How did you learn to program?

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Sarstan
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How did you learn to program?

Postby Sarstan » Wed May 13, 2009 9:35 am UTC

I was curious exactly how everyone else around here has learned to program. Not really any specific language either, just what you're comfortable with using.

All that I'm personally comfortable using is HTML. I noticed it's the only language I learned by just taking a premade webpage and learning what I need to do to make it look how I wanted. Since then I have made plenty of pages from scratch from what I learned.
I've tried C++, BASIC, Python, CSS, and Java without using the same method and while I have a great understanding on just how they each work, I can't for the life of me grasp format and small details on syntax that makes them all unique (other than web design language vs. programming). Any other methods that have worked for you?

JGodbout
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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby JGodbout » Wed May 13, 2009 9:58 am UTC

I started off almost 4 years ago when I was 11, in year 5 at school. We had this mentoring program, where you would select a topic, like art, computing, photography, etc. and they try and find someone in the community who is experienced in that to give up some of their time once a week to teach.

I got this guy who was pretty good, and he taught us VBA in MS excel.

I then moved on to JASS (the Warcraft 3 modding language), then C++, and then python. I use python and C++ atm.

I would consider myself almost entirely self taught, as the mentoring was very basic, and I understood very little of it. It was just a bit of a starter which allowed me to find out stuff on the internet and learn from there.

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby Naurgul » Wed May 13, 2009 10:03 am UTC

I started when I was 13. It was a transitioning period for computer class and we ended up getting both the old books and the new books. The new books had general information; the old books, however, were an introduction to programming, LOGO and BASIC. I read them religiously, understanding very little but being amazed at the new world that was opening up for me. Finally, I managed to get a copy of QBASIC and I started making programs, mostly small games.
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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby fazzone » Wed May 13, 2009 10:24 am UTC

I think I've told this story before on the fora, but I was about 11 or so and I wan playing around downstairs when I found a book, Modern Programming in REXX (From the 80s I think). I 'borrowed' it from my dad, and read it. Sooner or later, he saw me reading it, and said "If you really want to learn to program, put that book down, we're going to get you a copy of K&R". I read that, and installed MinGW, and would ask him stuff from time to time, but I'd say I'm mostly self-taught in C.
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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby keeperofdakeys » Wed May 13, 2009 11:22 am UTC

when I was eleven my teacher let me and another person in our class look at a C++ book, we did it about once and I didn't know what it was
when I was 14 I did some 'fancy' things in an excel sheet with if commands
it was not until I was 15, in summer, when I had finished a cisco IT course (mostly revolving around windows) that I decided to pick up programming and found python; then it just revolved from there

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby OOPMan » Wed May 13, 2009 11:24 am UTC

Books :-)
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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby TjOeNeR » Wed May 13, 2009 11:41 am UTC

Well, I started PHP+MySQL which a friend of mine taught me when I was 16 I think.

After that, some basic C and C# which I've been using ever since...

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Mat
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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby Mat » Wed May 13, 2009 12:34 pm UTC

When I was kid I decided I wanted to make a website, and my aunt printed out a huge guide to HTML for me. So I made lots of awful websites about my friend Catherine and learnt about the alert() function in javascript. This got me kind of interested in computers, but it didn't really go anywhere. Also my friend attempted to teach me QBasic at one point but it failed cause I didn't know how to use google back then and I didn't really understand how to do anything.

Then I guess at some point I learned CSS and how to make proper websites, and I also tried (unsuccessfully) to learn PHP from tutorials. A few years ago I learnt PHP and MySQL by making a crappy blag with my friend. Unfortunately my PHP scripts were all horrible messes of spaghetti code at that point, but after I took classes in C and MATLAB at uni and taught myself java (from this) I learnt how to structure my code better. I also dabbled a bit in some other languages like pascal and ruby. Then last summer I learnt python by reading dive into python and doing some project euler/python challenge and participating in pyweek. I also took a couple more courses at uni this year on object oriented programming (using java). Right now I'm investigating functional programming (haskell).

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby dissonant » Wed May 13, 2009 1:06 pm UTC

I learnt C in programming class at high school. It was beautiful.

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby You, sir, name? » Wed May 13, 2009 1:36 pm UTC

Wrote stuff in QBASIC when I was single digit-aged. Not very elaborate stuff. Like drawing circles and boxes and stuff.

Then I did some Java programming when I was like 13 or 14. I didn't really grasp the whole object orientation stuff, so it was mostly cargo cult programming with some code of my own in the core. I didn't really write anything, just made it draw widgets on the screen in SWT.

Then when I was like 14, I moved on to C++, and I actually got a book on the subject, which I read, so I actually understood most of the concepts (unlike my Java experience). When I was 15, I moved onto C, learning it mostly from the manfiles and compiler errors on my Linux computer and stuff I found online. Wrote a bunch of programs in that, messed around with network programming a bit. At the same time, I went back and studied up on Java (with a book, actually understanding most of it that time around). After that I've just sort of jumped back and forth between C++ and C, occasionally picking up other languages.

The stuff I've actually written (by age)
Early High School, I wrote a file server using the POP3 protocol that allowed you to fetch stuff with your mail client
In High School I also wrote, a multicast chat program in C (and then ported it to Java)
Last year in High School, I wrote a synthesizer in C++
College aged-me wrote Tunguska, and other assorted programs.
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zombiefeynman
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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby zombiefeynman » Wed May 13, 2009 2:40 pm UTC

You, sir, name?: that sounds just like me.

I took a BASIC class when I was really young (just passed single-digits), and a guy from UMD came and spoke to us about programming - he mentioned a summer course on Java. I took that and loved it (he was a really cool teacher) - but I really didn't have anything else to take, so I just bought everything I could from O'Reilly. I ended up settling on C++ as my main language to ease the transition out of OOP - and I created a huge project to force myself to learn it. In my spare time I've taught myself perl and python (and a bit of bash), but I haven't used them in a while so I have to get the books out every time I need to do something. Now I'm trying to teach myself Haskell through wikis. I think I'll survive.
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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby spelunker » Wed May 13, 2009 2:52 pm UTC

My dear dad is a programmer, so he was always trying to get me to do it, but I got my own motivation because of a computer game: Freedom Force.

Freedom Force had a scenario builder where you could basically make your own levels; it was way cool, with one little problem: it used Python as a scripting language, and I had zero knowledge of Python. At that point I was like "well, might as well go learn Python", and from there got a decent-enough knowledge of the language.

It was funny, because all of the quirkiness that most programmers found with Python ("whitespace matters? wtf") I had no problem with, because this was my first language.

This also reminds me I haven't programmed in Python in years, which is sad.

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby cathrl » Wed May 13, 2009 3:18 pm UTC

My dad bought a ZX81 when they first came out. There wasn't anything you could do with home computers in those days except program. Ah, the joys of Sinclair Basic in 1K of memory and programs which had to be typed in again every time you turned the computer on...

At the time I loved the programming, but was sure I could never be a programmer, because the real programmers all used machine code to keep inside the 1K limit and it was incomprehensible to me. Now? I'm a professional programmer and have never written in machine code ever.

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby Grumpy Code Monkey » Wed May 13, 2009 3:54 pm UTC

Taught myself old-school BASIC on a TI-99/4A when I was in high school (ca. 1981-82). Took a computer literacy class my first semester in college (more BASIC, but on a DEC-20 -- ooooh), but that was to fill a hole in my schedule more than anything else. Didn't intend to major in CS, but after three years of farting around as an undeclared I decided it was either that or be a deck ape in the Navy, so I signed up for the intro CS classes and never looked back. C, Fortran 77, and VAX assembler, with a smattering of Lisp and Ada. The bulk of my development experience has been in C and C++.

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby Berengal » Wed May 13, 2009 4:03 pm UTC

When I think back I can't really say when or how I learned to program.

I started my career for real when I started university, before that I hadn't done any programming as such. Still, I somehow knew what was going on, despite not having written a single line in a real language before.

Back in high-school I did some pretty clever things in Excel, and even fixed my teacher's vba code a couple of times when he had trouble. I didn't even know vba and I couldn't even write hello world in it now, and only knew the syntax from looking at the surrounding code, but somehow I still knew what was going on.

When I was about 13 i did some scripting for a game. Only trivial things, mind you, nothing too complicated. Still, I somehow knew what was going on and only required references for syntax and the included API.

When I was 6 I used to write small .bat scripts to do make DOS work the way I wanted. The majority being starting games without having to cd into the correct direction.


University was when I first got non-trivial knowledge of programming. Mind you, I went through two semesters worth of curriculum in two weeks on my own, so I must've known quite a bit for someone uninitiated. Either that or i'm a genius. I've been raised on a computer though, so it's most likely the former. The fact that I didn't really start programming earlier is somewhat surprising to me now that I'm looking back.
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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby Hangar » Wed May 13, 2009 5:33 pm UTC

I started playing around with Hypercard when I was 4, using it to try to make games. Eventually I figured out how to do some things in Hypertalk. Years later, I went to a Computer Camp with a friend and learned basic, but I didn't get into it. That was the first time I saw Warcraft II. I spent a lot of time making maps in Warcraft, and then Starcraft, which afforded some type of scripting.

Sometime in high school, I found a book on C, but didn't know how to get my hands on a compiler. Later, in my junior year, I got a TI-89. Bored at school, I started writing a text adventure in its basic language, but it soon ran out of memory. So I found a cable and a C compiler and continued until I hit the memory limit again. I didn't really know how computers worked, so I got stuck there. But I was hooked and read an old copy of Learn C++ in 21 days, and have been coding since.

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby Vault » Wed May 13, 2009 6:57 pm UTC

I was 15. My school has a one to one program with laptops, so every student has one. There was an attempt to put together a student run help desk by some of the faculty and being good with computers, I was one of the fist people they asked to be a part of it. A few of the other people who were there had taken some of the programming classes that my school offered but I'd never had room in my schedule for and they started getting me interested in it. So I talked to the programming teacher who told me that I could come in after school and learn Java, so I tried it but it really didn't go very well. She wasn't a very good teacher for one thing and she started off by talking about a whole bunch of Object nonsense. Nevertheless I pushed on and at one point mentioned what I was doing to a person who worked at the school's actual help desk. He told me that all I needed to learn was Python and PHP. So I dutifully went home and installed Python and read some tutorials. I took to it rather quickly and amazed the programming teacher with what I was doing in it (which looking back at now was both incredibly simple and incredibly awful). After that I stopped going after school and taught myself Java. I have now been programming for 2 years and I've loved every bit of it (never did learn PHP though).

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby quintopia » Wed May 13, 2009 7:57 pm UTC

Really, the first programming I did was to print out the listing for a bowling game for TI-82, and enter it by hand. I had no idea what I was typing at the time (middle school), I just wanted to play bowling. Turns out the game sucked, but by studying the listing I eventually picked up TI-BASIC, and went on to write some extraordinarily complex games in it before my 89 died. Somewhere in highschool, I picked up a book on JavaScript (O'Reilly, before 1.3 came out) and took a class in VB (haven't touched it since). Later I got a book on PHP/MySQL (before PHP4) and took a class in Delphi (fun stuff, but haven't touched it since). I picked up basic Java syntax senior year in joint enrollment class, and the next year I was writing a 2D animation studio in it for fun. The same year as that, I wrote a game and most of a second as well as an IM client for a class, the next year I picked up C and Smalltalk, and then the year after that, LISP. Now, all my projects seem to be most easily done in Java or Matlab, so I have had no occasion to extensively study another language.

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby lm137 » Wed May 13, 2009 8:28 pm UTC

An ICT course when I was about 14 involved a project in Excel...the teacher tought us how to record macros and I, being of a curious nature, started playing around with the VBA - just changing parameters and stuff initially, then using the Help to find new functions. Then the next year I took computing, which taught me VB, and taught myself from there.

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby Yakk » Wed May 13, 2009 8:43 pm UTC

The old TI-## came with a basic cartridge. I played with it.

C64's command prompt was a basic interpreter, and I played with those "write a game" books and learned. Wrote some decent choose-your-own-adventure programs.

QBasic on a PC, until I ran into the 64 K barrier to program size at age 12 or so (writing a Battlemech design program). That was no fun -- I couldn't make the program bigger!

Went on from there to Turbo Pascal, Think Pascal, * Pascal, Modula 3 (represent!), C, C++, Lisp, etc. by the end of undergrad.
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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby mrkite » Thu May 14, 2009 12:52 am UTC

Copying Applesoft BASIC programs out of Byte and Nibble magazines. Then moved to assembler when BASIC wasn't fast enough.

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby Carnildo » Thu May 14, 2009 2:14 am UTC

I started programming around age 6 or so by trying out and modifying the various example BASIC programs in the Commodore-64 manual.

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10 PRINT "HELLO WORLD!"
20 GOTO 10

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby yy2bggggs » Thu May 14, 2009 4:48 am UTC

My dad bought a Vic-20 from a garage sale for me when I was in my teens (came with some business software on cassette tape--and the tape drive). He didn't see the television that much more thereafter. I recall using some borrowed Byte magazines to copy a Tank vs UFO game, which taught me top down programming (gosub 300, baby!) FYI, I'm jealous of all of you rich snobs who could afford C-64's.

I had some minor exposure to computers before then (neighbors'/school computers), and took some high school courses in FORTRAN/BASIC.
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phlip
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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby phlip » Thu May 14, 2009 5:26 am UTC

My father had a programmable calculator of some kind (Casio, I think... way less powerful than a TI, and not a graphing calculator, but still fun), that used a BASIC variant of some kind. He would also take me to work with him occasionally, and leave me to amuse myself on his computer while he did other things... a couple of games, but also GW-BASIC. I'm not sure which of those two I learned first... I think it was a bit of both. This was when I was around 6 or 7 or so.

Then we got a home computer (a cutting-art state-of-the-edge 80386), and I learned QBasic. I remember the loss of line numbers confusing me a bit at first. Also, .BAT files (for the same reason as Berengal... put a bat in the path that'll automatically CD to some game's dir, the run the game).

After trying to rename a .BAT file to .EXE (to make it look more legit), and having it Just Not Work, I asked about what you have to do to make a .EXE file... and so, I learned C (some version of MS QuickC, for DOS). This was probably around 10 or so, possibly a bit older... though I wouldn't be particularly good at it for several years.

Then the usual... learned VB (3, then 6) and PHP in highschool, C++ from a pretty bad teach-yourself book, Java at Uni, and about a dozen other languages (including C++ again but properly this time) of my own volition off the 'net.

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enum ಠ_ಠ {°□°╰=1, °Д°╰, ಠ益ಠ╰};
void ┻━┻︵​╰(ಠ_ಠ ⚠) {exit((int)⚠);}
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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby Two9A » Thu May 14, 2009 10:59 am UTC

Carnildo wrote:I started programming around age 6 or so by trying out and modifying the various example BASIC programs in the Commodore-64 manual.
Mm, I was much the same. My brother managed to snag a C-64 around the same time I was born (cost my father three months' wages), so there was always a computer in the house. I was hacking around with C=BASIC by 4 years old, and fiddling with sprites and bitfields by 5.

A few years later, we got a PC. Shiny new '386, 1MB RAM. I spent most of the next two years hacking on the examples in the DOS 5 manual, and building increasingly complicated batch files with menus and such.

And then one of the magazines my brother bought had a three-part feature on programming in C. That was the end of my life as a carefree kid.
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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby |Erasmus| » Thu May 14, 2009 11:29 am UTC

I was positively ancient when I started compared to some of you guys. I had never programmed in my life until late in year 10 at highschool (so, 15, going on 16) when my maths teacher was talking about the fact that the school was going to offer a programming course for the HSC the following year, and it sounded interesting, so I started learning QBasic which my best friend was already pretty good at. I remember getting a handwritten list of the main keywords on paper, a copy of the compiler on a floppy disc and self-teaching myself over the summer holidays enough to write programs that did some trivial calculations with user input and drawing a few pixels on the screen.

Unlike most of the schools who taught VB in this course, my teacher taught us C. So I spent the next two years hacking away writing increasingly non-trivial C programs with Borland's TurboC and having competitions with some of the other guys in that class to see who could optimise their bubble sort to complete in the least time, before we had to start going off and researching more complex and better algorithms to get even faster.

Since then I decided to do it at uni, and have learned Java, Python, C++ and enough Assembly, C#, Javascript, HTML and all to get through everything I've needed to do at uni and at work, where I've been working as a programmer for 2 years now (21 and still at uni).

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby 0xBADFEED » Thu May 14, 2009 2:54 pm UTC

I didn't really start programming until I was 16 or so (except for small .bat files) learning C and C++ first. My family didn't even have a computer until I was about 13. And I didn't really start programming in earnest until I got to university. C++, Python, and Java are my main go-to languages with an assortment of others that I dabble in.

I'm mostly self-taught, as I think everyone is. Most universities don't teach "programming". It's just something they expect students to learn on their own time. Personally, I don't think it matters what age you start programming. I've never seen a particularly strong link between the age people start programming and programming skill. If you have the "knack" you get good within a couple of years. People forget that lots of the early programming gods had never even seen a computer before university.

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby qbg » Sun May 17, 2009 1:13 am UTC

When I first started out on QBasic, lots of hacking on example code and some reading of documentation.

Years later, a higher-order variant of the above.

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby InkL0sed » Sun May 17, 2009 5:10 pm UTC

When I was in middle school, we had a "technology" class where at some point we used Micro Worlds; basically NetLogo for kids.

As a sophomore in high school, we had an intro to comp sci class initially taught with NetLogo. I instantly recognized it and I got really good at it really quickly.

The next year, I took the AP Java course, and this year I took a course in Systems taught in C. Now I'm in a computer Graphics class, back to Java.

I've also taught myself a little bit of other languages (Python, Objective-C, a little Ruby). Oh, and does the Motion Descriptor Language we're writing for our graphics course count?

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby Yakk » Sun May 17, 2009 9:50 pm UTC

Theory: due to the lack of programming environments in Windows based operating systems for the last decade or so, the next generation of self-taught programmers may come disproportionately from the Mac world (which has both perl and python and a number of other scripting methods that I don't know about installed).
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby keeperofdakeys » Sun May 17, 2009 10:13 pm UTC

I disagree with no programming enviroments on windows
I am the 'next generation' and I've done all my programming on windows (still need to switch to linux)
even if there was a lack of enviroments on windows, people can always switch to linux, use things like minGW or have a mac just for programming

can you elaborate on what you mean by disproportional?

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby InkL0sed » Sun May 17, 2009 10:18 pm UTC

Mac has a lot of things preinstalled though. The Java SDK, Python, Perl, Ruby - all kinds of stuff.

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby Yakk » Mon May 18, 2009 7:20 am UTC

Mac is a nearly fully functional UN*X/BSD system (gcc is not installed, so not quite) with a myriad of scripting language and the like.

Windows systems lack this. And given that many learned how to program with the programs on the system... well before you could install linux...

I started programming computers on systems where the default interface was "enter a program and I will run it", as did many here.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby wing » Mon May 18, 2009 9:14 am UTC

The only real "problem group" that I can identify is the group that's graduating university right about now - their first serious computer exposures were usually GUI-based, and they didn't have the everything-is-available-now Internet to pull compilers out of their ass from until relatively recently.

The default mode for self-teaching now isn't books and what's already on the computer - you Google it. Need a compiler? Google that. Visual Studio Express, MinGW, Eclipse, Netbeans, they're all within a few clicks. Same goes for Perl, Python, Ruby, and OMGJIGGAWATTSCRIPTINGLANGUAGE interpreters. The "I need something, let me just go download that" paradigm is standard operating procedure at the present time for anyone who happens to have The Knack. Mac users only save step 1 of the learning process - and frankly, while that big assed IDE or interpreter is downloading, you can go ahead and research some of the other shit you'll need to find, and open about 843 Firefox tabs to reference and cross reference... I know that's what I do whenever I find myself trying to hack my way out of a corner, nevermind what I do when I'm actually learning something totally new.
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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby You, sir, name? » Mon May 18, 2009 11:44 am UTC

I call the abovementioned group and those in the generation after the tutorial generation. Most of their skills have come from 15 minute long tutorials, written by different authors of which 10% are 14 year olds who don't know crap about the subject, so little that they think they're experts.

Most of the time, tutorials teach you how you perform a task, not why or even what you are doing, resulting in horrible cargo cult programming. This phenomenon is rampant in web programming, but slowly crawling it's way into other areas as well.

Nothing is sadder than google queries like "C pointers + tutorial." They make baby You,Sir,Name? cry.
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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby 0xBADFEED » Mon May 18, 2009 2:10 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:Theory: due to the lack of programming environments in Windows based operating systems for the last decade or so, the next generation of self-taught programmers may come disproportionately from the Mac world (which has both perl and python and a number of other scripting methods that I don't know about installed).

I think the next generation of programmers will come from whichever system is the most conducive to gaming. Most programmers I know got into it through gaming. You can look on these forums and immediately see a number of kids who are starting programming because they want to make a game.

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby Grumpy Code Monkey » Mon May 18, 2009 2:30 pm UTC

You, sir, name? wrote:Nothing is sadder than google queries like "C pointers + tutorial." They make baby You,Sir,Name? cry.


To be fair, crappy C tutorials predate Google by a fair margin. Hell, Herb Schildt made a living writing worthless C books a decade before the Web came along.

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby You, sir, name? » Mon May 18, 2009 2:43 pm UTC

Grumpy Code Monkey wrote:
You, sir, name? wrote:Nothing is sadder than google queries like "C pointers + tutorial." They make baby You,Sir,Name? cry.


To be fair, crappy C tutorials predate Google by a fair margin. Hell, Herb Schildt made a living writing worthless C books a decade before the Web came along.


Though, there's at least some sort of filtering when it comes to authoring books. Anyone can write a tutorial and get it uploaded somewhere, and there is no peer review or any review for that matter. The very format is a menace. Any half decent book is written so that the chapters build on each other. But if you read tutorials in the wrong order, you will skip the parts you don't understand and in doing that, sow the seeds for dangerous misconceptions that are very hard to repair, even when you've got your hands on a proper book.
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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby Yakk » Mon May 18, 2009 4:07 pm UTC

0xBADFEED wrote:
Yakk wrote:Theory: due to the lack of programming environments in Windows based operating systems for the last decade or so, the next generation of self-taught programmers may come disproportionately from the Mac world (which has both perl and python and a number of other scripting methods that I don't know about installed).
I think the next generation of programmers will come from whichever system is the most conducive to gaming. Most programmers I know got into it through gaming. You can look on these forums and immediately see a number of kids who are starting programming because they want to make a game.
Sure, but there are games on every system. You can want to make a game while playing nothing but pong. A system that doesn't allow development by users -- any console -- won't let them take any of the early steps to learn how to program.

And wanting to make a game doesn't teach you how to make a game. In fact, wanting to make a fancy dancy game that happened to cost 100$ million to produce will discourage you when you look at what you can make when you start...
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: How did you learn to program?

Postby rrwoods » Mon May 18, 2009 5:53 pm UTC

I started on VB5 when I was 12. My uncle is a programmer, and he had come over to my parents house for one reason or another for the weekend. He ended up spending the better part of it showing me how to use the IDE for VB5 to make a Hangman game. After he left for the weekend I wrote Yahtzee.

In high school I took AP Computer Science, and alongside it I learned how to use Allegro and wrote Pong, which I consider to be my first "real" program as it very solidly taught me the value of modularity (mostly through my implementation's distinct lack thereof).
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