[Techtalk] Programming language for a beginner?

Kathryn Andersen kat_lists at katspace.homelinux.org
Fri Nov 23 04:12:50 UTC 2007

On Fri, Nov 23, 2007 at 01:54:45PM +1030, AstroGirl wrote:
> I'm interested in learning to program for a living.. :)
Bravo!  Go you!

> I was looking for a suggestion for a language. I've never really
> programmed before - but looking around, Python looks interesting
> (mostly because of pygame, admittedly!). Is that a good starting
> language, or is there something that employers would be looking for
> instead? If there are any Aussies reading - is there a good place to
> learn to program? The TAFE courses in my area seem to cover everything
> BUT programming (OH&S, communication, how to use a mouse... :p)..

Depends how serious you are, and how much time you want to spend.
The most serious level would probably be along the lines of getting a
university degree, rather than a TAFE course.

Also depends on what style of learning you find easiest:
- lectures and tutorials
- reading books
- practical examples without the principles
- learn the principles first, and then do the practicals

Thing is, there *is* a difference between learning _programming_
and learning _a programming language_.  Good programming techniques
transcend languages.   On the other hand, it's possible to be taught a
programming language without being taught good programming practices.

I guess I can't help thinking of my two brushes with learning
JavaScript.  The first time, I got a book called something like "Neat
JavaScript Tricks".  And that's what it was; a bunch of "recipes" which
you were invited to copy by rote, without any explanation of what was
going on. It wasn't a cookbook; that is, it wasn't aimed at people
already experienced with JavaScript, it was aimed at the naieve user.

I *loathed* that book.  And I gave up on JavaScript.

Then, some years later, I was asked to write a JavaScript application
for work.  Yes, they knew I didn't know JavaScript, that was fine, they
allowed me time to teach myself.  So I went and got O'Reilly's
"JavaScript: The Definitive Guide", a *huge* tome.  But one that
explained everything.  By the time I'd read up to chapter 17 (out of 23
chapters, plus the appendixes) I knew enough to write the application
with confidence.  Mind you, I was certainly in the position of "easier
to learn a new language after your first", since JavaScript was... oh, I
can't be bothered to count how many programming languages I've learned
over the years.

Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is "beware of Mickey-mouse
courses that don't teach you what you need to know".

Getting back to your original question, if you want to program for a
*living*, then it would probably help you get work easier if you had
some sort of acreditation -- which gets back to the degree idea.
Or maybe a certificate (I'm not up on what's available).

Being in Australia, you might want to look into what's offered by the
Open Universities programme (https://www.open.edu.au/)  (goes and looks)
I notice, looking at the site, that RMIT offers a Bachelor of Technology
degree (and RMIT have a good reputation for computing).

It looks as if they've picked Java as their core programming language,
which makes sense.

Take everything I say with a grain of salt; I'm biased towards degrees
because that's what I did myself.

Kathryn Andersen
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