What does computer programming mean

What is programming

In a nutshell, programming is the writing of software programs as code that a computer can execute. But what does it all mean now? What exactly is a computer anyway? A software program? Code?

To answer these questions we need to dig a little (promise - just a little) and talk about computers. The history of programming goes back well into the 1940s. At this time, the first computers that could be programmed were built. As you can imagine, these were a little bigger than our current notebooks and cell phones and filled entire rooms.

The first computers

The revolutionary thing about these computers at the time was that they were extremely flexible devices. These weren't built for one purpose, but could do many things. Before that time, all machines were very static and mostly could only do one or a few tasks.

Let's take an analog clock as an example. Such a clock is designed in such a way that it can show the time. The movement inside is a complex mechanical system that was developed precisely for this purpose. If a mechanical watch is also to have the function of a stopwatch, it needs a different structure of the movement. The entire mechanics of the watch would have to be changed if an analog watch were to also perform the tasks of a stopwatch. Quite a hassle.

The invention of computers revolutionized this system. It was suddenly possible to build a machine that could serve different purposes. And that without having to change the mechanics or the device itself!

Hardware and software

From this point on, the separation of hardware and software began. The hardware is the computer itself, the vulnerable thing, the mechanics, the "unchangeable". Nowadays, computer hardware can be found in classic PCs and laptops, but also in your cell phone, smartwatch, remote control, internet modem, calculator and even in your car.

The software, on the other hand, determines what exactly the device should do. They are instructions that are executed by the computer. WhatsApp, Google search, Firefox, email, Youtube, Candycrush and and and ... These are all computer programs and thus software. At the latest with the advent of the personal computer, i.e. the PC, software is omnipresent and now plays a very large role in our everyday life. We are constantly interacting with software. Regardless of whether we are working on a PC, picking up our cell phone, getting into the car or withdrawing money from an ATM, there is software behind it everywhere.

Let's look at the whole thing using a cell phone as an example. The cell phone or smartphone is the hardware. When it is turned off, it cannot actually be used. Except maybe for a smartphone throwing competition. However, when the device is switched on, the software begins to run. This tells the device what should be displayed on the screen and what it should do when you interact with it using various buttons or the touchscreen. The great strength of the hardware is its speed. While you are reading this text and scrolling down the smartphone, the hardware is constantly receiving commands from the software. "Make this point on the display black. Now White. Now red! ”This is how the writing that you are reading is created. However, all of this happens in milliseconds, so we do not even notice these commands.

Your smartphone has basic software preinstalled when you buy it. On the one hand, there is the operating system, for example Android or iOS. On the other hand, some apps such as a calculator, e-mail program, camera app, etc. are already included. Every additional app that you install on your mobile phone is another software program that adds new functions to your smartphone. All of this is possible without the hardware, i.e. your mobile phone itself, having to be converted! A big step forward compared to the analog clock 👍

Programming software

Programming is about creating programs that the computer can understand and execute. Apps, games, websites, robot controls, e-books, autopilots for planes and cars are all software that we can create by programming!

A program is written in the form of text. This text is written in a special language that a computer can understand. This is the so-called programming language. The text itself is called “program code” or simply “code”. Perhaps you've heard of Java, PHP, Python, C, C #, or Javascript. These are just a few of the many different programming languages ​​that are now available.

Here we would like to show you an example. The program below is a single statement in the Kotlin programming language. Start it at the top right with the green arrow key and see what happens!

import kotlin.browser.window fun main () {// sampleStart window.alert ("Hello World") // sampleEnd}

Next, here's a slightly more complicated example. Run it again to see what this program does.

import kotlin.browser.window fun main () {// sampleStart val name = window.prompt ("Please enter your name.") window.alert ("Hello" + name) // sampleEnd}

When you learn to program, you will learn how the programming language works. You will understand exactly how the code from above works and how you can write your own programs. With this knowledge, you can tell your computer anything! You can create new things from scratch. Whether games, apps or other programs - the imagination is (almost) the only limit 😀

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The programming language

Good, but why do we actually need these programming languages ​​now?
In all fairness, a computer is a relatively stupid device. He can usually only execute a handful of very basic commands: “Light a certain point on the display blue!”, “Save!”, “Calculate!”. However, these commands are so close to the base that it quickly becomes confusing to create more complex programs in them. In addition, the computer does not understand text but only binary sequences of numbers, i.e. combinations of 0 and 1. For example, 00100101 00000001 00000010 could mean for a certain computer that it should add the numbers 1 and 3 together.

In order not to go crazy as a programmer, high-level programming languages ​​were therefore invented. The program code, such as the Kotlin program above, is much more pleasant to write and easier to understand. Before it is executed, it is automatically translated into a combination of zeros and ones that the computer can understand. With it he can work and execute the commands immediately.

Many different programming languages ​​have been invented over the years. Some are only used for specific purposes. Other languages ​​emerged because programmers were not satisfied with the current programming languages ​​and wanted to write the code differently. As a beginner in programming, the selection of the programming language can quickly become a major hurdle and be overwhelming. After all, there are now far more than a thousand different ones! Here you can find our article on the topic of which programming language is used for what. We'll also explain in one of our next articles which programming languages ​​are particularly good for getting started.

So again in a nutshell: What is programming?
Programming means writing a software program as code that the computer can execute.

Could we arouse your interest in programming? Is everything more unclear now than before? Or was the one basic question you asked yourself about programming not answered? Write to us in the comments or contact us by email. We look forward to your feedback and questions. Codefuchs is there to accompany you on your way from beginner to programming professional right from the start.

Until next time!