You’ve probably heard of JavaScript. You may have heard of TypeScript, ECMAScript, JScript, VBScript, LiveScript, CoffeeScript, and ActionScript, and might wonder what any of them have to do with each other, or with Java (as a beverage, island, or computer language).

Essentially, JavaScript and Java appeared at roughly the same time, in 1995, had similar syntax, and JavaScript followed Java’s naming conventions, but that’s pretty much it. It’s possible, perhaps even probable, that JavaScript took its name to capitalize on the popularity of the nascent Java.

Mocha was the development codename of the language, LiveScript was its name when in beta, but it was renamed JavaScript when announced in December 1995 and released with Netscape Navigator 2.0.

TypeScript is a superset of JavaScript developed by Microsoft in 2012. Any valid JavaScript code is valid TypeScript code, but not every valid TypeScript code is valid JavaScript code. Typescript compiles to plain JavaScript.

CoffeeScript is an alternate syntax for JavaScript designed to be more readable. It compiles to plain JavaScript.

ECMAScript is the specification created to standardize JavaScript. The committee that develops these standards is Technical Committee 39 (TC39) of Ecma International, standardized in ECMA-262 and ISO/IEC 16262. While originally the European Computer manufacturer’s Association, the name of the Switzerland-based organization is no longer considered an acronym, but the specification retains it for historical reasons. The name is a compromise between the organizations involved: Sun Microsystems, Netscape, and Microsoft. Since 2015, there have been annual releases of ECMAScript syntax.

As an aside, here are a few other Ecma International standards you probably know but didn’t know who came up with them:

  • 7-bit coded character set
  • FAT12/FAT16 file system
  • CD-ROM volume and filestructure
  • Universal Disk Format
  • C# language specification
  • Eiffel language specification
  • Office Open XML
  • JSON
  • Dart language specification

As ECMAScript is a specification, JavaScript is a subset of ECMAScript. JScript and ActionScript are also subsets. JScript was created for Microsoft’s Active Scripting engine, so it can be used with Internet Explorer, Active Server Pages, and Windows Script Host, along with VBScript (Visual Basic Script) and PerlScript. It is essentially the same as JavaScript with a few additions specific to Microsoft, but a different name was chosen to avoid trademark disputes with Sun Microsystems. ActionScript was created by Macromedia for use with their Flash product and lives on today in Adobe AIR.

Due to the editor-level debugging available through the use of TypeScript, I plan to use it and its enforced typing in tutorials here.

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