This past week I saw this graphic that displayed many of the programming languages that are part of the computing world. When I looked at it, I first was impressed by the cool graphic and how it showed data visually. Then I was surprised by how many I had worked with and how many I did not work with over my time in computing. Check it out here:
When I teach an introductory course on technology, we discuss software. In today’s world we are using software and technology more than ever before but people rarely understand the two unless you work in some technology field. Software programs or coding are instructions that tell the hardware (eg. hard drive, processor, display, etc) or the ‘machine’ what to do. We can write software programs in the lower level language the ‘machine’ understands using ones and zeroes but is very difficult for humans to write or we can work with higher level programming languages that are easier to write and understand.
My first programming language was BASIC which stands for Basic All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code and it is considered a high level language. Understand that the label “high level” does not necessarily indicate its capabilities or it complexity. It simply means it was created for software programmers to write the instructions using real world language terms like WHILE, IF, NOT, FOR and a few others instead of ones and zeroes. Once the programmer writes their program on the computer that will run it, the code is either compiled or prepared so that the computer can then complete the instructions. So essentially, high level languages get converted to a language that the machine understands.
BASIC for me was my gateway to computing. You typed instructions line by line and each line had an instruction that when they were all put together, something cool (or maybe not so cool) would happen. I saw my first class on how to program a computer in high school. The experience did not make you a computer programmer but it got us moving forward. What was cool was that my buddies and I were already writing programs at home on our own computers and when we got to that class, I can remember being quite confident and had no problem learning what the teacher covered. Learning to code can be incredibly empowering and a great boost to any child or adult’s self confidence. Eventually we graduated high school and went on our way and created successful careers. Some in technology and some not. I like to think our early days of coding BASIC got us onto our paths.