Modern day households usually rely on several smart devices in every room. Technology touches all parts of our lives, from smart TVs and phones to virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa. Information is available to us like never before. There are software applications for anything and everything, which activate with the click of a button or even a voice command.
But have you ever wondered how these devices actually work? The answer lies in the power of code. This is your complete introduction to what coding is, and why computer programming has become such a popular career track.
Smart Devices Just Follow Instructions
Computers can perform extremely fast calculations, complete complex mathematical tasks, and store large amounts of data. It’s fair to say the majority of humans would struggle to keep up! But computers rarely operate autonomously. They require a detailed set of instructions to perform these tasks. This is where coding comes in.
Machines use binary to communicate and operate. Computer programming (or simply coding) refers to the task of writing instructions that, once compiled, computers will understand and follow. We can communicate with machines through coding. It therefore allows us to create a range of different software from operating systems and business packages to mobile applications and video games.
Applications of Coding
There are endless applications for coding. These can range from creating an operating system for your home computer, to instructing a microwave to heat food. Here is a list of some other applications of coding:
- Web browsers.
- Photo editing software.
- Mobile applications.
- Media players including music and video.
- Video games.
- Communication apps for video conferencing and voice chatting.
- Business software like word processors, databases and spreadsheets.
How Coding Works
To understand how coding works, we first need to understand what transistors are. The human brain has billions of cells called neurons that allow us to store memories and have conscious thought. Similarly, computers contain billions of transistors, whose function is the same as that of neurons. A computer only understands two types of data – ON and OFF. Transistors are simple on/off switches. The 0s and 1s in binary code instruct these switches to turn on or off.
Modern day computers contain millions, even billions of transistors. It would be impossible to type billions of 1s and 0s to set instructions. To solve this problem, computer coding languages were developed. Using these languages, coders can translate important commands to binary code. Entire sections of transistors are addressed to perform a specific task instead of instructing the programs to individual transistors.
Common Coding Languages
Coding languages don’t really have an alphabet or vocabulary like our languages. They consist of abbreviations, ways of arranging text, and special commands.
Today, we have thousands of coding languages. Every coding language is designed with a specific purpose in mind. They each have strengths and weaknesses depending on what they are intended to be used for.
All software we use on a day to day basis is written using one of these coding languages. Some of the major coding languages are:
HTML - HyperText Markup Language or HTML is the authoring language that is used to create documents on the World Wide Web. It’s used to format pictures, videos, and other forms of content that are featured online. It tells the browser how to display websites for the best user experience.
Java - Java is a class-based and object-oriented programming language. The commands used in Java are based on English. These commands are used to create applications for single computers and whole servers. Java can run on all platforms and is freely accessible. It is a popular choice for programming mobile applications, video games, and operating systems.
Python - Python is an object-oriented, high-level programming language. It also has English-like syntax, which is simple and easy to learn. This syntax is used to script back-end actions/instructions for user interfaces, applications, and operating systems. Python is used by many platforms like NASA’s Integrated Planning System and Google.
CSS - Cascading Style Sheets or CSS is a simple design language used to specify how a website or web pages are going to be presented and styled. CSS is used to control elements like the layout of web pages, the text color, font styles, spacing between paragraphs, background images, screen sizes, etc.
C++ - C++ is a middle-level language. It has features of both high-level and low-level languages. It organizes and stores information for programs that are more complex. C++ is used by software like MS Office, Adobe, and Mozilla for faster processing.
SQL - SQL stands for Structured Query Language. As data is a key component of many web and mobile applications, a database system is used to hold this data. For example, a social networking application like Facebook contains data that includes information about the user’s profile, the user’s friend list, their posts, etc. SQL enables programmers to work with this data. It is used mostly by businesses for functions like loading, retrieving, and analyzing numbers/text in their servers.
Coding vs Programming
Often, the terms ‘coding’ and ‘programming’ are used interchangeably. However, they are two different entities.
Coding is specifically writing instructions to create software. Programming is a broader term which involves coding, analyzing and implementing algorithms, problem solving and understanding data structures.
Coding can be referred to as a subset of programming. Thus, all programmers can be called coders, but all coders can’t be called programmers.
Here are some key differences between coding and programming:
- Coding is the process of writing instructions which computers can follow.
- Coders deal exclusively with code.
- It is the first step of software development. It’s simpler and easier than programming.
- Coders don’t have to worry about any other details while translating the instructions into code that is understood by the machine.
- Coding just deals with code and the requirements that are concerned with that code.
- The outcome of coding is a small solution or a simple part of the project.
- Programming is the process of creating a program that is capable of executing the given tasks as well as carrying out machine-level outputs.
- Programmers deal with code, but also need a wider understanding of the software design and must consider the end user.
- It’s more than just coding as it involves dealing with various complex scenarios and programs.
- Programmers have to conceptualize a program and keep in mind various aspects of that program.
- Programming deals with different approaches and multiple aspects of that approach.
- The outcome of programming is a full, ready-to-use application.
The Importance of Coding
We live in a digital age and having a digital presence adds value and accessibility to our products, ideas, and businesses. Consider a scenario where you have an idea for your business, and you want to start a website for it. Coding will be the first step you’d take to create a website.
There are a plethora of companies that could implement the concept for you. However, irrespective of your profession and field of study, if you know how to code, it can be truly advantageous.
Being able to code is a skill that can help you bring your ideas to life in the digital world.
How Long Does it Take to Learn How to Code?
There are various options available to you when it comes to learning. Choosing the right avenue for you will depend on your individual circumstances. If you choose to self-study, it will roughly take from 6 to 12 months to learn coding. A college degree, on the other hand, will take approximately 4 years to complete. There are also coding bootcamps, which can teach coding in 3 to 6 months.
Careers in Coding
A wide range of sectors from education to finance, use coding in one form or another. It’s particularly beneficial however, to possess coding skills in the following careers:
- Database Administrator – They use coding to create secure data storage files and backups.
- Web Developer – Developers design the content, graphics, audio, and video features for websites.
- Information Security Analyst – Analysts code digital software that protects data files.
- Applications Developer – They code the software that runs on computers, wearable tech, tablets, phones, and smart TVs.
- Digital Marketing Manager – Marketers use coding for their advertising campaigns to attract better business sales.
Learning to code is a challenge and will take discipline. If you’re interested in learning more, here’s our complete description of why learning to code is so damn hard.