Coding is everywhere right now: our lives revolve around technology, kids are learning computer science, and supermodel Karlie Kloss has created a scholarship program to help girls and women get into coding. Clearly, it’s big news.
Coding can mean different things to different people. It might mean developing websites with HTML and CSS, the markup and stylesheet languages behind the websites we use on a daily basis, and which control the way this very blog post looks. It could also mean programming, using languages like Python, Java, C++ and a whole host more, to make anything from simple tools, to computer games, to full programs and mobile applications. There isn’t any one “computer code” to learn, and the breadth of things you can do with coding are more than anyone would have ever thought.
Here are my top 5 reasons you should learn to code.
1. Because it’s a lot more creative than you probably think
For the uninitiated, learning any kind of coding might seem like a daunting, laborious and highly technical task. Maybe you expect it to be all maths, and filled with tight rules and regulations which you have to follow. But whilst coding can be all of these things, it’s actually a very creative process. Although you’re bound by the rules of the language you’re using, when you code, you can create whatever you want. Within minutes of learning, you can have a little box on your computer screen sending you a greeting; within hours, you can tell it how to respond to different inputs and have it send you a different greeting depending on how you say you’re feeling. You can create programs to tackle difficult maths problems so you don’t have to, and you can even learn to program through gaming, if that’s your kind of thing.
It’s not all about programming, either. For the more visually-orientated, learning web design through HTML and CSS can be incredibly fun: you’ll learn to create web pages, and test your design skills by seeing just how professional (or just fun) you can make them.
A lot of coding, whether it’s programming in a language like Java or Python or markup and styling in HTML and CSS, is finding new ways to tackle challenges – what could be more creative than that?
2. Because you can make awesome creations
Following on from my first point, there are so many cool things you can make with programming or markup, and you can do this surprisingly quickly. Within a few days of learning Python, I was making small programs to convert temperatures into different units (which is pretty exciting for a maths nerd). Now, I’m working on a project to create a text-based RPG (again, probably more exciting for nerds than non-nerds, so for me, this is great fun). And once you get better at programming, you can make bigger and more capable programs, like calendars, games, and even tools for new gadgets, like Amazon’s Alexa, or apps for Android (and you don’t even need to work for these companies to do this). It’s not just about typing code into a box and getting something in return – it’s about creating.
3. Because once you learn one programming language, you can learn the rest
Are you desperate to make Android apps, but intimidated by learning a language like Java? Well that’s ok, because I was too. But it’s not as scary as it first seems, and it’s a lot easier once you have some other programming knowledge under your belt. You can start with a programming language like Python (like I did), which is an excellent language for beginners, because it feels a lot more natural to write in than a lot of other languages. The great thing about programming is that once you learn one language, it’s a lot easier to pick up a new one, because a lot of the same rules apply. That said, there are plenty of cool things to make in Python alone, so there’s nothing wrong with sticking with it.
4. Because it’s SO satisfying
Very few moments are as satisfying as the moment you finally get your code to work. Coding is incredibly hard work at times, and demands huge attention to detail, but that only makes it better when you manage to create something amazing. Coding is an incredibly rewarding experience, particularly when you’re doing it off your own back.
Then again, it can also be the most frustrating thing you’ve ever done (unless you ever played Flappy Bird and kept hitting “GAME OVER” just before you beat your high score). A considerable amount of the work involved with any kind of coding is problem solving. There’s a lot of detective-work and a lot of hours staring at the screen looking puzzled. But in the end, it’s worth it for the moment when you get it right.
5. Because all you need to get started is a computer and an internet connection
Whether you’re looking to learn web design or a programming language, there’s usually no need to purchase any extra materials. There are plenty of free websites with great tutorials (such as Codeacademy, HackerRank and plenty more) that you can learn from. There are even mobile apps so you can learn to code on the go, and most of these websites will teach you from the ground up – so you don’t need to have any coding experience before you start. As for the tools you need, you can download all the kit you need for your chosen language online. If you want to learn web design with HTML and CSS, you probably already have everything you need – a text editor, such as Notepad, and a web browser. With languages like Python and Java, there are a couple of extra tools you might need, but these are all available for free online and are easy to install.
So what are you waiting for?
Get out there, and find yourself a “Hello World” tutorial*.
*”Hello World” is the default first program of choice for pretty much any programming language – you’ll see what I mean.