Have you ever shopped at a place that promised lower prices by cutting out the “middleman”? Although, this might make things easier in the real world by not having to deal with that cheesy storefront and high pressure salesman, who is desperate for a commission.
The middleman or lady is actually very important in computer land. You see, the software that you use can be thought of as a club sandwich like stack of different programs. Some of which sit between whatever program you are interacting with directly and the hardware itself.
Because without these layers, programmers and developers would have to code differently for every single hardware configuration on the planet, Which would be impossible. Other layers sit between two different pieces of other software and help them talk to each other without needing to have tons of code in common.
These software layers help standardize the coding process, so that programs can interface with lots of different stuff easily and while you might be most familiar with a layer called a device driver. That translates program instructions and talks directly to your hardware.
Another layer called an application programming interface or API can be just as important as device driver, but if a driver is already there, then to serve as the link between your hardware and programs, then what does the API actually do?
Well, think of it like this Windows, Mac OS and Linux all provide a graphical interface of but, check boxes, menus, etc. Those are easy to click on. Without that you would be left tediously typing commands for everything you want to do, like back in the days, when DOS ruled the world or if you are a bash fan than yesterday.
Similarly an API provides a simpler way for developers to interact with other kinds of software, a really good example of this is social media plugins. That you see on certain websites, such as news article also our website in which you can comment using your Facebook or Google account login, that embeds tweets or a page that for better or for worse let people leave Facebook comments under it.
Both Twitter and Facebook have their own APIs that they make available to web developers making it easy for them to bake Twitter and Facebook features into their own pages. Without these APIs these social media giants would have to share code directly with owners of other sites.
Which would be tedious, difficult and possibly give away certain trade secrets, but if you are a PC gamer, you might be even more familiar with graphics APIs suck as DirectX, OpenGL and Vulkan. Which sit between the engine of whatever game you are playing and your graphics card driver.
These APIs make it easier for game developers to code cool effects that bring your favourite characters and stories to life and have them work regardless of whether you have an AMD GPU or a Nvidia GPU.
Since the API can talk to any mainstream graphics card and as GPU technology advances, you will see new revisions of graphics API is being rolled out. That can take advantage of more powerful graphics chips. But even if you don’t game or argue with random trolls and Facebook comments.
You are still taking advantage of APIs all the time, if you are a Windows user. Windows has its own API, unimpressively named as a Windows API. Commonly referred to as Win 32 or Win 64 depending on where you are running a 32 bit or a 64 bit application.
Windows API makes it easier for programs to do things like talk to your devices, modify your registry, use screen elements like buttons and status bars and much more without making the developer code these things directly and also helping users by providing a more reliable and consistent experience.
I mean can you imagine, if every single program on your computer had a different looking close button in the corner.
So, while APIs might not be the usual star of the show. When you are doing whatever it is, you do on your PC or phone. They make it possible for all of our disparate devices and software to work well with each other and enable the massive amounts of quick communication and high end gaming that we have gotten used to.
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