What is Coding and Why Learn to Code?

What is Coding and Why Learn to Code?

Want to learn how to code?

As technology becomes more prevalent in our lives, this is a question that comes up more and more.  Computer coding has, more or less, taken over large aspects of our everyday lives and changed the way we interact with the world in amazing ways thanks to computer science.

However, the question of whether you want to learn to code may not be the easiest to answer.  For those who have long since aspired to be developers, it is a fairly simple question, of course (with an answer of  “YES!”).  For many, though, the question of learning how to code assumes you know what it is in the first place.  Even further, online coding tutorials are a time investment, even if you can learn to code for free, so whether or not there are actually benefits to learn computer coding is another factor many people consider.

As coding enthusiasts ourselves, though, we’re here to not only explain the entire concept to you, but also layout exactly why you should learn to code in the first place.  We’ll also dive a bit into the programming languages themselves along with some helpful online coding tutorials to get you going. Computer coding is sure to enrich your life in ways you can’t imagine, so if you’re ready to learn what all the hubbub is about coding, let’s get into it!

Woman learning at labtop

What is Coding?

To understand coding, we first must understand computers and how they work.  Without getting too technical about computer components, at the heart our computers are basically just a series of electrical signals.  Imagine if you went to a light switch and turned it off and on, assigning a value of 0 for off and 1 for on.  You could then turn sequences of this signal into meaningful instructions to execute.

Ultimately, that electrical signal is what powers our computer – only with a light switch signal scenario that is happening far faster than we can physically perform.  This 0 and 1 signal is what is known as binary, and it is the primary machine code upon which all programs are based.

However, as you might imagine, writing binary is tedious, and not something humans want to do just to create a program.  As such, we developed programming languages like Python, JavaScript, and more to deal with this.  These coding languages were developed to be human-readable, but have the ability to be translated into machine code through interpreters (which “translate” code real-time line-by-line) and compilers (which “translate” code before the program is run).

This is where coding comes in.  Coding is essentially the process of writing instructions in a programming language for a computer to perform.  These can include simple mathematical operations, repeated loops of code, and so much more.  Regardless, though, the act of coding is essentially like writing things in a second language to communicate with someone else how to make a peanut butter sandwich.  That person then translates the instructions even further for someone else until, voila, your peanut butter sandwich is made.

Thus, learning to code means not only learning a computer coding language, but also learning how to write instructions in a way that the language can understand to then consequently translate.  Coding is very similar to learning a second language in general, so it is a skill that most people are capable of learning!

There are some other technicalities we could get into here, like the difference between coding and programming, but going in this basic information will give you a great boost!

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Why Learn to Code?

So we’ve established what coding is, but why should you learn to code?  After all, it can’t be used in every field and is mostly for computer science, right?  Plus, why would you need to learn how to code for your specific life goals?  Well, let’s have a chat about that so you can understand why learning to code can be one of the most beneficial skillsets you pick up in your lifetime.

In-Demand Skillset

With technology dominating the world and growing as an industry every day, it should come as no surprise that coding is a high demand skillset.  Those who become developers with coding skills under their belt are looking at plenty of job growth, with job prospects for software developers in the US alone predicting a 21% increase by 2028.  Additionally, coding-related engineering and developer positions are consistently the top-ranked jobs on the popular Glassdoor jobs website.

Knowing how to code can also earn you a fantastic salary if you choose to become a full time developer with your skills.  According to Indeed, another popular website for job searches, average reported salaries for some popular fields are:

  • Web Developer: $78,254
  • Data Scientist: $121,583
  • Software Engineer: $104,907
  • Mobile Developer: $125,131

However, even if you’re not interested in becoming a developer and just building software, almost every industry is looking for those with coding skills.  Healthcare, businesses, and beyond all need the skills of coders to help automate processes, analyze data, and more.  Even just understanding how the software in an industry is coded can give you a huge career boost, as this knowledge is desired for those working at a higher level when a company is planning out software implementations and so forth.

Ultimately, even if it isn’t your main focus, computer programming skills can be a great boast on your resume and will make you a more attractive job candidate!

Infographic displaying developer forecasts

Improve Problem Solving

Essentially, all of coding is about solving a problem, at least in the sense of wanting to find a solution for something you want.  For example, if your problem was that your light-bulb was out, you’d use instructions to solve that problem and change out the lightbulb.  In this case, if you replace light-bulb with something like generating a pie chart, you have coding in a nutshell.

Coding is a skill-set that will teach you complex ways of solving a problem.  Certainly, there are easy problems to solve, such as wanting to output some text based on input.  However, imagine you want to build a simple game of pong.  Exactly how do you solve this problem?

With coding, you will learn essential skills for tackling complex problems like this, as coding will force you to break the problem down into smaller components that have easier to solve problems.

In our example above, in order to code it, we could break it down into the following questions instead: How do you get the ball to move?  How do you calculate the physics so the ball bounces?  How do you set up controls so players can move the paddles?  How do you track the score?  How do you control the game over conditions?

Although this a lot of problems, each individual one is a much more manageable situation, and having more experience with computer coding will ingrain these sorts of important problem-solving skills into you.  So, not only can learning to code improve how you make programs, but how you approach problems in general.

Example of a game of Pong made in Unity

Automate your Life

We all have those tedious tasks in our life that we don’t want to do regularly.  Perhaps you’re a business owner who needs certain charts created regularly from an Excel sheet.  Or, maybe you want to schedule a complex series of backups on your computer to protect your data.  Or, maybe, you simply have a WiFi-enabled coffee machine you want to automatically make you coffee at 7am.

Fortunately, most tasks like these can be automated.  And guess what?  Knowing how to code will give you the skills to automate these aspects of your life.  People have used coding for a number of things, from sending notifications from home security systems, to processes that can automatically restart your modem at regular intervals, to web crawlers that search the web for certain keywords.  The tasks coding can perform are endless, so the ability to automate is almost as endless as well.

This is something that can also help you with your professional life, as many workers have found novel ways to automate their work tasks and make each working day that much easier.  Thus, learning to code really empowers you to make your life easier and gain back a bit more time in your day to spend doing other things that you enjoy!

Example of a photo filter made with computer vision

Start a Business

With the internet, small businesses have been empowered to start up at an unprecedented frequency.  Perhaps starting a business is something you’ve been interested in doing as well, whether it’s because you have a unique product idea or simply enjoy the prospect of being your own boss.  However, when starting out your business, when the budget is pretty thin, how exactly do you launch your website?

By knowing how to code, you can avoid paying expensive developers and simply just do it yourself!  In fact, many small businesses start from home with just one person doing all the coding, as was the case with both Microsoft and Apple, two well-known technology giants you may have heard of.

By coding it yourself, you can not only get exactly what you want, but give yourself breathing room to expand your business before hiring more help.  This can be a huge benefit when you’re starting out, or even allow you to start your business at no real cost depending on what sort of business you have.  As such, learning to code is great to know if you’re setting out on the path of being an individual entrepreneur.

Pet appointment form made with React

Build Dream Projects

Perhaps you’re coming to this article thinking you have a fantastic game idea or mobile app idea.  However, maybe you’ve never really considered making it a reality just for lack of knowledge of how to do that.  Learning to code, though, is the first step to take when it comes to building these sorts of projects.

Coding is the powerhouse behind every game and app, whether it was made with a game engine or not.  At some point, somebody had to go about writing code to get it to work.  So, you can’t really go wrong when you learn coding since all software dream projects need it – even if you are an artist at heart.

For projects that you know will require a team, you can still learn to code to build a prototype.  Prototypes are fantastic not only for getting a feel for your project early on but also for attracting potential team members and investors.

Even if your eventual plan is to move to something like game art, these skills will serve you well in long-term communication with team members, as you’ll be able to understand the coder’s perspectives as well.  Thus, it is a skill that keeps on giving and allows you to build those projects buried in the back of your mind.

Multiplayer battle royale example made with Unity

Understand Everyday Technology

If all else fails, learning to code will just enable you to understand everyday technology better.  Sometimes, if we sit back, technology almost feels like magic – as if someone waved their hand that allowed us to write this article, allowed your device to display the article, and allowed your web browser to display things in a way that’s easy for you to read.

Of course, though, none of this is magic, it is just the results of people coding specific instructions.

So, at the end, knowing what goes into coding and how a coder tackles problems and instructions will let you understand a bit more about the underlying technology.  When you understand technology better, this can be a great confidence booster, as you learn to try more things with your technology that unlock new powerful features you didn’t even know existed.

How you interact with technology will change drastically just from knowing the underlying coding, and will enable you to navigate our technology bound world that much easier.

Coding Languages to Learn

By this point, we hope we’ve established all the great reasons why you should learn to code.  However, even if you’re ready to jump into learning computer coding, there may be a lingering question left of which language will benefit you the most, especially when you need to learn the basics.

Below, we’ll provide a brief overview of the language choices at your disposal and in what situation the programming languages may benefit you to learn. Plus, we’ll provide you with online learning resources! However, if you would like something more in-depth, we recommend our Best Programming Languages article instead.

Chart made with Python

Python

Python is a high-level, interpreted language used for general purpose applications.  Python has a high emphasis on readability, making it one of the most friendly programming languages for humans to work with.  This is not to mention that it is now one of the most in-demand programming languages due to this readability – which is very much needed for certain complex tasks.

The primary benefit to learn coding with Python is its ability to be applied in data science and machine learning.  With the advent of technology, data has become a driving force in decisions worldwide, whether at the government or company level.  As such, data science has become an integral topic in our world.

The same can be said of machine learning which is also on the rise, since it allows us to automate tasks and create smarter machines and algorithms.  Thus, if you have an interest in these fields at all, it behooves you to learn Python for its use and general popular adoption for these fields.

You can get started learning Python by checking out the online learning resources below:

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Mockup of a recipe webapp

HTML, CSS, & JavaScript

While technically separate coding languages, HTML, CSS, & JavaScript can be grouped together due to the fact that they are the core pillars of web development.  Without these three working in tandem, we could not have the internet we know today – even this post wouldn’t be able to exist without their assistance.

This being the case, the benefit to HTML, CSS, & JavaScript is obvious: you will absolutely need them for web development.  Whether we’re speaking of a simple blogging website like this one, or a powerful webapp like Google Docs, all three play a major role.

Additionally, JavaScript has the side benefit of also being the pillar for HTML5 game development, giving it a dual purpose if you happen to be interested in both.  If you’re intending to develop for the web, this is definitely the way to go, as there are no better language choices for that field. Plus, it is a language set you can learn to code for free!

Jump into learning web development by exploring the links below:

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State machine with zombies in Unity

C#

C# is a programming language that was developed by Microsoft to work with their .NET framework – which in layman’s terms means it is the most compatible language for Windows OS.  This being the case, it sees heavy use in general software creation, though it also plays an integral role in game development being the language backing the Unity engine.

C# can benefit you in two ways.  For general software creation, C# is definitely a major player, so if you want to develop any sort of business app, C# is a great choice.

However, the bigger benefit to working with C# probably comes in the form of game development.  As Unity is one of the most popular engines to use, knowing C# will allow you to work with that engine and create your dream game projects. So, if game development is the field you’re looking to jump into, C# is definitely a top choice to consider.

You can learn about C# and Unity via the online coding resources provided below, including resources to code for free:

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Platformer made with Unreal Engine

C++

As a general-purpose language, C++ is perhaps the most widely used programming language in all industries – even in areas like web development where it’s not specialized for it.  This is due to the fact C++ is considered one of the most efficient coding languages you can learn how to code, being the closest to machine code of the programming languages we’re mentioning here.

Coding skills with C++ are fantastic if you’re aiming at general sorts of software development – or simply just aren’t quite sure where you want your overall goals to take it.  While the learning curve is a bit difficult, due to its universal use just about everywhere, the skills will make sure you stay in-demand no matter which development path you take.

Even game development is a field where C++ is in in high-demand, being used in engines like the Unreal Engine, so C++ can’t really steer you wrong in terms of professional skillsets.

Review the online learning resources below if you’re ready to learn how to code with C++, even if you want to code for free:

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Weather mobile app for Android

Java and/or Swift

This is another situation where we’re grouping two programming languages into the same category.  While Java and Swift are both very different, Java being general-purpose and Swift being designed specifically for Apple products, they are both used in the same field: mobile app development.

Thus, if you’re interested in developing mobile apps at all, learning Java and/or Swift will give you a fantastic boost.  Which programming language benefits you the most does depend on your target audience.

If you’re only concerned about Android devices, Java is the way to go, whereas iOS developers will absolutely need Swift.  However, as most developers do want cross-platform apps, learning both never hurts.  Either way, if mobile is the way you’re going, these are the programming languages to dive into as you learn how to code.

Ready to develop mobile apps?  You can get started with the links below for some online courses and online coding tutorials to learn programming:

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Hand marking different city planning

Conclusion

Clearly, learning how to code has a multitude of benefits. Whether it’s because it allows you to build your dream projects, make your life simpler with automation, or simply lets you see the world in a new light, computer programming is certainly a skill set that will enhance your life for the better.

Besides, coding is a skill that just about anybody can learn and not just limited to the complicated field of computer science.  In most cases, all you need is a simple text editor to get started, and perhaps a good tutorial or two to follow along with.  So, even if it’s something you just intend as a hobby, it is a very affordable hobby to get into (though there are of course professional benefits as well).

Regardless of your why or which of the amazing coding languages you choose, the important thing is to get out there, start to learn to code, and create new, magical instructions for our computers to follow and create wonders with!

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