If you are new to computer programming, there are many important things that you need to learn in order to become a successful computer programmer. Successful computer programmers who have been around for some time know that there are many things that you should know about the business of writing code for a living – which you cannot learn from a coding academy or a university course. Here are some of the most important facts that every computer programmer should know when starting to work as a newbie computer programmer.
One big misconception about computer programming, especially at the beginner levels is that programming is all about math. That it is full of math. If you are a beginner programmer with such an idea, you are in for a surprise. In fact, computer programming is more about logic than math. The ability to think things through and understand the order in which they will take place is more important for a coder than his or her math knowledge. The coder should have a sense of how he or she should control the flow – which pervades every aspect of programming. In fact, if you have a good understanding of logic, you can become a better computer programmer than one who is good in his or her math.
A big part of computer programming is about knowing different programming languages. But a successful programmer should have an idea of what is going on lower down the stack. In fact, most computer languages abstract away from what is happening at the system level. This abstraction is quite helpful since it will allow the programmer to become more efficient and productive at the task at hand. In fact, when a programmer hits a nasty bug, he or she should have a good understanding of what is happening under the hood. He or she should have good debugging skills and check the system calls to see how a piece of code is really interacting with the rest of the system. A beginner programmer should have a good understanding of networking, file systems, and how things are kept in memory. Without this understanding, it might be difficult to understand the goals of some of the programming constructs the coder is presented with.
The best way to think about computer programming is as a series of processes that the programmer sets running. It is like the programmer is getting the computer to do a specific task for him/her. The programmer has to manage the interactions of the computer. The programming process will produce a certain outcome such as a file or something much simpler than that – like a collection of characters or numbers. The problem with these processes is that the programmer has to do something with them or else, they disappear into thin air. In fact, the processes can simply slip into oblivion never to be recovered. You need to “catch them” for the process to work. For example, if the programmer is creating something with a process, he/she should grab hold of it. If not, he or she will lose it. That is where a variable comes in. The variable will hold onto the outcomes of processes. In fact, if the programmer can grasp this concept early on, he or she can become very successful in his/her craft.
In computing, most things are either a program or a file. In fact, in programming, you will hear a lot of references to input and output. Most often, the task in programming is to take an input such as data and do something to it – the process – and produce something different – an output. The doing or the process is usually governed by the code one writes. The passive bits or data is often in the form of a file, and that is what you will work with. In fact, the process is quite similar to turning mince into sausages.
As a computer programmer, you will have to work a lot with a code editor. That is where you should know how to get things done at the command line. It would definitely make your life easier as a computer programmer. Sometimes, you may find yourself at a computer where you have to do a lot of stuff immediately with limited tools. That is where you should know the shell just like you know how to breathe. You should know to write simple scripts right on the command line in order to find the file that needs to be changed.
You may have to spend a lot of time as a computer programmer to track down bugs. That is where a good debugger comes in handy. In fact, the benefits of a good debugger can easily outweigh the initial cost of your time. Take the extra time to configure the debugger and learn to use it properly. In fact, when you don’t see the expected results, just debug it, step through the code, and set breakpoints. It will help save you days of frustration. This way you will learn important things about coding that you can only learn by reading another person’s code.
Most programmers feel that unit testing plays a crucial part in the coding process. It is the process of writing tests to validate the small units of code in order to see if they are doing what they should. A good programmer should learn to write good tests. In fact, you should be learning to write these tests really early in the learning process. On the other hand, technology changes very quickly. In fact, the underlying systems and electronic parts that the programmers use to do their job are also changing. That is why a successful computer programmer should be up to date with the latest trends in the industry. Although a good foundation knowledge is always essential, you should learn brand new technology every four years.