Making the shift to statically typed languages

Programming languages can be broadly classified into two categories: Statically typed and dynamically typed languages. In the realm of computer programming, data types - the classification of data for programming use - inform the system compiler or interpreter about the programmer's intended use of data. These types determine the fundamental nature of a value that data represents. Ranging from strings, characters, integers to arrays and boolean operators, various data types are supported by programming languages across the board.

Programming languages usually have systems that verify and enforce that the data type assigned to a value is correct. Compilers ensure that the program follows the rules and syntactic conventions of its written language. Type checking is essential in programming to limit errors that usually happen at compile-time or runtime.

I will explore in detail the benefits of using either Statically typed or Dynamically typed programming languages in more detail.

Statically Typed Programming Languages

These are languages in which type-checking occurs at compile-time. This means that the data types of variables must be known before the source code is compiled, and when a variable is assigned a data type, it cannot be changed. An attempt to make any changes will result in a compile-time type error. Common examples of statically typed languages are Dart, Java, TypeScript, and Swift.

Benefits of Statically Typed Programming Languages

  • Prevents runtime errors - statically typed languages prevent runtime type errors because these errors are thrown during compile-time as the program is being written. This saves time as most IDEs and code editors highlight type errors in red, and the program refuses to compile without the errors being fixed.

  • Uncomplicated debugging and testing - Declaring variable types ensure that code is easier to debug and test as the code is readable and easier to follow. It also enables engineers to identify a value type and build on their expectations.

  • Performance Optimization - statically typed programming languages are usually compiled into a lower-level native machine code. Since static languages ensure that typed variables are guaranteed, the compiler can determine the data structure, leading to optimal performance.

  • Demonstrative language features and documentation - The system compiler often uses the type system to provide specific language features like documentation right in the IDE or code editor and auto-completion on common language functions and methods.

Dynamically Typed Programming Languages

These are languages where type-checking occurs at runtime. This simply means that the data type of variables is checked when the program is in the execution phase. Hence, errors only come into play when they are in the process of executing, after execution, or if any errors interrupt the process. Popular examples of dynamic programming languages are JavaScript, Python, Ruby, and Perl.

Benefits of Dynamically Typed Programming Languages

  • Less Boiler-plate Code - As dynamically typed languages do not require code to be typed, dynamic code programs generally have lesser code for the same function that a statically typed language would have. Therefore, type annotations are not necessary because they could be inferred.

  • Diversity - Dynamic languages tend to encourage the construction of diverse abstractions and functions; this helps developers accelerate productivity and code reusability.

  • Flexibility - As there are no requirements for typing, there's a minor struggle with inconsistent data that breaks the program's architecture, making data types and values evolve with ease.

Final Thoughts

Many programming materials out there would make the case that dynamically typed languages are the way to go because of merits like flexibility and polymorphic abilities. Nonetheless, I think that these are drawbacks when it comes to programming languages. Programming languages should have structure and strict rules that guide the programmer and minimizes errors. Programming languages like Dart, Kotlin, and TypeScript are statically typed, enabling them to provide the developer with concise language documentation right in the IDE or code editor.

In addition, it saves time and effort for programmers when they look at a piece of code and understand what kind of data to pass and what to expect. Statically typed programming languages are verbose and require the use of more code than dynamically typed languages. Regardless, this is the price to pay for readability and easy maintenance, as code does not necessarily have to be minimal at all times. Still, it needs to be concise and easy to understand and statically typed languages make this possible.

Languages like TypeScript, a strict statically typed superset of JavaScript and can offer some of the benefits of the dynamically typed JavaScript language and all the benefits of a statically typed language.