Have you ever considered learning computer programming? Chances are you haven’t. Computer programming is something everyone can do, but most people don’t realize how easy and rewarding it is. Computer programming is often viewed as something reserved for a “computer person.” However, anyone can become a “computer person.”
The uses of computer programming skills are numerous and very rewarding. Calculator programming is probably the most immediately useful of these. Most high school students have a programmable calculator such as the TI-84. A program written for a calculator can do anything a human can do with the calculator, so instead of solving tedious formulas manually, a simple program can compute them for you in seconds. This both speeds up and simplifies math and science homework. A short explanation on programming the calculator can usually be found in the user’s manual, which is often available online. Batch programs, the PC equivalent of calculator programs, can automate tasks that a PC user would normally do manually. The Macintosh version of this is a language called Applescript. A new programmer might also learn HTML, an easy-to-learn text formatting language that has uses ranging from adding some color to school reports and projects, to the design of Web pages. Another language, Java, is a comprehensive language that makes processing data simple. It allows a programmer to easily create full-fledged professional applications.
Computer programming is an important skill to have, but many people are intimidated by the thought of trying to learn it. When most people think of computer programming, they picture indecipherable lines of numbers or cryptic phrases that look vaguely like English words. They think it takes a lot of learning to do a little programming and that it’s difficult. However, saying computer programming is difficult when you don’t know any computer languages is like saying addition is difficult when you don’t know what a plus sign is. The easiest part of computer programming is, in fact, learning computer languages.
Computer languages are designed to be easy to learn. They aren’t like traditional languages; they do not have a seemingly endless list of vocabulary and grammatical rules; instead, the rules of computer programming are concise and simple. Computer languages are structured very logically, and they don’t include any of the grammatical irregularities that make learning spoken languages so difficult. And unlike learning spoken languages, it is not necessary to have someone teach you, though it is helpful. Libraries and websites are full of books and tutorials that guide you through every step of learning a language. A quick Google search will turn up plenty of these tutorials. If you do want a programming teacher, find out if your school offers any classes. The Williamsville schools, for example, offer classes at both the introductory and AP levels.
The most rewarding part of computer programming is being able to do something with what you learn. With some school subjects, the learning is all theoretical, with the application of knowledge in the future. Programming skills, however, have a variety of applications at every ability level. Even the most basic programming knowledge is enough to create useful programs or simple games. Computer programming provides the perfect outlet for creativity: It costs nothing to implement designs (except for the cost of the computer, of course), so your imagination is the only limit to what you can do. Just like the pride that comes with finishing a poem or piece of artwork, there is a feeling of accomplishment that comes with successfully running a program for the first time.
Computer science is, like computers themselves, very versatile. Unlike some pursuits, computer programming is useful at every ability level.
Kathan Roberts is a sophomore at Williamsville North High School.
The most rewarding part of computer programming is being able to do something with what you learn.