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 Post subject: want to learn to be a programmer
PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 9:56 pm 
8086
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Im 25 years old and have been a car repairman for 6 years, i decided to start taking school for programming. I have just started my algebra class but would like to know if anybody has any advice on things I can be learning on the side? thanks for your time.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 10:01 am 
Java Junkie
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I would start learning how a computer works. Since you'll be learning to 'speak its language', it is very important to know how its 'brain' works.

I'm not talking about learning the parts of a PC (though that is also helpful), but how a computer processes information.

You should learn about algorithms. An algorithm is a recipe for solving a problem. You input the data and the algorithm will output the answer. It could be as a simple as a formula for converting from Fahrenheit to Celcius or a complicated problem such as determining the fastest path through 16 cities without retracing your steps.

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You should also learn about data structures. Storing and accessing data is an important part of programming. Consider the differences between finding a book on your bookshelf with finding a book at your local library. Now imagine you have only a fraction of the required information ... say, only the author's last name. How would you find it?

How would you design the library in the first place?

Many different structures have been created to hold data and knowing what those standard structures are as well as how and why they are used is a vital skill for a programmer.

Wikipedia
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These are two of the most basic concepts in programming .. so if you get a head-start on them, you'll be off to a good start.


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 Post subject: First programming course
PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 7:11 pm 
8086
8086

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Intro to programming classes attempt to focus on syntax, reasoning, and planning. While syntax is very important, it is language specific; you would likely be better served by working on the other two aspects until you are in the programming course. Being a mechanic puts you in a good spot for the other two, actually.
Consider trouble-shooting a car that won't start. It's either gas, spark, or air flow. How would you explain to another person what steps you would take to discern which it was, and what you would do in each case. Perhaps you should think of it as if you were training someone new to do that job. Write it down and you will have written your first pseudo-code. Programming is the practice of writing down instructions, including observation and choosing alternative actions based on it.
So think about what you are doing day to day. Describe the steps needed and decisions involved in writing or in your head so that anyone could follow them. And this does take practice. Being able to articulate a plan for some task is what I hope most to see in my students.
I should mention that this is what algorithms are: other people's step-by-step instructions to accomplish particular tasks.
Data structures are vital to managing any substantial amount of data, but they may be easier to understand and use after you have learned more about data in general.
As a teacher, I would celebrate most students that can think up a strategy to accomplish a task. From that context, all of the components of programming (data types, data structures, etc) become pieces of a software solution.


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 Post subject: Re: want to learn to be a programmer
PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 11:41 am 
Willamette
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gorufio01 wrote:
Im 25 years old and have been a car repairman for 6 years, i decided to start taking school for programming. I have just started my algebra class but would like to know if anybody has any advice on things I can be learning on the side? thanks for your time.


As for languages... Start with something simple (depending on what type of programming you mean: applications or web). for Web programming (creating web pages) start with basic HTML.

For the applications / programs side of things, maybe get a book about the BASIC programming language (i know, it sounds out dated, but it will provide some basic backgrounds as to how the language works. The Visual Basic.net system builds off the basic BASIC language, with some modification). I think that once you learn Basic, you can figure out other languages fairly easily... it's just a matter of syntax. I know I first started learning programming with QBASIC (which came with DOS 5.0 and 6.0) back in the mid-90's before and around the time Windows 95 came out (yes... back when Windows 3.1 was still popular).

You really have to decide *what* you want to program (as for type of programming) and then go from there. Just wanting to "be a programmer" is too broad. Do you like the Internet and want to know how to create web pages / sites? or maybe Do you like playing games, and wanted to know how to create them? These are some questions you have to ask yourself.

Sort of like repairing cars / installing car radios. You have to know what you want to do first before you start working on it (or digging int). Decide what you want to learn, and then go from there. Google can be your best friend for this (at least it was for me). There is an ocean of information out there -- you just have to narrow down. This is how I learned the bulk of my programming skills. I've only had a handful of actual "sit-in" official programming classes in college. The rest I taught myself from books (which by the way, the "Sams Teachyourself in 24 hours" or "in 21 days" series has always helped me, but they may not be your learning style). they don't teach you a lot of "why" but more "here's how it's done." It's a good start, and then yo ucan go back and learn the dirty details later, once you've learned the syntax of the language. Start out small, and then work your way up.


Maybe look into pursuing a certificate at a local community college.


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