machine language

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Financial, Acronyms, Wikipedia.
Related to machine language: assembly language, programming language

machine language

[mə′shēn ‚laŋ·gwij]
(computer science)
The set of instructions available to a particular digital computer, and by extension the format of a computer program in its final form, capable of being executed by a computer.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Machine Language


a programming language whose contents and rules are realized by the hardware of a digital computer. Machine language consists of a set of digital computer instructions and a method of coding information (initial data, results of computations) acceptable to the computer.

The symbols of machine language are binary digits (bits). As a rule, the symbols are grouped into constructs (morphemes), that is, addresses within instructions; operation codes; and instruction attributes. These instructions are compiled into programs which embody the algorithms for solving the problems at hand. The efficiency of computer solutions of various problems depends to a large extent on how well the machine language is suited for given algorithms. A program written in machine language (sometimes called machine code) must contain very specific instructions for performing each operation. Moreover, it is necessary to indicate exactly where each number is to be stored (the memory cell), how to convey and process the numbers, and where to store the results of the computations.

Programming in machine language is carried out in the digital computer’s instruction list; machine language is therefore useful in the creation of programs that extend the logical capabilities of the computer (such as operating systems, translators of algorithmic languages, routine libraries), and for the creation of programs that are limited in operation time and computer memory capacity. Some disadvantages of programming in machine language are that programs written for a digital computer of one kind are not suitable for a digital computer of another kind; it takes a long time to train programmers; and a programmer who has learned to program on one machine must be virtually retrained for programming on another machine. One of the trends of machine language development is toward a higher-level language, which would simplify translators of algorithmic languages.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

machine language

This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (

machine language

The native language of the computer. In order for a program to run, it must be presented to the computer as binary-coded machine instructions that are specific to that CPU family. Although programmers are sometimes able to modify machine language in order to fix a running program (see patch), they do not create it. Machine language is created by software called "assemblers," "compilers" and "interpreters." These conversion programs turn the programmer's source code, which is what the programmer writes, into machine language (machine code). See assembly language, compiler and interpreter.

Machine languages differ substantially. What may take one instruction in one machine can take 10 instructions in another. See RISC.

What and Where
Machine language tells the computer what to do and where to do it. When a programmer writes TOTAL = TOTAL + SUBTOTAL, that statement is converted into a machine instruction that tells the computer to add the contents of the two areas of RAM where TOTAL and SUBTOTAL are stored and put the result in TOTAL.

Logical vs. Physical
A programmer deals with data logically, "add this, subtract that," but the computer must be told precisely which RAM locations this and that are located.

From Source to Machine Language
For decades, the goal of a business organization has been to be able to describe a problem and have it turned into executable code (machine language). Today's programs are written in ever-higher layers of abstraction, and there are considerably more instructions executed to solve tasks than there were years ago. However, today's fast computers are able to absorb the huge amount of additional machine language and overhead required in modern computing environments (see abstraction layer). See hardware platform.

Copyright © 1981-2019 by The Computer Language Company Inc. All Rights reserved. THIS DEFINITION IS FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. All other reproduction is strictly prohibited without permission from the publisher.
References in periodicals archive ?
Machine language coding is the lowest level we can code in (and even that is an abstraction).
Recall the simple encrypted virus carries an unchanging machine language decryption routine from host to host.
* The redeeming feature of the generator is the closeness of its modulus to a power of 2, providing nice, but tricky, machine language implementations.
The monkeyse[degrees]a intentions are detected by sensors, translated into machine language and used to move the arm.
What I want to emphasize here is that all of these prototypes are designed, down to the level of internal chips, with the assumption that KL1, a language that could be categorized as a very high-level language, is a machine language.
The monkeys' intentions are detected by sensors, translated into machine language and used to move the arm.
The interpreter must understand natural language and human mental states, as well as machine language and machine status.
I did not mind it because, although the language had all the features of Prolog, it was supposed to be a low-level machine language, rather than a language for application software developers.
With the excuse of budget constraints, all ballasts were dropped, and a clear, coherent research project emerged: to build parallel computers, whose machine language was based on Horn-clause predicate logic and to interface them to database machines, whose data-description and query language was based on Horn-clause logic.

Full browser ?