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Why I am Learning to Program
Edit by. Sparky Yoo | Published. 2018.05.12 09:56 | Count : 114

As my senior year of high school comes to a close, I have created a brand new bucket list. With more time on my hands, I wanted to explore the depths of my curiosity even further. I began by learning how to knit elementary scarves. Then, I discovered how market values dictated our society by reading Michael J. Sandel’s “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets.” Finally, I have begun my greatest challenge yet: computer programming.    

Picture 1: Computer Programming Visual http://codingbasics.net/learn-computer-programming/

I decided to take on the task of learning programming after realizing how little I knew about computers. Sure, I would say I am technologically apt. I am proficient in major applications, such as Photoshop and the Microsoft programs, and I can comfortably navigate through the Web. Yet, I do not know what propels these programs. For instance, what specific set of instructions controls the websites that I visit? Thus, I wanted to develop a degree of agency over an increasingly important tool in my life.

Soon after my decision to start, I had to choose what language I wanted to learn. The common languages seemed to be Python, C++, and Java. Each language had its own characteristics. For instance, Python seemed relevant for video games and C++ for software development (https://medium.com/the-mission/new-to-coding-which-programming-language-is-right-for-you-f506638aa36e). Websites noted that Python was “known for its writability, error reduction, and readability” while C++ was more efficient and was more widespread (https://www.activestate.com/blog/2016/09/python-vs-cc-embedded-systems). I chose to pursue C++ seeing that it was used more extensively.

Picture 2: Major Programming Languages http://juniortronics.blogspot.com/2016/03/super-curso-de-programacion-aprende.html

To begin my self-study, I bought the e-book “Programming: Principles and Practice Using C++” by Bjarne Stroustrup. The introduction quickly acquainted me with the basis of computer programming. I came to understand why people called computer programming a language; programming is a set of instructions that one uses to communicate with a device. The book mentioned the analogy of giving someone instructions to go to the bathroom. Programming was similar in this aspect except that we could not fall back on human assumptions. Stroustrup argued that while we could simply tell someone to go down the hallway and take a left, we had to tell computers to get up from the chair, open the door, etc. 

Picture 3: C++ Textbook https://www.ebay.com/itm/382096024268

I am proud to say that I have finished the first activity. I was able to run a program that made my computer say “Hello World!” Although I am obviously still at the beginning stages of learning programming, my perspective towards computers has already begun to change. It seems beautiful in and of itself to see computers as something you can communicate with. I hope that as I progress, I will be able to implement my new skillset on new projects, such as self-coded websites.

Now that I have begun on my journey, I was curious to see why my peers started to learn programming as well. I interviewed Malcolm Essaid, a current senior at Phillips Academy. 

Why are you learning computer programming? 
“I really like math and science because it’s a lot about problem solving. You learn tools and you apply those tool. It’s questions that you’ve seen before…and you apply [the tools]. [But] computer science is different because the tools themselves are relatively simple. It doesn’t take that long to learn the lines of code…A lot of computer science is learning those simple tools and applying them yourself. You get to build your own things. 

Someone once told me they compared computer science almost to [giving] birth. You come up with your own idea in your head and you’re doing things all yourself. I like the kind of simplistic nature. Because the tools are simple, it’s very easy to come up with these complex problems and things like that. 

Do you have any advice for beginning programmers? 
“Don’t be afraid to get into it. I was always intimidated that a lot of people knew a lot more than I did. It seemed like it would take forever to get into it...Computer science is really not that hard…It’s a great thing for a lot of people because all the resources are online. It’s not very complicated so it’s easy to teach yourself online. And once you get to a certain level, you can do almost anything. 

I was talking to a guy once who’s the CEO of a cybersecurity company. He said ‘Look, in order to become confident, in order to be able to get a job in Silicon Valley, it takes about 3 months to learn all the stuff. You spend 3 months working on it, you could learn everything you need to know to be able to become what’s…known as a full stack developer, which is the base level.’”

I am inspired by Malcolm to continue my mastery of computer programming. The beauty of computer programming seems to stem from its accessibility and wide-spread applicability. As our society continues to integrate technology into our lives, I believe that computer programming will become quintessential—not only as a vocational skill set but also for personal reasons.



Sparky Yoo 
Phillips Academy

Sparky Yoo  student_reporter@dherald.com

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