Skip to main content

Programming Language for the 8051

If coding is your thing then you are most probably familiar with some of the programming languages out there and have experience in writing programs and compiling them. If not, then I strongly suggest you check out the basics of programming. Writing codes for the 8051 micro-controller is not any different. You choose a coding language and start writing codes in the development environment. That’s all it takes.

When it comes to 8051 micro-controller, you can either use Assembly or C language.


It’s a low level programming language for computers and is machine dependent. Simply put, the code you write for a particular machine will not work on any other. It contains words-like instructions called Mnemonics. I am not going to talk about assembly language in here because that’s for you to learn and practice. Just google Assembly Language for the 8051 micro-controller and you’ll land somewhere full of rich content.

The basics of Assembly language and the 8051’s instruction set will be sufficient for programming. That’s all you will ever need. Nothing more nothing less.

a sample Assembly Program
A sample Assembly Program


It’s a high level programming language and most commonly used, almost everywhere. You might already be familiar with it because C language is taught as a basic course in most of the fields where coding is essential. If you talk only C++, that’s not a big deal either because C++ is in fact an extension of C language. They are almost similar when it comes to the basic structure and blocks. In context of the 8051 micro-controller, you’ll hardly notice any difference.

a sample C program
A sample C program

Assembly or C language?

An important decision. Technically both languages are supposed to work so selecting one shouldn’t make any difference. However, there is a catch.

Assembly language is very specific and a bit complicated. Being a low level programming language, it is not easily understandable at first sight and looks confusing. On the other hand, it gives you total control over what you do. You can even determine the total machine cycles of the whole code you have written. You can call each register by name and store/manipulate data in it or you can generate exact time delays by using simple statements.

C language is flexible and enables you to program free hand so you can forget about the names specific to some device. You can start writing code in your natural way and the compiler will take care of the internal operations for you. This makes things a lot more easier as compared to Assembly Language. However, we can never determine the exact machine cycles executed by a single C statement as it is entirely dependent on the compiler you use.

My opinion?

As a beginner with 8051, you must play only with Assembly Language so as to understand the flow of a code in the hardware sense. In fact, this practice will get you familiar with many aspects of the 8051 micro-controller and how to manipulate it efficiently. But once you get the hold of it you will realize that it is time consuming and that’s where you jump to C language.


Muhammad Faizan Khan is an Electrical Engineer and a Computer Geek. He is a technical guy and has more than 3 years of experience in Embedded Systems, Digital Logic Design, Computer Programming and everything else that’s logical. He mostly writes tutorials related to microcontrollers for beginners in his blog, PhaseWire.

2 thoughts to “Programming Language for the 8051”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *