4/10/09

The Beginners Guide to Programming: Step 1 Intro

There are a lot of people that would like to get started in the computer programming world; hobbyists, bored people, and the future developers of the world. Many of you don't want, need, or have a college education based in computer science, and that's OK. This series is going to be comprised of all the basic building blocks you will need to get started in the computer programming world and hopefully ease you into the process in a pleasant way. Throughout this series I will be giving helpful hints and tips that I have learned over the last four years of being a computer science student and during my internship.

Anyone that is thinking about following this series through to fruition or that is thinking about starting to write computer programs must first remove any of the misconceptions you may have gathered in your life time about computer programming. One of the most common misconceptions that I have noticed is that "Hacking" is a really cool thing to do, and that hacking can do anything. Hacking in practice turns out to be a terrible idea. You can and probably will incur a very large jail sentence if you do hack anything important. There are white hat hackers who are actually a help to the world, but that is a completely different blog post. Generally hacking is the same amount or less exciting than other computer disciplines, and you definitely cannot hack into helicopters via Live Free or Die Hard.

ballmer_peak This is probably a misconception but a hilarious one. If you want to hear a good drinking + computer story ask me about Rome Total War sometime.

Taken from xkcd

Other misconceptions include computer programming being exciting and possibly simulating some sort of 3d virtual world. For some reason Hollywood continues to perpetuate this myth. For most languages the most efficient way to traverse a code base is with a plain text editor like emacs or vim. Windows worked pretty hard to make people believe that every application needs a GUI. In case you don't know a GUI is a graphical user interface. For many applications a GUI is overkill and a huge waste of time! The worst misconception which seems to pervade even the educated computer scientists among us, is that computer programming is just sitting there and typing out code. This is WRONG! A good programmer takes time before he/she sits down to code to plan out the features, how they will be implemented, what technology is best to use, and a whole lot of other things. I truly believe that you can reduce your entire project time by up to a 1/3 if you do some preliminary planning.

The biggest complaint I hear from people that want to start programming is that they aren't smart enough. You will quickly find out that you don't have to be a genius to program things on the computer. There are a lot of very smart people in computer programming, but there are also a lot of below average IQ people programming computers. I can guarantee that if you can read these blog posts you can program some nice beginner level or intermediate projects. It may take more time for some and less for others, but learning to program can be taught.

If you are excited about programming and want to learn I really hope to see you next blog post. This series may start off slow for the tech initiated so if one section isn't useful for you be sure to check in soon. I am also happy to take questions and requests for future blog posts.

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2 Response to The Beginners Guide to Programming: Step 1 Intro

April 10, 2009 at 9:15 AM

How to plan out your first program.
A program that takes a little bit of user input
References to other useful materials for learning just the nuts and bolts

April 14, 2009 at 11:44 AM

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