What problem gave birth to programming languages?

Before high level programming languages existed, computers were programmed one instruction at a time using binary or hex. This was a tedious job and there were a lot of errors. Programs were difficult to read, and modification was extremely difficult because all programs had to be written using absolute addressing. Obviously, this job did not attract many people, so there was a shortage of programmers. Expensive computers sat idle for long periods of time while software was being developed. Software often cost two to four times as much as the computer. This led to the development of assemblers and assembly languages. Programming became somewhat easier, but many users still wanted floating point numbers and array indexing. Since these capabilities were not supported in hardware, high level languages had to be developed to support them.

Sources: "Concepts of Programming Languages" by Robert W. Sebesta, The Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company, Inc, 1993^

Video, "The Machine that Changed the World", PBS