What Is Programming

Programming code
Programming code on a computer screen

Programming is one of the most in-demand skills in the world. It is needed everywhere from banks to hospitals to government agencies.

To put it short, programming means making a computer perform certain actions.

However, there are lots of other things you need to understand to get your head around programming.

It is also important to see that programming is not about writing code. Instead, it is all about software development that involves much more than just writing code.

In this article, you will explore what is programming and software development. You will learn how programming works and why it is so important for our society.

You will learn the concept of a programming language. I will also show you what it takes to become a software developer. In the end, I will guide you in the right direction if you are interested in becoming one.

Programming and Software Development

Programming is an important skill of a software developer. Software developers use their programming skills to write complex software that solves customers’ problems.

Just as an example, think about Uber—without software developers, there would be no way for people to book taxis with their phones.

In general, any piece of software or technology works thanks to software developers.

What Is Software Development

Software development is the process of building software. It involves designing, creating, deploying, and supporting a computer program to solve customers’ problems.

A software developer is a person that is skilled in each of these aspects.

Throughout this article, I am going to talk about programming and software development interchangeably. In reality, there is a major difference.

  • A programmer is someone who knows how to write code.
  • A software developer is a problem solver that can design, create (program), deploy, and maintain software. Programming being one of the important skills.

Being a programmer thus does not mean you are a software developer. Just like being a runner does not make you a soccer player.

The world of software technology is not ruled by programmers—It’s run by software developers.

What Is Programming?

In Layman’s terms, programming means making a computer perform some desired actions.

A programmer is someone who gives a computer instructions to perform these actions. These instructions are written in some programming language.

a piece of python code on a computer screen
Example of Python code. Image source Unsplash.com

An instruction can be something simple like “Add two numbers”, or “Say ‘Hello’ to the user”.

A set of instructions can also be something more complex, such as “Find the estimate of a population mean” or “Hash the password given by the user”.

The latter two tasks already require more complex instructions than adding two numbers.

A computer program, or software, is a bundled set of instructions written by a programmer. These programs can be distributed across different devices to be used by end-users, like yourself.

For example, the web browser you are using is a piece of software created by software developers.

What Is a Programming Language

Programming languages are used when creating computer programs.

A computer only understands 0’s and 1’s but humans do not.

This is why there are programming languages that act as an intermediary between the machine-level code and the language we speak.

When a programmer tells a computer to do something, they write the instructions in a programming language. These instructions are then translated to machine-level code by which only the computer understands.

There are hundreds of different programming languages with different syntaxes, but they all have the same goal—to control the behavior and output of a computer.

matrix ones and zeros on a green computer screen
Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

Programming languages are roughly categorized into two groups

  • Low-level programming languages.
  • High-level programming languages.

Low-level programming language means that the language is close to machine code. This makes it highly efficient. But this also makes it hard to understand, debug, and maintain.

It is not so common to write low-level programs these days.

a close-up piece of hardware
Image Credit: Unsplash

High-level programming languages tend to be more “English-like” languages that are easier to learn as they are easier to write and read.

A high-level program is less independent of the type of computer used to run it. Almost all the programming languages you encounter these days are high-level languages.

a piece of python code
A Python code example. A lot of English-like instructions in the code.

Here is a table that compares high-level programming languages with low-level ones:

High-Level Programming LanguageLow-Level Programming Language
Widely usedUncommonly used
Less memory efficientMemory efficient
Easy to understandHard to understand
Easy to point out code errorsHard to point out code errors
Easy to maintainComplex to maintain
PortableNon-portable
Runs on any systemDepends on system
Developer-friendlyMachine-friendly

Common Programming Languages

There are hundreds of programming languages out there.

Here is a list of 10 notable programming languages with brief introductions and example uses.

Almost every programming language mentioned in this list is an example of a high-level programming language. As mentioned earlier, low-level languages are not common.

1. Python

Python is the most popular programming language according to how many times tutorials are searched on Google.

Python is commonly recommended as the first programming language to learn. This is because it is not only easy to learn, but it is also a very applicable programming language.

You can use Python in machine learning, artificial intelligence, data science, or practically anything.

2. JavaScript

JavaScript is a powerful programming language used to create effects in websites. It is also one of the most popular languages to date.

a computer with a web page
Image Source: Unsplash

JavaScript was invented by Netscape and first released in 1995 as part of the Navigator browser. It has undergone constant refinement and improvement since then.

3. C

C is a programming language that was created in the early 1970s by Dennis Ritchie, at Bell Labs.

C has become one of the most widely used languages for software development and it’s still being taught in Computer Science courses today.

a computer with code

The features of C which helped make it so famous are its low-level features. These include memory management with nearly direct access to hardware components.

C is considered a “mid-level” language. It is not as low-level as assembly languages. But It is more low-level than most of the high-level languages.

C can be used for both systems and application development because of its flexibility, efficiency, and wide support by hardware manufacturers. C programs are usually run with an operating system to manage memory, provide security.

4. Java

Java programming is a general-purpose language that runs on the Java Virtual Machine.

It’s made by Sun Microsystems in 1995.

Java is used to develop applications for desktops, web servers, and mobile devices.

Java has some similarities with C++, which is another popular programming language.

5. C++

C++ was created in the 1980s by Bjarne Stroustrup. It derives from a language called C which is still one of the most widely used programming languages today.

In general, C++ can be considered as an extension to the popular programming language C.

6. C#

C# was designed by Microsoft and released in 2000 as part of their .NET platform. It was designed to compete with the Java programming language.

C# is used to create desktop apps, web apps, and web services. It is also used in Game Development with Unity.

a person gaming with a headset on
Image Source: Unsplash

7. Visual Basic

Visual Basic is a programming language family written by Microsoft.

For example, you can use Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) to create macros to automate repetitive tasks in MS Office tools, such as Excel.

software developers planning
Image Source: Unsplash

Visual Basic is an internal programming language that is used under the hood in MS Office tools like Excel and Word. This means you do not really encounter software that is written in Visual Basic.

8. PHP

PHP is a server-side scripting language used to build dynamic web pages.

It was originally designed by Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994.

PHP programming is a server-side scripting language that runs on the web. It allows developers to write dynamically generated HTML pages quickly, eliminating the need for updating static files every time there’s new content. In other words, PHP makes it possible to update a webpage without having to rebuild it from scratch.

9. Assembly Language

Assembly language is a low-level programming language for computers. These days, Assembly language is mainly used for hardware manipulation.

Hardware in computers
Image source: Unsplash

Almost all modern software is written in a high-level programming language, such as C, Python, JavaScript, and so on. Thus, you will not see many applications written in Assembly.

10. SQL

The internet is full of data. This data is stored in databases, which are tables of rows and columns.

Needless to say, accessing and modifying this data is in a crucial role in making the internet work the way we are used to. To efficiently access and modify data in databases, programmers use Structured Query Language, SQL.

SQL allows you to easily store and retrieve data from the database.

It has been around since 1986, making it one of the oldest computer languages still used today.

Is Programming Hard

Programming is not hard, but it takes time to learn.

The learning curve of programming is similar to learning how to speak a foreign language. It can take months before you can really use it even a bit.

Similar to learning a foreign language, learning programming languages becomes significantly easier when you have learned one language.

All programming languages belong to the same “family”. Each language follows the same basic principles. This makes it easier to learn more programming languages after you have become good at one of them.

Should I Learn Programming in 2022

year 2022 in ASCII art on a computer screen

Yes. Software developers are in high demand and the world is heavily dependent on people who can code.

For example, all online businesses are crafted and maintained by software developers. Without software developers, you would not even be reading this article.

As more and more industries are moving towards automation, the number of software developer positions keeps growing. And the salary is not bad either.

Software development is one of the rare jobs that can be 100% remote. For someone who likes to work from home, this is a big win.

Thinking like a software developer also supports other aspects of life such as creativity, problem-solving, and mathematical thinking.

What Programming Language to Learn First

Unless you have a really clear picture about what types of programs you want to write, start with Python. It is commonly considered the best programming language to learn first.

Start with Python

Python is one of the most popular programming languages to this date. It is a beginner-friendly language that is easy and even fun to learn.

There are tons of tutorials, books, and blogs about Python available on the Internet.

Python is a universal programming language you can use at almost anything. You can build games, web pages, do maths, machine learning, and so on.

How Does Python Code Look Like

If you have never seen a line of code, here is what you probably expect it to be:

minified JavaScript code on a computer screen
Minified JavaScript code mess. Image credit: Unsplash

In reality, it never looks like this. This type of code is nonsense that is not supposed to be read by a human.

To illustrate the understandability of Python, consider this small program. It displays a message depending on whether your age is more than 17 or not:

myAge = 20

if myAge > 17:
    print("You are an adult.")
else:
    print("You are a minor")
    

You would probably have a good idea of what above the program does, even if you haven’t coded before. This is one of the benefits of starting with Python. It reads almost like English.

For the sake of comparison, if you wrote the same program in C++ it would look like this, which is already a bit trickier to understand:

#include <iostream>

int main()
{
    int myAge = 20;
    
    if (myAge > 17) {
        std::cout << "You are an adult" << std::endl;
    } else {
        std::cout << "You are a minor" << std::endl;  
    }
}

How Long Does It Take to Learn Python

If you have zero background in programming, it can take hundreds of hours before you have the skillset to create your own “real” projects. And by this I mean you can write programs such as sudoku solver, or snake game.

Furthermore, you need to constantly practice your skills. Remember, watching a tutorial is not enough. You should always write and understand everything you see to actually learn how to code.

How to Get Started

The best way to get started is by finding a tutorial/book dedicated to beginners.

However, watching a programming tutorial is not enough. You have to write code at the same. If you watch a 3-hour tutorial without writing a single line of code, you have learned nothing. Make sure to always repeat and understand everything you see.

Here is a really great up-to-date resource for getting started with Python:

The video is less than six hours long. You can expect it to take significantly longer as you want to write every line of code you see there.

Do You Need a Degree in Programming?

college graduates throwing hats in the air
Image Source: Unsplash

You can become a self-taught programmer who is just as competent as someone with a degree.

To land in on a software developer’s position, you do not necessarily need to have a college degree. But, you need to have experience.

If you have no previous working experience, having a bunch of side projects is a perfect way to showcase your skills to the recruiters.

As someone who has studied computer science and worked as a software developer, I want to share a list of pros and cons related to getting a college degree:

Pros

  • College courses set the pace. You need to study hard only to keep up. This leaves no room for procrastination.
  • College can lead you to the right path.
  • To graduate, you need to have studied a broad variety of courses on different topics. This makes you a more universal computer scientist. It also opens up new opportunities you may never have considered.
  • Other students, assistants, and even professors are there to help you.
  • You team up with talented, like-minded people. These are your future colleagues and co-founders.
  • Some day you may lose your job, but no one can take a degree away from you.
  • Some software companies prefer applicants with a degree.

Cons

  • Studying takes years.
  • Applying is stressful.
  • The competition between students can be stressful.
  • Studies are expencive.
  • You have intense courses in maths.
  • Outdated course materials—programming languages and technologies are updated too often for courses to keep up.
  • You scratch the surface on everything which makes you expert at nothing.

Don’t Be a Programmer—Be a Problem Solver

puzzle pieces on a table
Image source: Unsplash

As discussed earlier, learning how to write code does not guarantee you a position as a software developer.

A programmer is a bad title name. It highlights that the person only writes code. The truth is it’s never about just writing code. This is why companies do not really hire programmers or coders. They want software developers.

Software development involves much more than coding.

Usually, software developers spend less than one-third of the time writing code. Most of the time is spent on planning, maintaining, testing, even working directly with customers, and so on.

But the most important thing you as a software developer must deliver is to solve problems. Every piece of code you write, should solve a problem or at least be part of solving a problem.

If you cannot solve problems, you are not a competent software developer.

That being said, do not be afraid of using Google to find help as a software developer.

Google Is Software Developer’s Best Friend

Every software developer uses Google on a daily basis.

They do it so much so that it has become a meme.

ANY programmer (stolen and improved from r/gaming): ProgrammerHumor
Source: Reddit

Even though it might seem exaggerated, it is real.

Software developers need to search for help by Googling stuff from the internet.

But why? Aren’t they skilled enough to solve problems by themselves?

It boils down to probabilities. When a line of code causes an error, it is likely someone else has had the same problem. Instead of spending hours to figure out what’s going on, it makes more sense to do a quick Google lookup to solve the problem.

This happens a lot. Every software developer performs dozens of daily Google searches for help.

Remember, do not be ashamed of looking up things from the internet.

Basic Programming Terminology

Let’s finish this article with a sneak peek at programmers’ everyday terminology.

Not only is this useful for beginner developers, but it also teaches you some common knowledge.

Here is a list of 10 terms used broadly among software developers and programmers.

words
Image Source: Unsplash

1. Algorithm

Algorithms are all the things that go into making a search engine, or any other type of software for that matter.

An algorithm is a set of instructions given to a computer to perform a task. It is a step-by-step guide for the computer to get the job done.

A real-life example of an algorithm could be a recipe for baking a cake.

2. Code

A computer program is written by programmers. It consists of source code, or informally, code. The code refers to the instructions written for the computer to perform specific tasks.

The source code is always written in some programming language.

laid back programming with a foot on the table
Image Source: Unsplash

3. Hardware

A computer is a machine that can be instructed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically via computer programming.

The hardware consists of the physical components making up a computer system, such as the microprocessor and memory chips found in an integrated circuit chip. Without this hardware, a computer is just an inert collection of metal and plastic.

The hardware also consists of all the parts that form a computer system or device to which they are attached: monitor, keyboard, mouse, and so on.

4. Software

Software means programs that make the computer work. Any kind of software consists of instructions that make the computer perform different tasks that solve a problem.

Software can be a simple program that for example converts a video to a GIF. This kind of program is easy to develop as a solo developer.

The software can also be a very complex system, such as Adobe Photoshop. This kind of software is impossible to develop without a team of hundreds of skillful developers.

5. Bug

404 error on a fictive computer screen
Image source: Unsplash

Bugs in programming are a type of error that occurs during software development. They are unexpected results or behaviors that the program produces when executed by a user, either on its own or as part of a larger system.

Bugs can make software developers scratch their heads for long periods of time.

Also, what makes bugs really annoying is the process of finding what causes them.

6. Stack Overflow

Stack Overflow is a go-to forum for software developers. In this forum, software developers ask help for with issues in their code.

When you Google up about coding issues, you commonly stumble across a Stack Overflow answer.

Stack Overflow has two main sections: Questions and Answers.

A software developer can ask questions related to their issues in code. Then other developers can leave answers to the questions.

What makes it efficient is that any answer is voted by others to emphasize legitimacy. The answer with the highest votes is usually the “correct answer” to the question and is pinned on the top of the thread.

7. Version Control

Version control is the management of changes to documents, computer programs, large websites, and other collections of information. Changes are usually identified by a number or letter code, termed the “revision level”.

Version control makes it possible to develop software in teams.

The version control keeps track of the history of the program. It allows making independent copies of the program to make changes. After making changes to the program, a developer can publish the changes by merging changes back to the original program.

Here is an image of version control tracking the history of a program:

Version control history on a computer screen
Image Source: Unsplash

A commonly used version control system is Git. There is a cloud-based hosting service called GitHub that allows you to access Git code repositories via the internet.

8. Junior Developer

A junior software developer is a person who has some months up to a couple of years of experience in programming. This person has a lot of potential and room for growth as a software developer.

junior surprised when reading a book
Image Source: Unsplash

You can consider a junior developer like a little sponge that constantly absorbs information about coding practices and programming languages.

Junior developers typically work on small tasks independently but need a lot of guidance in the big picture.

9. Senior Developer

A senior developer, as the name suggests, is an experienced software developer. It is not set in stone when someone becomes a senior developer. Every company can define junior and senior differently.

You might even be a senior developer in the previous company but a junior developer in the next one.

Commonly, you can expect to be called a senior developer in 5 years of hard work as a software developer in a software company.

Senior developers have in-depth knowledge about a variety of software technologies. They are a great help when implementing new systems or tools. A senior developer handles big entireties of code. A great senior developer can look far to the future when it comes to writing sustainable code.

10. PR or Pull Request

Programmers do not write code to the production version of the software. This would be way too risky. Instead, they use version control to take a copy of the “real” program to make changes to it.

When the changes are made, the programmer requests the owner of the program to merge the changes into the real program. In programming terms, they create a pull request or a PR. This is a request for the real program to pull the changes from the developer’s version to use.

Conclusion

Programming means making computers solve tasks.

A programmer or a software developer is responsible for writing computer programs. A computer program is written in some programming language, which the computer understands.

A program consists of algorithms, that is, “recipes” or step-by-step guides for the computer on what to do.

Software developers are in demand. Almost every business depends on modern technology, which in turn, is heavily dependent on software developers.

To become a software developer, you should learn how to write code. A great programming language to start is Python. Notice that it takes hundreds of hours to become good at programming.

You can apply for a college to support your learning as a software developer, but this is not mandatory. Most of the recruiters prefer experience over degree.

Thanks for reading. I hope I was able to make you become interested in programming!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.