Friday, October 3, 2014

What language should I learn?

One of the most often asked questions I hear is "What language should I learn!?!". Can not really tell you the answer to that. Then I ask, what are going to do with your programming skills? The answer is many times they do not know. They just want to be a programmer. Many times they see the big dollar signs, but programming is not really where their heart is sometimes.

Usually for future programmers I recommend having two disciplines. For instance, how can you do an accounting program if you have no idea how debits and credits at the minimum even work. You need to know about what you want to program for. In most cases, people in a particular industry feel they do not have the software that meets their needs. They go on a quest to develop such software.

Now let us go one step further. You need to know more than a language. You need to understand logic modules, just like there are different rooms in a house. All houses have the basic rooms, but they are all not attached in the same way. So is it true of software. You will need to learn the basic constructs to apply them in programming. Some say musicians can make good programmers, because they are used to putting parts of songs together. You will also need to be a good problem solver to be a programmer. No piece of software works the first time.

If you have ever done a "todo" list, you have written a program aka a piece of software for humans. Unless you are an independent programmer, you will not be developing the code from scratch, You will have guidelines that will usually come from a systems analyst or the like. Those guidelines may come in either the form of a flowchart (sort of an architect's blueprint) or it may come in some form of "todo" list such as pseudocode. It will be your job to translate those instructions in to a computer language program.

What makes up a program? Lots of instructions. Just like you speak English or even another language, you know you have to say things in a certain way so that you will be understood by the instructions you want to convey. You need to know the syntax or the constructs (there is that word again) of the programming language you are using to write your program. That leads people to want to use the language both spoken and as a program that you feel comfortable with. Only you can decide what that is for you.  What languages are there?

As for languages, some of them were developed to accomplish certain tasks easier. In the early days, Many people in the sciences learned Fortran (formula translation) because it was good for doing heavy computation. then again people use Cobol (common business oriented language) because it was good for business, self documenting  and was very much like using English. Now there are a zillion languages for a variety of purposes or just what someone liked at the time. There are also languages that were meant for teaching about computing such as Pascal, Basic, Python, and C (and it's variants).

In some cases, especially working for an employer, more than likely you will not get to choose the programming language will program with. Be flexible. Just like now it is good to know more than one oral language even if you do not speak it fluently. Knowing even a little bit, makes it easier to communicate with others. makes it easier to translate computer code from one language to another. The Basic language is now sort of frowned upon. It is a shame. I like to use old books with Basic computer programs and translate them to what I can use. For example, mathematics is not my strong point. I found an old program that created what is known as a sine wave. I translated that into what I could use. So it is best to be multilingual both in programming and in oral conversations.

Now that we have gone through all of that, what is next? Of course, you want to write a program. You have either read a book, magazine article, took a class, or even looked at some old programs, that you would like to try!  You will need a program that will translate what you create into what the computer can understand or a sort of a translator. All computer language translators do not come with all machines. You can go online to places like to start entering programs to see the results. has a wealth of programming languages to choose from. There you can experiment in coding and learning a language.

For a survey of a few languages see: In my case, I wanted to learn a bit of Java. so I went to the java option and entered some code to see what would happen.

So now you have a sandbox to try several languages to see what you personally may like,

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