Programming 101: Where to start your programming journey

Software Engineering is one of the most lucrative careers these days and with the rise of Machine Learning, Data Science, everyone is talking about Computer Programming.

When someone starts to learn to program, it seems a huge task and most people don’t know where to start and certainly, there is a lot to cover if you are starting from scratch. So to make a task of programming easy for you guys who are just beginning their journey, I am writing about the most basic things about programming and which language you should choose as your first programming language so that you don’t get overwhelmed in the beginning.

I will discuss 5 things in this blog:

  1. What is programming?
  2. What is a programming language?
  3. How many programming languages are there?
  4. Which programming language should you choose as your first?
  5. Some free resources to start learning to program from MIT and Harvard.

What is programming?

A computer is a physical(hardware) machine, it takes information as an input, processes it and stores it or give us an output.

Now, the computer doesn’t understand formal languages like English or Spanish. It understands the binary language, a complex set of 1 and 0.

We give instructions to the machine about how to perform a certain task in the form of some code in the language computer understands and the set of instructions that directs computer hardware to perform a task is called a program, or software program and this process of creating a set of instructions that tell a computer how to perform a task is called programming.

What is a programming language?

Now that you understand what it means by programming, let me tell you what you will need to become a programmer.

When you want to talk to someone or tell them what you want them to do, you use some kind of language, it could be English, Hindi, Spanish or even a sign language depending upon the need to make it easy to transfer the information from us to the person we are trying to communicate, in a similar way we use programming languages to accomplish the task of giving instruction to the computer.

So if you want to be a programmer, the first thing you need to understand is programming languages.

A programming language is a set of notations and rules which are used to generate the set of instructions and implement algorithms(we’ll discuss what is algorithms later in detail).

Now, the next question arises: how many programming languages are there and how many do you need to learn to start programming?

How many programming languages are there?

Now according to Wikipedia, there are approximately 700 programming languages and some sources tell us even this number could be in thousands!

But the good news is that you don’t need to worry about so many programming languages because you don’t need to learn them all, you can just start by learning 1 language.

Now some of the most popular languages are C, C++, Python, Java, Javascript, PHP, Swift, C#, Ruby, Objective-C, Go, R etc.

Which programming language should you choose as your first?

Now there is no hard and fast rule to choose or to say that one language is better than other, it just depends on what you want to achieve with that language and it depends on many factors. But if you are just starting and have no background in programming and technology, then you must go with some relatively easy language like Python so that you don’t lose interest in programming in the beginning because of complexities and C is also a great language to start if you want to understand computers on a basic level and want to learn about memory management. In fact, C was my first programming language.

Now, I don’t want it to get complicated for you, so I will give you some simple advice here. If you are not from a tech background and you are just diving in the world of programming then just go with Python, it’s relatively simple and you can make many cool things just after few weeks or months of learning it, so it will give you motivation for continuing your programming journey.

If you are in some university course then you can choose your first language according to your curriculum and needs of the course. Generally, people choose Python, C or Java as their first programming languages. It is not a rule and you can always choose some other language but I would suggest not to get too much pressure about it. After a certain point in your journey, it won’t matter. So just pick one and start this beautiful journey.

Note: I will write more about python and its various frameworks, so if you choose Python as your first language then you can read more blogs about it here.

Some free resources to learn in a structured way:

  1. Programming basics, Scratch, C, Python, Javascript: CS50 Harvard University

2. Programming basics, Python: MIT Course Number 6.0001

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Gaurav Chaudhary

Gaurav Chaudhary

I'm an undergrad student studying computer science and engineering. I'll write about technology, life advice, ideas, entrepreneurship, history and philosophy.