What is the best language for programming microcontrollers?

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I am wondering what programming language, whether it is C, C++, or other, would be best for programming micro controllers. What are the benefits of either one. I understand C is easier to learn but does that actually make it better? I need to use these micro controllers for sensor applications if this helps.
 

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  • #2
rcgldr
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Depends on the toolset that is offered for the microcontroller. Most of the embedded systems I've worked on are written in a combination of C and assembly (mostly for stuff like interrupt handling. context switches by a kernel, ... ).
 
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  • #3
I believe we are using microchip mplab, Thanks for your response!
 
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C++ is an object orientated language which greatly simplifies coding of large complex systems,
also it facilitates team development of software.
That is very unlikely to be the case for microcontroller software,
and it could even introduce unnecessary processing overheads and memory use.
Ideally microcontroller software could be most efficient if written in the native machine language of the processor.
However vanilla C is usually good enough with perhaps some critical routines written in assembly.
 
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C++ is an object orientated language which greatly simplifies coding of large complex systems,
also it facilitates team development of software.
That is very unlikely to be the case for microcontroller software,
and it could even introduce unnecessary processing overheads and memory use.
Ideally microcontroller software could be most efficient if written in the native machine language of the processor.
However vanilla C is usually good enough with perhaps some critical routines written in assembly.
This is wrong. C++ is a multiparadigm language and has been for a long time. Consider the STL. That is not an object-oriented design. Some or none of the traditional OOP techniques may be used freely together with procedural and generic programming. There is increasing support for a functional programming style. It does not force the shoehorning of a design into class hierarchies like certain other well-known languages, and that style was left behind by people keeping pace with the language in the 1990s.

The use of C++ in embedded systems is increasing. As other answers identified, this has everything to do with availability of tools.

Unnecessary processing overheads and memory use, including fragmentation, have nothing to do with the language and everything to do with the available compilers and design techniques used. One is not forced to use every feature of a language, instead a general purpose language allows a wide range of problems to solved by selecting subsets of features. For example, in hard realtime applications encountered in embedded systems, exceptions are often inappropriate. The obvious solution is simply not to use them.
 
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C is usually used for things like that because C++ compilers for embedded systems can be hit or miss, they will also rarely implement anything that they don't need, so you can probably expect std::string to work, but forget boost. C++ also tends to bloat software because it has to do little things like allocating vtables or doing memory alignment. I also prefer to manage my registers manually in some circumstance, so more often than not, you will still have to write some assembly.
 
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  • #7
.Scott
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I am wondering what programming language, whether it is C, C++, or other, would be best for programming micro controllers. What are the benefits of either one. I understand C is easier to learn but does that actually make it better? I need to use these micro controllers for sensor applications if this helps.
If C++ is available, it would be the best choice. It is not necessary to use all of the C++ language features or libraries. Simply having the "this" pointer will make it hugely easier to break up large functions (>200 lines) into meaningful pieces. And, of course, you have generally better support for OO design, encapsulation, etc.
If your application is safety-related, there may be restrictions. For example, automotive applications are generally forbidden from calling a function through a variable - so v-tables (virtual functions) would not be allowed.

Since C is nearly a subset of C++, it follows that it is easier to learn C. But in the long run, it is easier to develop in C++. And with experience, it will be easier to test and maintain your object-oriented code.
 
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