How did you learn to code? | Heart Internet Blog – Focusing on all aspects of the web

There are many reasons people learn to code. There’s no one way to start and, from what our customers tell us, no wrong way. Any way you learn to code is a good way, if it works for you.

Back in 1995, Steve Jobs famously told the TV interviewer, Robert Cringely,: “I think everyone should learn how to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think”.

What he likely meant by that is that learning to code helps us to think logically and methodically. It also helps people to focus on the details and on the final objective of a job – to break processes down into constituent parts and to be aware that each part plays an integral role in the function of the whole. Coding is also a great way to learn analytical thinking and problem solving.

As Code Today points out, thinking in a systematic way, like this, can have profound benefits for businesses, it can help communication within teams and it can resonate throughout a person’s life.

It can also offer an individual other benefits, as Top Universities points out, such as a familiarity and understanding of other aspects of technology and even freelance employment opportunities.

How do you learn to code, today?

The National Curriculum now includes ‘Computing’ from Key Stage 1, which teaches children to “create and debug simple programs” from the very beginning.

It is now so widely understood that coding is important to the future prosperity of the nation that the government sponsored the formation of The Institute of Coding, a consortium of more than 60 universities, businesses and industry experts, which was launched in 2018 and which offers free online courses provided by British universities.

Google is also doing its bit by providing a wide range of free short-courses through its Digital Garage. These courses range from Career Development and Digital Marketing to Data and Technology.

There’s also a plethora of places you can go, online, for inspiration and tuition. Creativebloq put together a useful list of courses, earlier this year.

There is really no excuse for not becoming at least familiar with the key concepts of coding. But, this wasn’t always the case. Let’s see if any of these scenarios ring any bells…

How did you learn to code in the past?

Our customers tell us that they learned to code in an array of different ways, very little of which involved formal schooling. There was that slightly eccentric maths teacher, of course, with his Acorn BBC Micro Model B on a trolley, that he brought out at lunchtime; but, that was as close as many school kids got to coding back in the early 80s.

It seems that coding was mostly a private and solitary activity.

In the very early days, many people began with the basics – by learning BASIC (Beginners’ All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code).  That might have been on the Sharp MZ80K or the ZX Spectrum or the Commodore VIC-20 with its roomy 5 KB of RAM.

This was back in the days when most home computers were plugged into a portable TV and driven by a tape in a separate cassette player. While you were waiting for the cassette to load up a game you had plenty of time to go and make yourself a drink, or read the latest issue of Your Sinclair or Computing Today.

Such magazines would be devoured by enthusiasts in the early 80s, as they would print examples of code which could be copied, then enthusiastically debugged. This was likely the only way some programmers could find new code to work with, if they weren’t members of a local group. There were no internet user groups or notice boards yet.

Another way to learn was from books. The SAMS Teach Yourself series became (and remains) a go-to choice for enthusiastic programmers. Its ever-expanding range of volumes promises to teach you ‘Visual C++ in 21 Days’ or to teach you ‘Javascript in 24 Hours’, for example.

The now-ubiquitous For Dummies books began with a mission to make coding seem simple and friendly enough that everyone would feel confident in having a go. They began with ‘DOS for Dummies’ in 1991 and that was swiftly followed by ‘Windows for Dummies’.

When you ask programmers where they began, you hear BASIC, Fortran, Cobol, Pascal, Assembler, Python, C and C++, Java, HTML, and PHP among other names.

How to learn to code

However, wherever and whenever programmers began, there are a few constant themes that emerge in what they told us:

  • Write code everyday.
  • As you write, so must you read – read other people’s code.
  • Be patient. Learning new languages takes time.
  • Practice and practice, then practice some more.
  • Don’t see mistakes as frustrations or problems, but as opportunities to learn.

They sound strangely similar to the habits one needs to develop in order to master any new skill.

Tell us how you learned to code

Every programmer starts from a different place and, while the destination may be similar, the journey they take is always unique. We’d love you to get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter and tell us the tale of how – and why – you learned to code.


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