Programming with PLC
Early PLCs, up to the mid-1980s, were programmed using proprietary programming panels or special-purpose programming terminals, which often had dedicated function keys representing the various logical elements of PLC programs. Programs were stored on cassette tape cartridges. Facilities for printing and documentation were very minimal due to lack of memory capacity. More recently, PLC programs are typically written in a special application on a
personal computer, then downloaded by a direct-connection cable or over a network to the PLC.
The very oldest PLCs used non-volatile magnetic core memory but now the program is stored in the PLC either in battery-backed-up RAM or some other non-volatile flash memory.
Early PLCs were designed to be used by electricians who would learn PLC programming on the job. These PLCs were programmed in "ladder logic", which strongly resembles a schematic diagram of relay logic. Modern PLCs can be programmed in a variety of ways, from ladder logic to more traditional programming languages such as BASIC and C. Another method is State Logic, a Very High Level Programming Language designed to program PLCs based on State Transition Diagrams.
Recently, the International standard IEC 61131-3 has become popular. IEC 61131-3 currently defines five programming languages for programmable control systems: FBD (Function block diagram), LD (Ladder diagram), ST (Structured text, similar to the Pascal programming language), IL (Instruction list, similar to assembly language) and SFC (Sequential function chart). These techniques emphasize logical organization of operations.
While the fundamental concepts of PLC programming are common to all manufacturers, differences in I/O addressing, memory organization and instruction set mean that PLC programs are never perfectly interchangeable between different makers. Even within the same product line of a single manufacturer, different models may not be directly compatible.