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In computing , C ( / ˈ s iː / , as in the letter C ) is a general-purpose programming language initially developed by Dennis Ritchie between 1969 and 1973 at AT&T Bell Labs . [ 4 ] Like most imperative languages in the ALGOL tradition, C has facilities for structured programming and allows lexical variable scope and recursion , while a static type system prevents many unintended operations. C program source code is free-format, using the semicolon as a statement terminator and curly braces for grouping blocks of statements . Its design provides constructs that map efficiently to typical machine instructions , and therefore it has found lasting use in applications that had formerly been coded in assembly language , most notably system software like the Unix computer operating system . [ 5 ] C is one of the most widely used programming languages of all time, [ 6 ] [ 7 ] and there are very few computer architectures for which a C compiler does not exist.