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Sunday, November 27, 2022

Some advice for learning how to program | Opinion – The Torch

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Updated: October 31, 2022 @ 1:15 pm

In my last opinion “Issue 8: Computer science is vital, but not for everyone,” reading it back afterwards I realized that it sounded like an attempt to gatekeep the computer science major. That was not the tone I meant to have nor the purpose of that article. I have seen too many computer science students suffer because they think that is all the major is: memorizing syntax and learning the ‘correct’ way of how to solve problems. Often in computer science there will be some strife in starting, but I wanted to inform them that this is not always the case, and that sometimes you just don’t click with a certain topic or subject and that’s perfectly fine. I personally do not click with most of the sciences. It would be a long four years of suffering and non-stop studying if I decided I wanted to be a chemistry major or a physics major because those fields don’t click for me. But that’s okay. If I need to understand anything about the sciences, I’ll ask someone who does understand.
 
But I digress. I want to offer sort of the ‘B side’ to my last article and offer some information to people if they did want to try a computer science class or if they were considering picking up a minor or even a major in computer science. Granted, I have been a student of computer science for a while and my opinions may differ from the norm, I think there are some key pieces of advice that I’ve picked up that may be worthwhile for newcomers.
 
My first bit of advice would be to pick one computer language to start with and stick with it for a while. This will avoid any confusion between syntax if you instead were working with two languages which may confuse or frustrate newcomers. I have three recommendations, but really any language that piques your interest is a good starting point. If you’re more artistically inclined and want to make things that look nice, HTML, CSS and JavaScript are a good place to start. I know I just said pick one language and stick with it, so for this instance it would either be HTML or JavaScript, but all three of these languages work together as a team to create the web pages that you see on a daily basis. If you’re looking for something that’s easy to pick up and can do a wide variety of tasks, Python would be that language. It has many real world applications in data science, machine learning and statistics yet reads almost like English. If you’re looking for a more in-depth, fundamental understanding of computers and how they work as well as computer science, your best bet would be to pick up C. C is by far the most difficult language I’ve offered, but it will give you knowledge of memory management, pointers, data structures and more because of the bare bones nature of the language. The upside is that there is very little syntax in the C language and it’s been around since 1972, so there are a lot of resources online to help you out.
Unfortunately I’m running out of words, so if you would like more advice on getting into computer science and programming, I will be writing an opinion next week which will include more advice. However, I implore you to take the information I’ve provided and work with it. If you’ve been looking for that push to finally start your computer science journey, this is it. Pick a language, start learning how to use it, and tune in for my next opinion.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of The Torch.
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