1. Low-Level Capabilities: C offers low-level programming capabilities, allowing developers precise control over memory and hardware resources. This makes it ideal for developing operating systems, device drivers, and firmware tasks.

Example: In C, you can directly manipulate memory addresses, a crucial feature for tasks like memory management in embedded systems.

  1. Extensive Library Support: C provides a rich set of libraries, making it versatile and adaptable. These libraries contain pre-written code for everyday tasks, reducing development time and effort.

Example: The Standard Library in C includes functions for tasks like file handling, string manipulation, and mathematical operations, simplifying complex processes.

  1. Direct Hardware Manipulation: C allows direct hardware interaction, making it suitable for developing software that interfaces with hardware components like sensors, microcontrollers, and peripherals.

Example: Writing code to control the speed of a motor or read data from a temperature sensor requires direct hardware access to a strength of C.

  1. Portability: C programming code is highly portable and can run on different platforms with minimal modifications, making it an excellent choice for cross-platform development.

Example: A C program developed on one operating system can often be compiled and executed on another with little or no modification.

These features solidify C's reputation as a robust and versatile programming language. Its ability to work at a low level while maintaining portability and offering extensive library support makes it a valuable tool for developers across various domains. As we compare C with Java in the subsequent sections, you'll gain a deeper understanding of the distinctions between these two programming giants.

Introduction to Java

Let's shift our focus to Java, a versatile and widely adopted programming language renowned for its remarkable attributes, including platform independence and a thriving developer community. Thanks to its unique characteristics, Java has carved a significant niche in many domains, from web development to mobile app creation.

Java is an object-oriented, high-level programming language developed by James Gosling and his team at Sun Microsystems (now owned by Oracle Corporation) in the mid-1990s. One of its standout features is its platform independence, achieved through the "Write Once, Run Anywhere" (WORA) philosophy.

Java's hallmark is its ability to run on diverse platforms without modification. This is accomplished through the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), which interprets Java bytecode.

A Java application developed on a Windows computer can seamlessly run on a macOS or Linux machine with the help of the JVM. This cross-platform compatibility is a game-changer for developers targeting multiple operating systems.

Java enjoys a robust developer community and extensive libraries. This means developers can access many resources, tools, and third-party libraries to streamline their projects.

Java developers can leverage open-source libraries like Spring or Hibernate for web application development, saving considerable time and effort.

Java has found applications in diverse domains such as web development, mobile app development (Android is built on Java), enterprise software, and even scientific research.

Android app developers use Java to create interactive and feature-rich mobile applications that run on millions of devices worldwide.

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Key Features of Java

Java's enduring popularity in the software development landscape can be attributed to its standout features, each contributing to its widespread adoption.

  1. Write Once, Run Anywhere (WORA): Java's "Write Once, Run Anywhere" (WORA) philosophy simplifies cross-platform development by allowing code to be executed on any compatible JVM.

Example: A Java application developed on a Windows machine can seamlessly run on macOS, Linux, or any other platform with a compatible JVM.

  1. Robust Standard Library: Java boasts a comprehensive standard library that covers a wide range of functionalities. This library provides pre-built modules and classes, enabling developers to perform tasks like file handling, networking, and data manipulation efficiently.

Example: Developers can use Java's built-in classes for networking to create web servers and clients without having to write complex low-level socket code.

  1. Automatic Memory Management: Java incorporates automated memory management through garbage collection. This feature relieves developers of manual memory allocation and deallocation, reducing the risk of memory-related bugs.

Example: Java's garbage collector identifies and reclaims memory occupied by objects no longer in use, preventing memory leaks.

These key features, along with a strong developer community and versatility in various domains, have solidified Java's position as a programming language of choice for web applications, mobile app development, enterprise systems, and more. As we delve deeper into the comparisons with C in the following sections, you'll better appreciate how these features set Java apart in the software development.

Differences Between C and Java

Let’s take a closer look at the difference between C language and Java and understand the differences between C language vs Java.

AspectCJavaExplanation
Developed byDennis RitchieJames GoslingC was developed by Dennis Ritchie in the early 1970s, while Java was created by James Gosling and his team in the mid-1990s.
Programming modelProceduralObject-OrientedC follows a procedural programming model, emphasizing functions, while Java is object-oriented, focusing on objects and classes.
Platform dependencePlatform-dependentPlatform-independentC code is platform-dependent, requiring recompilation for each platform, whereas Java's "Write Once, Run Anywhere" philosophy makes it platform-independent.
Type of languageLow-levelHigh-levelC is a low-level language, offering direct memory access, whereas Java is a high-level language with abstracted memory management.
Compilation and InterpretationCompiledCompiled and InterpretedC is primarily compiled into machine code, whereas Java is compiled into bytecode and interpreted by the JVM at runtime.
PointersSupportedNot supportedC supports pointers, allowing direct memory manipulation, while Java does not to enhance security and prevent pointer-related issues.
ThreadingLimited supportNative supportC provides limited threading support, whereas Java has built-in support for multithreading with its Thread class.
Garbage CollectionManual memory managementAutomatic memory managementC requires manual memory management, including allocation and deallocation, whereas Java features automatic garbage collection to handle memory management.
Memory AllocationManualAutomaticIn C, memory allocation and deallocation must be done manually using functions like malloc and free, while Java handles memory allocation and deallocation automatically.
Support for call by referenceSupportedNot supportedC supports call by reference, allowing functions to modify the caller's variables directly, while Java uses call by value.
ApplicationSystem programming, embedded systemsWeb, mobile, desktop applicationsC is commonly used for system-level programming and embedded systems, while Java is widely used for web, mobile, and desktop applications.
Functional UnitsFunctionsObjects, methodsC relies on functions as its primary functional unit, while Java emphasizes objects and methods as the core building blocks of programs.
KeywordsLimitedExtensiveC has a limited number of keywords, while Java has an extensive set of keywords to support its rich feature set.
SecurityLess secureMore secureC is considered less secure due to its low-level capabilities, whereas Java is designed with security features like bytecode verification.
File Extension.c.javaC source files have the extension ".c," while Java source files use ".java."
Exception HandlingError codes and returnsException objectsC typically uses error codes and return values for error handling, whereas Java uses exception objects and structured try-catch blocks.
Approach of programmingProceduralObject-orientedC follows a procedural programming approach, emphasizing procedures and functions, while Java uses an object-oriented approach, focusing on objects and classes.
PortabilityLimitedHighC code often requires modification for different platforms, while Java's platform independence enhances portability.
RobustnessLess robustMore robustJava's strong typing, automatic memory management, and exception handling make it more robust and less prone to errors compared to C.

These detailed differences highlight the contrasting features and capabilities of C and Java, shedding light on when and where each language shines in the software development landscape.

Pros and Cons of C

Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of C, a cornerstone of software development for decades, is crucial as we explore the world of programming languages.

Pros:

  1. Efficiency: C is renowned for its efficiency and performance. It offers low-level control over hardware, making it ideal for tasks where speed and resource utilization are critical.
  2. Example: C's efficiency ensures critical tasks are executed immediately in real-time systems.
  3. Portability: While not platform-independent as Java, C code can still be relatively portable with some modifications. This flexibility makes it suitable for cross-platform development when necessary.
  4. Example: Games developed in C can be adapted to run on multiple gaming consoles with minor adjustments.
  5. Flexibility: C is a versatile language commonly used in programming, operating systems, and embedded systems development.
  6. Example: C is the language for writing device drivers, as it allows direct interaction with hardware components.

Cons:

  1. Manual Memory Management: C requires manual memory management, which can lead to memory leaks, segmentation faults, and other memory-related errors if not handled correctly.

Example: Forgetting to deallocate memory with free() after allocating it with malloc() can result in memory leaks.

  1. Lack of Safety Nets: C provides low-level memory access, meaning developers have fewer safety nets. This can lead to buffer overflows, pointer errors, and other vulnerabilities.

Example: Accessing an array beyond its bounds can corrupt memory and lead to unpredictable behaviour.

  1. Verbose Syntax: C's syntax can be verbose, requiring developers to write more lines of code than higher-level languages like Python or Java.

Example: Implementing complex data structures or algorithms may involve writing more code in C compared to other languages.

  1. Limited Standard Library: While C's standard library is comprehensive, it may lack some high-level abstractions found in other languages, requiring developers to implement specific functionalities from scratch.

Example: Implementing dynamic data structures like linked lists may require custom code in C.

In summary, C is a powerful and efficient language. Still, its manual memory management and potential for errors make it best suited for experienced developers and specific use cases where low-level control is necessary. Understanding its strengths and weaknesses is essential for making informed decisions in software development.

Pros and Cons of Java

With its unique features and characteristics, Java has become a staple in software development. Let's explore the advantages and disadvantages that make Java a compelling choice for many projects.

Pros:

  1. Platform Independence: Java's "Write Once, Run Anywhere" (WORA) principle allows code to run on different platforms with a compatible Java Virtual Machine (JVM). This portability simplifies cross-platform development.
  2. Example: A Java web application can run on Windows, macOS, or Linux with minimal adaptation.
  3. Strong Standard Library: Java has a rich standard library that includes modules for networking, database connectivity, and more. This extensive library accelerates development by providing pre-built solutions.
  4. Example: Java's JDBC (Java Database Connectivity) allows developers to interact with databases seamlessly.
  5. Automatic Memory Management: Java features automated memory management through garbage collection. This reduces the risk of memory-related bugs like memory leaks and segmentation faults.
  6. Example: Java's garbage collector reclaims memory from objects no longer in use, preventing memory leaks.
  7. Security Features: Java is designed with security in mind. It incorporates features like bytecode verification to prevent unauthorized code execution.
  8. Example: Java applets running in web browsers are subject to bytecode verification, enhancing security.

Cons:

  1. Slower Execution: While Java's portability is a strength, it can also result in slower execution than natively compiled languages like C.
  2. Example: In computationally intensive tasks, Java may exhibit slower performance.
  3. Resource Intensive: Java applications can be more resource-intensive due to the overhead of the JVM and automatic memory management.
  4. Example: Java web applications may require more memory and CPU resources than equivalent applications written in C.
  5. Learning Curve: Learning Java can be challenging for beginners due to its object-oriented nature and the vast libraries it has.
  6. Example: Learning to work with Java's object-oriented features, like classes and inheritance, may require more time and effort.
  7. Limited Low-Level Access: Java intentionally restricts low-level memory access for security reasons, which can be a limitation for certain types of applications.
  8. Example: Developing low-level system software like device drivers is more challenging in Java.

Java is an excellent choice for web dev and enterprise software due to its portability, strong libraries, and security features. However, developers should know potential performance overhead and resource usage depending on the project's requirements. Understanding these pros and cons helps make informed decisions when selecting Java as a programming language.

C vs Java: Which One is Better?

C vs Java which is better? Choosing between C and Java for your next programming venture is a pivotal decision that hinges on your project's specific requirements and objectives. Let's delve into the strengths of each language to help you make an informed choice and help you understand the difference between Java and C language

C:

  • Efficiency and Control: C is your ally if your project demands top-tier performance and low-level control. It excels in system programming, embedded systems, and tasks where speed is paramount.
  • Example: Writing an operating system kernel or firmware for a microcontroller benefits from C's low-level capabilities.
  • Legacy Systems: C is often chosen when working with legacy systems, where compatibility with existing code is crucial.
  • Example: Migrating a decades-old software system to modern hardware may require using C.

Java:

  • Portability: When cross-platform compatibility is critical, Java's "Write Once, Run Anywhere" capability shines. It's perfect for web applications and software running seamlessly on various operating systems.
  • Example: Developing a mobile app that should work on Android and iOS leverages Java's portability.
  • Rich Libraries: Java's extensive standard library simplifies development by offering ready-made solutions for everyday tasks.
  • Example: Building a web application with features like user authentication is expedited with Java's libraries.
  • Safety and Security: Java is an excellent choice for applications requiring robust security features and automatic memory management.
  • Example: Financial systems, where security is paramount, benefit from Java's security features.

The Decision:

By looking at the difference between Java and C programming, the choice between Java vs C language boils down to your project's nature. If you prioritize performance, low-level control, or have legacy constraints, C is your ally. On the other hand, Java fits the bill if you need cross-platform compatibility, a rich library ecosystem, or robust security.

In practice, many developers find themselves mastering both languages to leverage their strengths as needed. Your decision should align with your project's unique demands and your team's expertise. Ultimately, success lies in understanding and applying C and Java strengths judiciously in your development journey.

Conclusion

Now you have the answer to the question “What is the difference between java and c language”. C and Java are pillars of innovation in programming, each with strengths and merits. The decision between these two programming giants hinges on a thorough understanding of your project's requirements, the skill set of your development team, and your overarching objectives.

Mastering both C and Java can empower developers to navigate a broader spectrum of challenges and opportunities in the ever-evolving world of software development.

Java developer skills are highly sought in a landscape that favors versatility and portability. In contrast, full stack developer courses and pay after placement courses can provide the necessary knowledge and skills to excel in today's competitive job market. Whether you embark on a journey with C, Java, or both, your programming voyage will undoubtedly be rewarding, fueled by innovation, creativity, and the pursuit of technological excellence.

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