How to Program: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide

You can add 2 + 2, but do you know how to do that and print it out on a computer screen?

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Photo by Sereja Ris on Unsplash

What is programming and what makes it a good career?

Programming is the act of writing computer programs. So what does that mean? There are computer programs everywhere. You’re reading this right now on a computer program (web browser) designed to read another computer program (web page) that was used to write this article (web-based word processor with grammar plugin). If you’re reading this on a tablet or phone, it’s the same basic program, but just a little different for the platform you’re using.

Can you do something step by step?

When you write software, you have to tell the computer to do everything, step by step. You can’t skip over programming any steps unless you know for a fact someone else has already coded that little bit of functionality for you in some code library.

  1. Using left hand, pick up toothpaste tube.
  2. Using right hand while simultaneously holding toothbrush, open toothpaste.
  3. Apply toothpaste to top of toothbrush bristles, eyeballing the amount.
  4. Close toothpaste and put tube back down on counter.
  5. Using left hand, turn on bathroom sink faucet, on the cold side.
  6. Using right hand, put toothpaste-laden toothbrush bristles under running water for approximately 1 second, to dampen.

We don’t know what data we’re going to use.

Software doesn’t know what data it’s going to use, so you need to write your programs to work on things in the abstract. You do that using variables. Just like in your early math training (hopefully), you learned that a variable is a placeholder for a value. X = Y + Z…that sort of thing. You will need to write your software to calculate that equation for pretty much any value.

How to get started writing software…

Now that you have a good idea of what you’ll be doing in the abstract, how about we dig a little deeper into how to get started?

Read, watch videos, and experiment.

The key to learning how to write software is to write software. Read how-to articles. Watch videos on YouTube about programming, deep dives into computer science, and tours of languages and development tools. Try to do simple things with simple programs.

Technology professional in Hollywood, so naturally I also make terrible short films and tech videos.

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