RE: Learning to code on the cheap

Subject: RE: Learning to code on the cheap
From: Chris <cud -at- telecable -dot- es>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 17 Jul 2003 11:14:47 +0200

One good approach for super-beginner level is to start with JavaScript. You get your basics of control flow (loops), functions, and variables. Nothing scary. The dev environment is free, and it's easy to learn. You can make some decent fireworks. But I assume you're beyond that level. That's how I teach kids to program.

If you're really interested in compiled programming, and moving beyond scripts, and aren't interested in VisualBasic (too expensive, or not related to what you need), I suggest Java for three reasons. In the first place, Java and C++ concepts are quite similar at a certain level - the knowledge transfers fairly well. Second, you won't get bogged down with memory errors that "mysteriously" crash - Java simplifies that whole area. Third, as already pointed out, free tools. But Java might not be where your company is going.

For me the biggest barrier to programming was learning the programming environments. They're like overkill word processers... Once you get one, you hate to learn another because you suffered so much for the first one. There's also a learning curve in knowing what pieces of the language core libraries to include, what they mean, etc. And how to build and include your own... Project management and modularization at some level. All this is probably as daunting (if not more) as the fundamental logic of your code. And if you're talking about C++ that uses the Windows user interface (MFC, Win API), you're entering into another realm of complexity that has to do with application frameworks and APIs - Java does that with Swing, I think. It's where you become a specialist, and can start working with the grownups. At some level you may need to know this stuff if you're expected to use code as your basis for documents. You need to at least recognize it when you see it, and know where to look for the meaningful stuff. But all this is specialized - it depends on your OS, dev environment, and language. I have relied heavily on "Inside Visual C++" by Kruglinski, but it's way out of date already (for VC++ 5.0). It got me into MFC and COM - important for what I do.

I'm rambling... At some level you will need to choose a language, environment, and purpose to guide you to a deeper understanding of one small area of a vast domain. Where is your company going? Head in that direction. What programming tools do your developers use? Learn them - even if you have to buy them. Buy a developer dinner, and get a hands-on tutorial in project setup. (Spend another dinner on learning their version management system.) That plus a basic understand of the language's paradigm, plus the language docs (reference/tutorial), and you're on your way.
Chris Despopoulos, maker of CudSpan Freeware...
Plugins to Enhance FrameMaker & FrameMaker+SGML
cud -at- telecable -dot- es


sourcing tool for FrameMaker that lets you easily publish your content
online. No macro language required!

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