What is Programming?

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We all have heard about Computer Programming gaining a lot of popularity in the past 3 decades. So many students these days want to opt for Computer Science stream in order to get a job at their dream tech company – Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and what not.

What is Programming?

In this blog post, we will decipher the term “programming” and understand its usage and many other related terms.

Understanding Programming in layman terms

Programming is a way to “instruct the computer to perform various tasks”.

Confusing? Let us understand the definition deeply.

“Instruct the computer”: this basically means that you provide the computer a set of instructions that are written in a language that the computer can understand. The instructions could be of various types. For example:

  • Adding 2 numbers,
  • Rounding off a number, etc.

Just like we humans can understand a few languages (English, Spanish, Mandarin, French, etc.), so is the case with computers. Computers understand instructions that are written in a specific syntactical form called a programming language.

“Perform various tasks”: the tasks could be simple ones like we discussed above (adding 2 numbers, rounding off a number) or complex ones which may involve a sequence of multiple instructions. For example:

  • Calculating simple interest, given principal, rate and time.
  • Calculating the average return on a stock over the last 5 years.

The above 2 tasks require complex calculation. They cannot usually be expressed in simple instructions like adding 2 numbers, etc.

Hence, in summary, Programming is a way to tell computers to do a specific task.

Why should you bother about coding?

You must be wondering – why does one need a computer for adding or rounding off numbers? Or even for simple interest calculation? After all, even an 8th standard kid can easily do such things even over large numbers. What is programming used for? What benefits do computers offer?

Well, computers offer so many benefits:

  • Computers are fast: computers are amazingly fast. If you know how to properly utilize the power of Computer programming, you can do wonders with it. For a typical computer of today’s time, an addition of 2 numbers which could be as big as a billion each takes hardly a nanosecond. Read again – nanosecond! That means that in 1 second, a computer can perform about a billion additions. Can any human ever do that? Forget a billion additions a second, typical human can’t even do 10 additions per second. So, computers offer great speed.
  • Computers are cheap: if you were a stock market analyst and you had to monitor the data of say 1000 stocks so that you can quickly trade them. Imagine the hassle that would create if you were to do it manually! It is just impractical. While you are performing your calculation on the stock’s performance, the price may change. The other alternative is to hire people so that you can monitor more stocks in parallel. That means your cost goes up significantly. Not to mention about the trouble you will face if some of your employees commit a calculation error in the process. You may end up losing money! Contrast that with the case where you use a computer. Computers can process a huge amount of information quickly and reliably. 1000 stocks are nothing for computers of the 21st century.
  • Computers can work 24×7: Computers can work 24×7 without getting exhausted. So, if you have a task that is big enough, you can without worries allocate it to a computer by programming it and sleep peacefully.

What is Programming Language?

As mentioned above, Computers understand instructions that are written in a specific syntactical form called a programming language. A programming language provides a way for a programmer to express a task so that it could be understood and executed by a Computer. Refer our another blog-post “What is programming language?” to know more about programming languages. Some of the popular Programming languages are Python, C, C++, Java, etc.

Why should you learn Computer Programming?

Now, after knowing so many things about programming, the big question to be answered is – Why should you learn Computer Programming? Let us understand why:

    • Programming is fun: Using Programming, you can create your own games, your personal blog/profile page, a social networking site like Facebook, a search engine like Google or an e-commerce platform like Amazon! Won’t that be fun? Imagine creating your own game and putting it on Play Store and getting thousands and thousands of downloads!
    • The backbone of a Technology Company: The backbones of today’s technology companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and many others, are giant computer programs written by a collaboration of thousands of skilled programmers. If you have the right business acumen, knowing programming can help you create the next big tech company.
  • Pretty good salary: Computer Programmers are paid extremely well almost all across the world. Top programmers in the Silicon Valley make millions of dollars every year. Quite a few companies offer starting salaries as high as $100,000 per year.

Let us now get into an actual program

Writing your first program

Python is a widely used programming language. It is extremely beginner-friendly. You can download Python here: https://www.python.org/downloads/. After downloading, run the installer in order to install Python on your machine.

Let us delve into our first Python code now. Open your favorite text editor (we’d recommend Sublime Text) and copy paste the following 3 lines:

a = 54
b = a ** 8
print b

Save the file on your desktop as my_first_program.py

Now, do one of the following depending on your operating system:

  • Windows: open command prompt and type python my_first_program.py
  • Ubuntu/Mac OSX: open terminal and type python my_first_program.py

When you press enter, what do you see on the screen? Almost instantly after you press the enter key, you will see the following:

72301961339136

What’s that? That’s 548, computed by your computer in the blink of an eye! A typical human will take minutes if not seconds to get the result. You see the power of a Computer?

Congratulations, you’ve written your first program. Let us understand how it works.

a = 54

We are declaring here that we have a “placeholder” called as a to which we assign the value 54.

b = a ** 8

Here, we are declaring another placeholder called as b to which we assign the value a ** 8. Here, the value of a is 54. So, effectively we are computing 54 ** 8. What is **? The ** operator is the “power” operator. a ** b means ab.

print b

Finally, after the computation is done, we want to display the result on the screen. For this, we have used the print statement which essentially throws the result on your screen.

So, that was about the very basics of Computer programming. Hope you enjoyed reading it. Computer Programming is a huge field and there is a lot to explore further. Keep learning and keep exploring. Please feel free to post your doubts in the comments section. Please don’t worry if you feel that your doubt maybe silly. Every question/doubt is important. There’s no such thing as a stupid question.

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34 Comments, RSS

  1. Madalyn Shaw November 22, 2018 @ 7:22 pm

    I know computers but not aware of programming. What is programming in computer?

    • Urvasi Nayar November 25, 2018 @ 2:03 am

      Programming is a set of rules, which we used to instruct the computer to perform any task. In other words, computer programming is an art to write a meaningful sentence for the computer by which a computer can understand what it should do next. These instructions has to be in a structured way and this is called a program.

  2. Areli Stout November 22, 2018 @ 7:24 pm

    Where can I learn basic computer programming?

    • Vanessa Patrick November 25, 2018 @ 2:04 am

      Internet is the huge library to learn whatever you want. First, you need to decide which programming you wanted to learn and then search for that particular tutorials. Tutorials are also available in the video or e-books. There are different materials available for the beginners and advanced level. https://hackr.io/ community, itself is a top community to learn to programme.

  3. Hallie Green November 22, 2018 @ 7:26 pm

    Where to get started with programming for beginners?

    • Korravai Punja November 25, 2018 @ 2:05 am

      You should start learning with the basics. For this, first of all, you need to decide that which programming language you want to start. There are various programming languages are available. You should choose to start learning. In the next step, you may learn it in two modes – Online and Offline.
      For online learning, there are lots of free e-books, PDF, and video lectures are available on the web. You can check intro to programming tutorials/courses here: https://hackr.io/tutorials/learn-intro-to-programming
      If you go with Offline, you may pick up the programming basics books that you like and have good reviews from the programming community.

  4. Gavyn Faulkner November 22, 2018 @ 7:27 pm

    Can you define programming?

    • Adrienne Lowe November 25, 2018 @ 2:05 am

      Programming is the language used to communicate with the computer systems. The process in which a set of instructions and logic are developed and implemented to do a certain task and output is generated is called Programming.
      Programming has a particular syntax in which programs are to be written. Programming requires a technical mindset.

  5. Mateo Yates November 22, 2018 @ 7:29 pm

    Coding vs Programming: What is the difference between coding and programming?

    • Richard Austin November 25, 2018 @ 2:06 am

      Coding is only a part of programming or we can say all programmers are coders but all coders are not programmers. Coding only involves writing lines of codes but programming involves the whole process from input to output in which coding, analyzing, implementing algorithms, understanding of data structures, and solving problems etc. are included.

  6. Jaeden Gibbs November 22, 2018 @ 7:36 pm

    Coding vs Programming vs Scripting: Can you help me understand?

    • John Wade November 25, 2018 @ 2:07 am

      Coding – Codes are to write many lines to perform any task on the computer system. Translate a requirement into computer’s own language to perform a function on the computer which generates some output.
      Programming – Programming is to write codes, analyze, implement, understand and solve problems. In a programming language, you can write code to control other software applications. A program is executed.
      Scripting – Scripting is also a programming language and easier to learn. A script is interpreted. Scripts are easy to write and use.

  7. Mohamed Khan November 22, 2018 @ 7:38 pm

    Can you brief me about Algorithms and Data Structures wrt to programming?

    • Jhanda Kamath November 25, 2018 @ 2:09 am

      It is important to learn data structure and algorithm to build scalable systems
      Algorithm – A defined set of instructions to solve a problem is known as an algorithm. This is required to be simple and clear. Example – An algorithm to add two numbers
      Step 1: Start
      Step 2: Declare variables num1, num2 and sum.
      Step 3: Read values num1 and num2.
      Step 4: Add num1 and num2 and assign the result to sum.
      sum←num1+num2
      Step 5: Display sum
      Step 6: Stop

      Data Structure: As per Wikipedia, a data structure is a data organization, management and storage format that enables efficient access and modification. More precisely, a data structure is a collection of data values, the relationships among them, and the functions or operations that can be applied to the data.

  8. Larry Chang November 22, 2018 @ 7:38 pm

    How do I become a beginner programmer?

    • Tracey Woodman November 25, 2018 @ 2:09 am

      A programmer writes code to tell a computer system what to do. Programming is easy to learn as compared to other degrees. You can start by grabbing free programming books available online or use video tutorials for basic knowledge. Choose the right language and start writing programs with small programs. You can get better in programming only by practice so you must continue it.

  9. Taliyah Zuniga November 22, 2018 @ 7:39 pm

    How can I teach myself programming?

    • Archie Gill November 25, 2018 @ 2:10 am

      It depends on your learning ability. There are different types of people with different learning capabilities.
      If you are good at self-reading then run to the library and spent a lot of time to learn the basics of programming and how to program.
      If you learn better with the help of a tutor, then search for a tutor online or offline.
      If you think, you may better understand the logic by watching videos, then prefer video tutorials for it.
      If you want to start learning by practical/ practice only, then start writing your own programs and learn yourself.

  10. Shikha Agarwal November 22, 2018 @ 7:40 pm

    How can I motivate myself to program?

    • Mark Magee November 25, 2018 @ 2:11 am

      You have to decide then are you really want to program or not, if yes, then only you can be a programmer. Start with the small programs and try to solve small problems. This will build up your confidence. Get a mentor and share your ideas with them. Follow some good programming communities to get updates with the latest trends.

  11. Elif November 22, 2018 @ 7:40 pm

    What programming language should I learn first?

  12. Monica Dabas November 22, 2018 @ 7:45 pm

    How can I know all about programming?

    • Judith Hawke November 25, 2018 @ 2:13 am

      When you will start learning to programme, you will know everything about programming step-by-step. Programming needs regular practice. If you want long term career in programming you should grasp the fundamentals. Online resources are very beneficial to get comprehensive knowledge on any topic. All are available on the internet related to programming. Stay focused with programming and keeps your interest up and up.

  13. Shaila Ibrahim November 22, 2018 @ 7:47 pm

    Why is programming so important in the modern world?

    • George Chaplin November 25, 2018 @ 2:13 am

      Programming is obviously important to create software and applications. The world is going to be more technical and smart day by day. In our daily life, we are using lots of devices and platforms driven by programming. Programming is making our life easy. Programming is the base of technology and programmers are the heart. Desktop, Laptop, Smartphones, Social media, Web Applications etc. are examples from our daily life by which we are connected.

  14. Eric Young November 22, 2018 @ 7:48 pm

    Is programming easy to learn?

    • Jacqueline Mercer November 25, 2018 @ 2:14 am

      Yes, programming easy to learn if you want to. Programming is not a theory it’s totally a practical thing to do. You have to write and execute programs on the regular basis and debug the errors. Programming is not hard, programming thinking is hard. If you have strong analytical skills then it’s easy to learn for you. See this as well: https://hackr.io/blog/how-to-learn-programming

  15. Eve Carr November 22, 2018 @ 7:48 pm

    What is the future of programming?

    • Geoffrey Allen November 25, 2018 @ 2:15 am

      Programming field is growing very fast. It’s already mainstream and will only increase its usage in the future. Everything is going to be smart (like smartphones, IoT, etc) and digitize with the help of programming. Nearly everything is software (programming) based now. Programming jobs have been growing steadily and are forecasted to grow in coming decades. Programming is the future in every aspect, it seems. Unless AI starts doing programming and makes all the developers useless 🙂

  16. Ivy Johnson November 22, 2018 @ 7:50 pm

    Is programming important to an electric engineer?

    • Hanad Ali November 25, 2018 @ 2:16 am

      Programming is all about logic, algorithms and the ability to think in a structured format. It really doesn’t matter which streams you belong to. Even electrical engineers require programming knowledge of microprocessors and micro-controllers. Programming knowledge is useful and necessary for any stream graduate. If I talk about India’s trend then more than 80% of Electrical engineers are getting into IT field for jobs.

  17. sunny January 7, 2019 @ 10:40 pm

    Please give us some guidance for selection in GSoC in the first year of college.

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