Debunking myths about programming (i)

Debunking some common myths about programming…

You have to be proficient in math to learn to program.

Well, you do need to know some math. But isn’t  there a relationship between math and computer science? Well, yes and no. Most of the first programming languages were developed by mathematicians, but that is mostly because computers were used largely for numerical calculations, so it makes sense that mathematics had a large role to play. Programmers, by-and-large will spend most of their time writing code, not mathematical formulas, so you don’t have to have a wealth of knowledge in calculus. In fact if anything is important, knowledge about linear algebra and matrices makes the most sense. Undoubtedly there are application areas, such as physics, and game programming where you will need more advanced mathematical skills – but few people are lone programmers these days, so there will always be someone on a team with this skill-set.

You have to have go to university to learn to program.

Many people have been successful in the computing world without a degree. It’s not hard to teach yourself how to program. Even students in university have to have some form of self-learning ability, because the pace of the industry is swift, and you often have to learn things that are cutting edge by yourself. If you are intrigued, read this article.

You must learn only the most “popular” programming language.

Define popular? There are a bunch of websites which publish lists of programming languages. Some of them list languages by the “number of jobs”. The top three from are SQL, Java and Javascript. Others like PYPL (PopularitY of Programming Language Index) rank by how often language tutorials are searched on Google. They rank the top three as Java, Python, and PHP. Anyways, you get the picture. Lot’s of different rankings. the language with the most code written every year? Likely Cobol, and it makes it to none of the rankings because it is uncool. But it underpins most of our financial systems, and isn’t going away anytime soon.

Look, learning to program is more about the concepts of programming than any one particular language. When you have mastered the basic concepts, you will be able to apply them to any language you want… all it requires is an understanding of the languages syntax.

You can learn to program in 48 hours.

Look, honestly learning to program in 48 hours is about as successful as learning Spanish in 48 hours. It may work for 0.001% of people… but for the rest of us it doesn’t. Many languages can take years to master, so that’s why for novice programmers it’s important to start learning to program with a language that’s easy to use.

It’s like learning anything else.

Ahhh, but it’s not. Many other subjects require you to do a lot of rote learning – cramming your brain with facts, and formulas. Programming requires you to solve problems and express them in term that the computer can understand. It’s not about memorizing every last piece of syntax in a language, it’s about how to use the structures in a language to solve a problem. Programming is a craft, and like it crafts it must be practiced.



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