No, I’m not talking about Parseltongue, but a programming language. I’ve been programming in other languages for years and years, but now I’m learning Python and here’s why I think you should join me.
If you’ve never tried programming a computer, you really should try it!
Learning computer programming is fun! It’s empowering and immensely satisfying. Sometimes it can even be useful! By learning a programming language, or at least trying it, you get a wider understanding about the inner workings of computer programs. This can increase your confidence in using computers, as it removes much of the mystery surrounding these, sometimes seemingly infernal, machines.
Python is a great language for learning to program. It’s free, there are tons of great resources on-line, and it’s easy to learn and use.
Why is it fun? It’s fun to be able to order computers around. You spend so much time wrestling with them, trying to get them to behave, getting the chance to be in total control is very satisfying. Basically, when you tell your computer to jump, instead of sulking in the corner, it will ask “How high?”
How is it useful? Learning a programming language can actually be helpful if you work with computers, even if you’re not going to work as a programmer. Let’s say your boss hands you a log file with thousands of lines of text and tells you to find all email addresses and list them alphabetically. Doing this manually would probably make anyone contemplate suicide. But if you know Python, you could easily write a small program that does this for you. It would only take you a few minutes to write the program, and it would only take the program a second to complete the task. Yes, really! Or let’s say you’re working with a spreadsheet, probably in Excel but maybe in OpenOffice, and you need to add some formulas to do a bunch of advanced calculations. Guess what… That’s a form of programming, and if you know a programming language, understanding what you need to do and how you need to do it will be much easier.
Ok, so how do I learn Python? As I said, there are loads of resources on-line. I’ve just discovered a new one, a website called Udacity. They do free university classes for everyone, led by people who really know their stuff. Their first class is called CS101: Building a Search Engine. By taking this seven-week class, you will not threaten Google’s market share, but you will actually learn some of the basic mechanics that make Google tick. Most of all, though, you will learn to program using Python. The goal of the class is not really to teach you how to build search engines, but to teach you how to use Python, while building a simple search engine in the process. Speaking of Google, though, it’s worth mentioning that lots of the professors actually work at Google. So, yeah, like I said…they know their stuff. CS101 is now in its final week and will start again on April 16. I’ll be taking the class, in parallel with a couple of other classes, CS212 and CS253, because even though I’ve been programming for years, I’m completely new to Python.
So why am I writing this blog post? Do I get a percentage from somewhere, or something? Ha ha, no. I honestly just want to share the love. I want more people to learn how to program, because I enjoy it so much and I think you might enjoy it, too. By writing this blog post, I hope to inspire someone to take the class CS101 with me, beginning April 16, because learning together is more fun than learning alone.
If you’re curious, know this:
- It is absolutely free to enroll in these classes. You will not be asked for a credit card number.
- There’s a great forum at Udacity, where nice people will help you whenever you need it.
- I will help you all the way, no matter who you are, if I can. If you have problems installing Python on your computer, or if there is a lesson you just can’t wrap your head around, I will do whatever I can to help you.
- You can quit whenever you want, even though I hope you won’t.
- It will be fun!
So, come on! Learn Python with me!