What is Computer Programming? Basic.


Dictionary Definition: Programming is the process of preparing an instructional program for a device.

But that’s a really confusing definition, so in layman’s terms what exactly does that mean? Essentially, it is attempting to get a computer to complete a specific task without mistakes.

Just, for example, you instruct your less than intelligent friend to build a Lego set. He lost the instructions so now he can only build based on your commands. Your friend is far from competent on his own and so you must have to give him EXACT instructions on how to build, even if there is one piece wrong the entire Lego set will be ruined.

Giving instructions to your friend is very similar to how programmers code.

An important thing to note is that computers are actually very dumb. We build them up to be this super-sophisticated piece of technology when in actuality a computer’s main functionality comes from how we manipulate it to serve our needs.

{"Computers are only smart because we program them to be"};

The language that Computer Understand.

Programming isn’t a simple as giving instructions to your friend since, in the case of programming, the computer doesn’t speak the same language as you. The computer only understands machine code, which is a numerical language known as a binary that is designed so that the computer can quickly read it and carry out its instructions.

Every instruction fed to the computer is converted into a string of 1’s and 0’s and then interpreted by the computer to carry out a task. Therefore, in order to talk to the computer, you must first translate your English instruction to Binary.

Directly translating what you want the computer to do into machine code is extremely difficult, in fact almost impossible and would take a very long time to do if you could. This is where programming languages come into play.

Programming languages are fundamentally a middle man for translating a program into machine code-the series of 0’s and 1’s that the computer can understand. These languages are much easier for humans to learn than machine code, and are thus very useful for programmers.

{"A programming language is not English and not machine code, it is somewhere in the middle"};

How Programming Language Vary?

There are many different programming languages out there that each has its own unique uses.

  • Java and Python: General Purpose languages.
  • HTML/CSS: Designed for specific tasks like web page design.

Each language also varies in how powerful it is:
  • JavaScript is a scripting language and isn’t used for big problems.
  • Java and Python can carry out a much more computationally taxing process.

We measure a programming language’s power level by how similar it is to machine code. Low-level programming languages such as Assembly or C are closer to binary than a high-level programming language such as Java or Python.

The basic idea is that the lower the level of your programming language, the more your code will resemble what the machine can interpret as instructions.

So, try different languages and decide which one’s rules, interface, and level of specification you like the best.  

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