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Not to be confused with coding.

Programming is the act, science and art of writing computer programs; it involves creation of algorithms and data structures and implementing them in programming languages.

You may also encounter the term coding which is used by noob wannabe programmers, so called "coders" or code monkeys. "Coding" doesn't reach the quality of programming, it is done in baby handholding languages like Python, JavaScript or Rust by people with very shallow knowledge of technology and its context, barely qualified to turn on a computer (like jewtubers), who have flooded the computer industry since it became lucrative. What they do is not real programming. Do not try to imitate them.

At high level programming becomes spiritual. Check out e.g. the famous Tao of Programming (yes, it's kind of a joke but it's based on reality, programming can truly be kind of a meditation and pursuit of enlightenment). Many people say that learning programming opens your eyes in a certain new way, you then see the world like never before (but that's probably kind of true of almost all skills so this may be a shit statement). Others say too much programming cripples you mentally and gives you autism. Anyway it's fun. Programming requires a good knowledge of advanced math. Also probably at least above average IQ, as well as below average social intelligence. Being a man is an advantage.

How To Learn Programming And Do It Well

See also programming tips.

The key thing to becoming a programmer is learning a programming language very well (and learning many of them), however this is not enough (it's only enough for becoming a coding monkey), you additionally have to have a wider knowledge such as general knowledge of computers (electronics, hardware, theory or computation, networks, ...), tech history and culture (free software, hacker cutlure, free culture, ...), math and science in general, possibly even society, philosophy etc. Programming is not an isolated topic (only coding is), a programmer has to see the big picture and have a number of other big brain interests such as chess, voting systems, linguistics, physics, music etc. Remember, becoming a good programmer takes a whole life, sometimes even longer.

Can you become a good programmer when you're old? Well, as with everything to become a SERIOUSLY good programmer you should have probably started before the age of 20, the majority of the legend programmers started before 10, it's just like with sports or becoming an excellent musician. But with enough enthusiasm and endurance you can become a pretty good programmer at any age, just like you can learn to play an instrument or run marathon basically at any age, it will just take longer and a lot of energy. You don't even have to aim to become very good, becoming just average is enough to write simple gaymes and have a bit of fun in life :) Just don't try to learn programming because it seems cool, because you want to look like movie haxor, gain followers on youtube or because you need a job -- if you're not having genuine fun just thinking before sleep about how to swap two variables without using a temporary variable, programming is probably not for you.

Which programming language to start with? This is the big question. Though languages such as Python or JavaScript are objectively really REALLY bad, they are nowadays possibly the easiest way to get into programming, so you may want to just pick one of these two, knowing you'll abandon it later to learn a true language such as C (and knowing the bad language will still serve you in the future in some ways, it's not a wasted time). Can you start with C right away? It's probably not impossible for a genius but it will be VERY hard and you'll most likely end up failing, overwhelmed, frustrated and never returning to programming again. Absolutely do NOT even consider C# (shit, unusable), Java (shit, slow, bloated, unusable), C++ (like C but shit and more complicated), Haskell (non-traditional, hard), Rust (shit, bad design, unusable), Go (prolly hard), Lisp (non-traditional), Prolog (lol) and similar languages -- you may explore these later. Whichever language you pick for the love of god avoid OOP -- no matter what anyone tells you, when you see a tutorial that uses "classes"/"objects" just move on, learn normal imperative programming. OOP is a huge pile of shit meme that you will learn anyway later (because everyone writes it nowadays) so that you see why it's shit and why you shouldn't use it.

{ I really started programming in Pascal at school, it was actually a good language as it worked very similarly to C and the transition later wasn't that hard, but nowadays learning Pascal doesn't make much sense anymore. ~drummyfish }

Games are an ideal start project because they're fun (having fun makes learning much faster and enjoyable), there are many noob tutorials all over the Internet etc. However keep in mind to start EXTREMELY simple. -- this can't be stressed enough, most people are very impatient and eager and start making an RPG game or networking library without really knowing a programming language -- this is a GUARANTEED spectacular failure. At the beginning think in terms of "snake" and "minesweeper". Your very first project shouldn't even use any GUI, it should be purely command-line text program, so a text-only tiny interactive story in Python is possibly the absolutely best choice as a first project. Once you're more comfortable you may consider to start using graphics, e.g. Python + Pygame, but still KEEP IT SIMPLE, make a flappy bird clone or something. As you progress, consider perhaps buying a simple toy computer such as an open console -- these toys are closer to old computers that had no operating systems etc., they e.g. let you interact directly with hardware and teach you a LOT about good programming by teaching you how computers actually work under the hood. One day you will have to make the big step and learn C, the best and most important language as of yet, but be sure to only start learning it when you're at least intermediate in your start language (see our C tutorial). To learn C we recommend our SAF library which will save you all headaches of complex APIs and your games will be nice and compatible with you small toy computers.


All content available under CC0 1.0 (public domain). Send comments and corrections to drummyfish at disroot dot org.