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A Brief History of Swift: From an Infant Language to A Mainstay of Mobile

Swift is a language so ubiquitous in the lives of most smartphone users that it can be surprising how few people know of its existence.  Mobile developers are intimately familiar with the language, which is core to app development in iOS, but those new to mobile development or simply hoping to brush up on other areas of software development may not be as familiar with the language.  This article is devoted to the history and the strengths of Swift.  By the end, you should have a foundational understanding of where the language came from and what it can be used for.  From there, pursuing Swift as a language to utilize should be a considerably easier task.

Swift was designed by none other than Apple, the company responsible for the Mac, the iPhone, and the iPod.  Swift was designed to be a “safe” language in comparison to other languages used for app creation, meaning it was specifically constructed in such a way as to make spotting errors and bugs much easier than other languages.  Released in 2014, the language actually began its development in 2010 under the leadership of Chris Lattner.  Over time, programmers at Apple began to throw their support behind the language, inspired by a number of other modern languages such as the open-source community’s beloved Python.  While Chris Lattner is no longer involved in the creation of Swift, the Swift team is now well established and flourishing.

Since its formal release in 2014, Apple has consistently maintained documentation and education for the language, promoting freely its acceptance and use.  Additionally, many companies have since adopted Swift in one way or another.  For example, IBM launched an in-browser tool for programming in Swift in late 2015 that allows developers to immediately see the output in a window next to their code.

What Swift brings to the table is more than most modern languages.  Swift is designed to incorporate intelligently crafted “syntactic sugar.”  Syntactic sugar is rules of syntax that are designed to prevent common bugs or fatal errors.  An example of this is the @keyword in Python.  Additionally, Swift includes features designed to optimize memory management, performance, file handling, and more.  Swift has been designed to allow for multiple value types, optionals, unique metadata utilization.

One of the greatest benefits of Swift is that, despite being largely managed and updated by Apple, the language itself is open source.  An open source structure has led to Swift having a large community outside of Apple, leading to continual improvement as a language outside of use for Apple devices.

Of course, being so heavily supported, Swift is primarily used for the creation of iOS apps.  While many apps implement other languages, a majority of apps on the app store are written using Swift.

One of the benefits of Swift being a simplified and streamlined language is that it is very welcoming to new developers.  As a result, Swift is being taught to aspiring, young developers and app designers in schools, workshops, and conventions across the country.  The accessibility of Swift is has been praised as one of its greatest strengths, allowing innovative new insights on app design to enter the market without being impeded by extensive learning curves on programming languages.

Swift represents one of the earliest developments of democratically-minded languages designed to be both accessible and functional.  While, of course, no language is perfect, Swift deftly balances ease of use with functionality and efficiency, making it the ideal choice for mobile app design.

While Swift was designed to be similar to Objective-C, it contains a number of quite significant differences.  These differences largely revolve around the reduction of critical and common errors.  Some examples include improvements on pointers, assignments, switch blocks, integer overflows, and header files.

Since its release in 2014, Swift has seen new applications beyond app development.  A number of web frameworks based on Swift have been designed by a handful of major tech companies.  Additionally, a number of open source versions of the language have been adapted for non-Apple devices.

In the current day, Swift is used for nearly every app that is present on iPhones, iPads, and even some OSX apps.  With the popularity of the iPhone and the iPad, this means that Swift is nearly a constant in modern, daily lives, recognized or not.  Developers hoping to enter the mobile market should certainly consider learning the language, as it’s prevalence and ease of use make it a wise choice for study.

As Swift continues to rise in popularity and usage, it is important to ensure your company is able to deploy applications utilizing it.  Our team here at www.nixa.ca can help ensure that your apps run smoothly and are ready for deployment on the App Store, one of the largest markets for apps.

At Nixa, we are passionate about design and new technologies. We would be glad to share our passion with you.

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