Vijay Singh Khatri | 16 May, 2023
Benjamin Semah | Co-author
Fact checked by Robert Johns

What Is Coding? Why You Need To Learn to Code in 2024

 

You might be reading this article from a computer, a phone, or another device. This is possible because somebody wrote code to program your device, allowing it to display this article’s content for you.

If you hear this and you wonder, hmmm, what is coding? Well, you’re in the right place, as this article will answer that very question.

So read on as we cover various topics, including what is computer coding, what it is used for, and why it is important. We’ll also take a small detour to discuss what you can do to get started if you’re interested in a coding career. Ready, great, let’s go!

What Is Coding?

So, what does coding mean, and what does coding do? Let’s start with a coding definition in simple terms. Coding in computers is the process of writing instructions for computers that we call code. Through coding, humans can create instructions that computers can understand and execute. 

Coding in computers is done using coding languages composed of symbols, words, and syntax rules. When programmers write code using a code language, special software called compilers, and assemblers convert it into machine language (more on that later), allowing the computer to read and execute their code.

This process allows computers to perform tasks like data processing, automating repetitive tasks, creating websites and applications, and much more.

Coding vs Programming: What’s the Difference?

Coding vs Programming

You’ll often hear the terms coding and programming being used interchangeably, but it’s important to note that they are not the same thing. 

Coding is the exercise of writing code, and it requires a proper understanding of the syntax of a coding language. You can then use that understanding to compose the code that forms your program.

On the other hand, programming refers to all the processes involved in creating programs (or software). This includes clearly defining the problem to be solved, identifying solutions, determining trade-offs, selecting an efficient solution, coding, testing, and debugging. 

The analogy of writing a novel is a good way to visualize this difference. Coding is like the writing process as it involves choosing the words and following grammar rules. Programming is an analog for the entire process, including defining the plot, character development, etc. Hopefully, this helps to clear that up!

The Importance of Computers in Coding

Computers are vital for coding because they are the agents of execution. The idea of coding in computers is to create instructions for computers to perform, as they possess the processing power, storage, and user interface we need to perform the coding process.

Computers also have the ability to process large amounts of data quickly and correctly. They can also perform repetitive tasks consistently without getting bored or tired. These attributes make them ideal for handling automation and solving complex problems.

What Is a Coding Language?

What Is a Coding Language

A coding language is very similar to a human spoken language, as it’s simply a set of symbols and words. When combined with composition rules (syntax), it allows us to create code that computers can execute. Put simply, coding languages are what programmers use to write programs that instruct computers to do stuff.

There are many higher-level coding languages, and each has its own syntax and area where it’s most suitable. Common language examples include JavaScript, Python, Java, Ruby, C++, C#, Swift, and many more.

Each coding language has pros and cons, so choosing the right language usually depends on your project requirements. For example, some languages like JavaScript are better for web development, while others are great with complex data analysis or scientific computing, like Python.

What Are Binary Codes?

Binary codes are a system of representing data in a computer by using only two symbols: 1s and 0s. These symbols are called binary digits or "bits". If you’ve ever heard about these coding terms but were unsure what they meant, well, now you know!

With this system, we can use 0s to represent "off" or "no", while 1s represent "on" or "yes". By stringing together multiple bits, it is possible to represent complex data structures, such as numbers, characters, or instructions that a computer can understand and execute.

Just to prove this point, let’s look at an example. In the code snippet below, we’ve used binary code to represent an ASCII version of the string "hello". 

01101000 01100101 01101100 01101100 01101111 

Computers use binary codes because they are reliable and can be easily stored and transmitted. It’s not an understatement to say that binary code has been crucial for the development of modern computing.

Another use for binary code in the context of coding is to produce machine language. This is another essential aspect of coding that is used by a computer’s CPU to execute our higher-level code.

Limitations of Machine Language

Machine language uses binary code that is executed by a computer’s CPU (Central Processing Unit).

And while this is the most fundamental way to control a computer, machine language has certain limitations when approached by a human coder (you or me).

  • Highly complex: Machine language is complex and difficult to write, as it requires an in-depth understanding of computer hardware and binary mathematics..
  • Hardware specific: Machine languages are specific to computer architecture, meaning they cannot be easily ported to other systems.
  • Hard to read: Machine code is very difficult to read compared to higher-level languages, even for experienced programmers.
  • No abstraction: Machine languages are low-level, so they lack abstraction capabilities that we enjoy with higher-level languages.

For these reasons, high-level programming languages like Python, JavaScript, C++, and others make it much easier for programmers to write code. These offer a high level of abstraction, which makes it convenient to write code that is easy to read and maintain.

Code Examples in JavaScript & Python

Just to whet your appetite, let’s take a look at some code that performs a simple calculation (add two numbers) and print the answer in JavaScript and Python. You’ll notice that the syntax and coding style differs between these two immensely popular languages, but the overall logic and end result is the same.

JavaScript Code Example:

# Define two numbers
let num1 = 5;
let num2 = 3;

# Calculate the sum
let answer = num1 + num2;

# display the answer
console.log("the sum of" + num1 + "and" + num2 + "is" + answer);

Python Code Example:

# Define two numbers
num1 = 5
num2 = 3

# Calculate the sum
answer = num1 + num2

# display the answer
print("the sum of", num1, "and", num2, "is", answer)

What Is Coding Used For?

What can coding be used for? That’s a good question. Well, technology has become part of almost every area of human endeavor you can think of. And so has coding. 

Coding has been used to power many of the technologies that make our lives convenient, from communication, transportation, and entertainment, to healthcare, agriculture, finance, and more. 

Still, what is coding used for? Let’s look at some common examples:

  • Software Development: Developing computer software such as desktop applications, mobile apps, games, etc.
  • Web Development: Creating websites and web applications, including front-end (client side) and back-end (server-side) development.
  • Database Management: Interacting with databases, such as creating, reading, updating, and deleting data from a database.
  • Automation: Creating scripts to automate repetitive tasks, such as data processing, backups, and file management.
  • Data Analysis: Processing and analyzing large data sets with languages like Python and R.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Machine Learning (ML): Developing algorithms and models that allow computers to learn from data, make predictions, and automate decision-making.
  • Cybersecurity: Writing code to protect computer systems and networks from malicious threats and attacks.
  • Robotics: Programming and controlling robots, drones, and other physical devices using code.
  • Scientific Research: Using code to model and simulate complex systems and processes in fields like physics, biology, finance, and more.

The Importance of Coding Algorithms

An algorithm is the steps involved in solving a problem. Coding algorithms are a vital part of programming for several reasons:

  • Problem-Solving: Algorithms provide a systematic approach to defining problems and possible solutions.
  • Efficiency: They are designed to run in an efficient manner, reducing the amount of time and resources it takes to solve a problem.
  • Consistency: They provide repeatable methods for solving problems, reducing the likelihood of human error.
  • Scalability: Algorithms can be designed to handle large amounts of data and scale to accommodate growth.

Popular examples of coding algorithms you’ll learn on your coding journey include binary search and merge sort. We won’t get into what these are here, so we’ll just leave that as something for you to look forward to!

Should You Learn How to Code?

If you are considering learning how to code, you should! Coding is one of the most popular skills for various careers, with the trend only continuing to rise. If you’re still unsure, let me convince you by listing some reasons why you should take the leap:

Improve your problem-solving skills: Coding involves a great deal of critical thinking. When learning to code, you will learn how to properly define problems, identify possible solutions, consider the trade-offs of each, and select the most efficient.

Access to a wide range of career opportunities: It’s no secret that coding is a skill that can open doors to numerous career opportunities. Coding is an in-demand skill across many industries, including technology, finance, healthcare, agriculture, etc. By learning to code, you can explore careers like game developer, web developer, machine learning engineer, data analyst, and others.

Automation of repetitive tasks: Computers are unlike humans since they do not get tired or bored. As long as you have sufficient power, they will continue working. This makes them ideal for performing tasks like data analysis, web scraping, transferring huge files, etc. By learning to code, you can write scripts to automatically perform these tasks for you.

Improve digital literacy: Digital literacy refers to effectively understanding and using digital technology. When you learn how to code, you will better appreciate how technology works, which can help you use technology more efficiently to solve problems.

How to Get Started with Coding

If you want to start learning how to code, it’s important that you start well. Let’s take a look at some of the steps you can take to get started.

  • Decide what you want to do: Coding is broad, and there are a lot of areas that you can branch into, like web development, machine learning, data science, etc. Spend time reading about different areas, then decide on your area of interest.
  • Choose a programming language: There are many programming languages to choose from, with popular options for beginners being Python, JavaScript, and Ruby. But know this, there is no perfect language. It’s better to choose the best for your interests and goals.
  • Set up a development environment: You'll need a computer and a code editor or IDE to write your code. Visual Studio Code or even the Atom code editor is a good option for beginners.
  • Start with the basics: Learn the syntax and structure of your chosen programming language, as well as basic concepts like variables, data types, and control structures.
  • Build projects: Start with simple projects and work your way up to more complex ones. Try to build things that require you to apply what you’ve learned while requiring you to learn new skills.
  • Practice: The best way to improve at coding is to code a little daily. You should also challenge yourself with new problems.

Another good idea is to consider pursuing a certification. This is an excellent way to present yourself as a professional to recruiters and potential employers, as it will provide formal proof of your skills and expertise. 

To help you on your way, we’ve listed some widely recognized certifications for coding professionals that you may want to consider.

Examples of careers in coding

So you’ve decided you want to learn how to code, great! Let’s look at popular career options for people who know how to code.

Software Engineer: If you become a software engineer, you will be responsible for designing, developing, testing, and maintaining software applications. You will work with programming languages like Java, Python, C++, C#, and others. You can also choose to work for large companies or startups.

Web Developer: Responsible for working on the front-end, back-end, or both. Often requires proficiency in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and other technologies. Most companies have websites, and they need skilled developers to maintain these.

Mobile App Developer: You can be one of the brains behind creating applications for mobile devices. You can specialize in creating apps for platforms like iOS or Android. Your responsibilities will usually include writing code, testing applications, and fixing bugs.

Game Developer: You may have some favorite games and be curious about how to create games. If you learn how to code, you can explore game development by using tools like Unity and Unreal Engine. Udemy offers a course on Unity in C#, which teaches you how to make games for the web, Mac, and PC.

Data Scientist: If you are interested in data, becoming a data scientist is a good career path. Data scientists collect, analyze and interpret large data sets and use machine learning techniques to help make sense of the data.

Cloud Engineer: They design, deploy, and manage cloud computing systems using platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. You’ll be responsible for ensuring that cloud infrastructure is secure, scalable, and reliable. You will also help migrate existing applications and data to the cloud.

Artificial Intelligence Engineer: Artificial intelligence involves a combination of computer science, mathematics, and engineering to build intelligent systems used to automate tasks, make predictions, and improve decision-making. Coursera offers “AI for Everyone,” which provides a solid introduction.

Conclusion

And there you have it! If you’ve made it this far, you now know the answer to the question, what is coding? That is a way to instruct computers to perform tasks. You should now feel comfortable if you have to define coding for someone else.

Coding is one of those activities everyone discusses nowadays, as it’s found its way into many career paths. And while there’s no doubt that coding is a fun and rewarding activity, it can also be challenging.

If you want to advance your newfound knowledge about coding to become a 10x developer, know that it takes time and effort to get there. With that said, learning how to code from scratch and becoming a professional coder is now easier than ever, as we all have access to many resources to help us learn.

Want to become a coder? Check out

The Complete Python Bootcamp

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Exactly Does Coding Mean?

Coding definition: the writing of instructions that computers can use to perform tasks by using a coding language. The code you create is compiled into machine language, which your computer uses to execute your commands.

2. How Is Coding Different From Programming?

Coding is a subset of programming. It’s part of programming that involves writing the code that makes up the program. On the other hand, programming involves other things like identifying requirements, testing, debugging, and more.

3. What Are the Different Types of Coding?

There are several types of programming (paradigms), like functional programming, object-oriented programming, procedural programming, and more. But this does not translate into different types of coding. The actual code writing is simply that, regardless of the programming paradigm you adopt.

4. Is Coding Just Like Mathematics?

Coding is not exactly like mathematics. It does involve critical thinking and logical reasoning, and these are skills that can be improved if you practice solving math problems regularly.

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By Vijay Singh Khatri

With 5+ years of experience across various tech stacks such as C, C++, PHP, Python, SQL, Angular, and AWS, Vijay has a bachelor's degree in computer science and a specialty in SEO and helps a lot of ed-tech giants with their organic marketing. Also, he persists in gaining knowledge of content marketing and SEO tools. He has worked with various analytics tools for over eight years.

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Michihiro Akame

Not gonna lie, Didn't think I would be so invested in reading.

8 months ago