The history of Swift you need to know

Today, almost all iOS app developers use Swift. But do you know the history? Swift is a high-level programming language made by Apple Inc. 

Not only Apple, but the open source community also contributed to the creation of Swift. The programming language first appeared on the surface 9 years ago to replace Objective-C, another Apple programming language. Objective-C was introduced in the mid-1980s and remained relatively unchanged years later until it was replaced by Swift.

Swift is built on Apple’s Cocoa and Cocoa Touch frameworks. A key aspect of its creation is the ability to interoperate with large bodies of Objective-C code. The Swift development framework is an open-source LLVM compiler framework. The development framework was just released in 2014 (version 6). Swift basically uses the Objective-C runtime library. The runtime library provides the ability to run C, Objective-C, C++, and Quick Code in the same program.

Apple’s goal behind the creation of Swift

Apple’s goal behind creating Swift was the ability to support many core concepts, all of which relate to Objective-C. These concepts include programmatic extension, feature extension, and final binding that can be widely deployed. With support for the core concepts above, catching bugs will be easier.

Swift was also designed to reduce or eliminate classic programming errors, such as null pointer dereferences, and not only that, to minimize the risk of pyramid catastrophe by providing syntactic sugar. Finally, the programming language can support all of the protocol extensibility concepts normally applied to the types, classes, and structures that Apple has been promoting. The programming language that supports these protocol extensibility concepts is in turn called “protocol-oriented programming”.

The first time Swift was introduced

Introduced 9 years ago at Apple’s 2014 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Swift was upgraded to version 1.2 in just a few months. And the following year, there was a major upgrade announced at WWDC 2015. A micro-upgrade to version 2.2 was made in late 2015 with the change to open-source software under the Apache 2.0 License.

And it upgraded again to version 3.0, which since then, Swift has had a very significant upgrade. Marked with source stability as a focus, it became the basis for subsequent improvements that reached a whole new level in the first quarter of 2018. It was the first time that Swift surpassed Objective-C as Apple’s most widely used programming language.

Back in the previous year, 2017, Swift 4.0 was released. The version brought several changes that affected built-in classes and structures. In other words, it’s possible to update any code written with a previous version of Swift. Updating “old code” was made possible by a function called the migration function. The functionality was built into Xcode.

In 2019, in March to be precise, Swift 5 was released. It supported a stable binary interface. A stable interface would in turn allow the Swift runtime to be baked into the core of Apple’s operating system. 6 months later, Swift 5.1 was introduced. As expected, it was based on the foundation of the previous Swift 5. The change was that language features were extended to computation time. It was made possible with the introduction of module stability. The introduction was an important factor in the activity of creating and distributing binary frameworks that will be compatible with future versions of Swift.

And 2 years ago, in the middle of WWDC 2021, Apple announced Swift 5.5. The version extended language support for concurrency and asynchronous code. The expansion of language support would pave the way for the introduction of the next unique version.

It started long before

While Swift was first introduced in 2014, the planning had begun several years earlier. In mid-2010, Chris Lattner and a group of other Apple programmers were trying to align ideas from various languages such as Objective-C (which is mainly), Haskell, Python, Rust, and so on into one idea. The single idea was then embodied further until it was announced in mid-2014 at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference.

Perhaps the milestone for the development of Swift was when the Gold Master of Xcode 6.0 for iOS was released on September 9, 2014. The version seemed to be considered a bridge between the primitive versions of Swift and subsequent modern versions of Swift.

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.