16Jul 2020

Introduction To Programming For A Newbie

In the past few decades since the introduction of computers,  programming has now been involved in practically everything that has to do with computing.

There have been lots of books, videos, and tutorials to teach people how to program computers. But more often than none, the concept of programming seems to deepen and this has left a lot of people without the knowledge or background of computer science find it a lot more challenging to pick up programming either as a hobby or a career path.

In this article, I wish to explain some basic terms associated with programming to an enthusiast, newbie, or just some curious mind that can’t seem to place what exactly the concept of programming is about.

This article seeks to answer basic questions concerning what programming is. For example, you will get to understand:-

  • Definition of terms.
  • What is programming?
  • Programming – A Robot analogy.
  • Why should I learn programming?
  • Who should learn programming?
  • Is programming difficult?
  • How do I start to learn programming?

Definition of Terms

Before we dive deep into the details of this new buzz-word – Programming. Allow me to explain some recurring terms. These are short definitions of programming terms, but you can always visit our blog for more explanations on these topics.

And you don’t have to understand all these jargon on your first read. With time, it will start to make sense. I’ll advise you get comfortable with these words as they will appear in your faces on a regular basis:-

Algorithm

An algorithm is a well-defined step by step description of how a specific problem should be solved. If you’ve ever written down a process to do something or even a recipe to make your favorite cup of coffee then you’ve made use of an algorithm.

Algorithms are not just related to computing – it is simply writing down the steps to achieving a process in simple English. The act of translating an algorithm to a program can be called programming.

A simple algorithm to make a cup of coffee could be:

  • Step 1: Get a mug from the rack.
  • Step 2: Wash the mug.
  • Step 3: Get a kettle.
  • Step 4: Put water into the kettle.
  • Step 5: Plug in the kettle and bring the water to a boil.
  • Step 6: Switch off the socket and unplug the kettle.
  • Step 7: Put in two spoonfuls of coffee into a mug.
  • Step 8: Pour in water to fill ⅔ of the mug.
  • Step 9: Serve your coffee.

The above set of instructions may differ for different people, for example, you may have to boil your water in a kettle on a gas cylinder. Or you may have a coffee brewer. When writing algorithms, it is advised to put all possible cases into consideration.

Program

A program is a set of organized instructions, imputed into a computer, and when executed, it performs a specific task. A program can be written by a skilled person often referred to as a Programmer. A Programmer is a person that has the skills necessary for translating an idea into a language to solve a problem.

Programming Language

A computer, like you, may already know, is just some fancy idiot that only knows how to take instructions and process them. But you must be wondering how one could send instructions when computers only understand 1’s and 0’s.

A programming language is just a special language with a special grammar structure and a group of words that are understood by a computer and the programmer. In order to instruct a computer to run some instructions, you need to be able to speak the language it understands.

An example of a programming language is Python, C#, Javascript, PHP, and a lot more.

Code

As you may know, codes are just a secret set of symbols, characters, and numbers that allows two parties to understand each other in a secret way for the sole purpose of communication.

Codes in programming are referred to as a system of rules like letters, numbers, symbols, and characters used to convert information from just plain English (Algorithms) to a computer-executable language.

Coding

When a programmer uses a programming language to send instructions to a computer, it is referred to as coding. Coding is the ability to understand how to make use of a language and use it in communicating with computers.

What is Programming?

‘Programming is simply the act of telling a computer how to complete a task ’.

I totally understand that you might be confused, I mean why tell a computer how to solve a task, when you obviously could do it yourself, right?

I’d like to paint a picture – Let’s say we need to add two numbers:

2+2 = 4

If you ask me, that’s pretty simple, we probably don’t need a computer to do additions for us. Then why do we need to tell a computer what to do? I’ll like you to imagine adding up a bigger set of numbers. For example:

10239857489 + 375829474234839 = ?????

I couldn’t even take out time from writing this article to do the math without looking for a calculator. Now, that’s the problem! We all can do simple maths off the top of our heads, and a good number of smart people with super-sharp brains could do a thing or two without the need for a calculator. But what of my grandma in my hometown or a market woman that has her head filled with more problems than adding up numbers.

A practical example of a program is

Print 12 + 10 

>>> 22

Where Print is a keyword for python programming that instructs the computer to display the result of the maths: ‘12+10’. And the output is right below the command: 22

There is a need to instruct computers on how to carry out tasks because a computer is basically just an idiot. But even though a computer is an idiot and can’t do a thing by itself – it does a good job at taking orders, executing properly, and in time if given accurate and well-structured orders.

Programming – A Robot Analogy

I always like to explain concepts with real-life case scenarios. Let’s say for example we have a robot- a robot is a kind of computer designed to carry out specific tasks.

However, you bought a robot that serves as a personal assistant. You named it ‘Alexa’. Alexa wakes you up at 5:00 am, serves you a cup of tea or coffee depending on your mood at 6:00 am, plays you a song while you stretch and workout on the treadmill, plays you a podcast to meditate and puts on the water heater for you to take a bath at 8:00 am.

If peradventure you need to go on a trip – it is important to program Alexa to wake you up at the usual time but with slight changes to the routine. In this case, you speak to it in the language it understands –  which could be audio, via a button or a remote.

The essence of programming is to solve problems at a faster rate by computers. But for computers to process the task, someone needs to state out a step by step procedure in a language the computer understands.

Why Should I Learn Programming?

For a lot of people, there are lots of reasons to learn how to write programs. It could vary from: –

  • Programming is fun: Most programmers I’ve come across do it for fun. The magic of being able to sit behind a screen and bring software, websites, and applications to life and at the same time solving problems is what motivates them to code.
  • Programming pays well: For anyone that can start out a career path in programming, it is a huge win as long as you can keep up, be consistent and learn daily. Programmers are highly paid and it has a future for remote work. I mean, most programmers during this COVID-19 pandemic were still able to work from home and deliver perfectly.
  • Interests and Goals: A good number of people learn to program computers because they wish to solve a specific problem. For example, for someone that plans to run a startup/business in the future, you may decide to pick up programming as a soft skill. On a lighter note, some people learn to code because it helps solve a communal problem.

Who Should Learn Programming?

I understand that you probably may not have a CS-Degree or some background with computers. But not to worry that’s not an issue. Anyone could learn to instruct computers –  it doesn’t matter the age, gender, or color. All you need to learn to code is determination, consistency, some direction, and resources such as a computer, access to the internet, time, and electricity.

Is Programming Difficult?

No, YES, No, Yes – Oh well, it depends.

Generally, programming is a little bit of logic, maths, and a lot of focus that gets the job done. At first, it may seem alien to you, but learning every day, joining a class both online and offline, registering for a boot camp, buying an online course, building small projects, and doing well to take breaks in between will get you past the newbie door.

How Do I Start to Learn Programming?

Now you understand the fuss about what programming is, how it works, some basic technical jargon, and the fact that you too can build things. You can now watch developers on twitter or read the news without feeling like an alien when discussions come up about programming.

Furthermore, I am assuming you now wish to test out the waters and see what you can build on with this information I’ve shared. Below are links to courses, platforms, websites, and resources that may guide your path.

Freecodecamp

Freecodecamp is an online platform for learning to code for free. It starts with a basic introduction to Html, CSS, and spreads out to Javascript and other languages. It also has a blog section that covers programming related topics and discussions.

Hello World

Computer programming for kids and other beginners by Warren and Carter Sande: This is an interesting and engaging book that introduces newbies to programming with python.

There are a lot of resources on the internet to learn to program, but for a newbie that just wants to see what the career path has, it is important to start with these two listed above. And read up more articles from us to get more resources.

Summary

In summary, Programming can be explained as a process of breaking down tasks for solving a problem into a step by step procedure.

 I am so pumped to have been able to write an introductory article for newbies, curious minds, and enthusiasts to understand the concept of programming. In my experience as a software developer and a community advocate for the past 5 years, I’ve had some really repetitive questions from random people.

These questions always range from “What is this programming you’re always talking about?”, “How can I learn?”, “I have no computer science background, is it possible for me to learn to program?”.It has always been a humbling moment for me – to be able to explain programming to a totally new person and watch them pick up the reins and be good at it.

I really do hope this article answered all your questions and you have decided to try out programming. Do well to share your story with us. Happy coding!

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Rithesh Raghavan

Rithesh Raghavan

Rithesh Raghavan, Co-Founder, and Director at Acodez IT Solutions, who has a rich experience of 16+ years in IT & Digital Marketing. Between his busy schedule, whenever he finds the time he writes up his thoughts on the latest trends and developments in the world of IT and software development. All thanks to his master brain behind the gleaming success of Acodez.

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