5 Star Support
computer revolution has taken a firm hold on the world, and on the job
market. One of the easiest ways to break into a high-paying computer
career is by learning how to program. If you can learn some basic
skills, many companies will hire and train you -- companies always need
article will not teach you how to program; instead, we'll cover the
different programming languages that are most likely to help your career
and talk about the basics of how a simple program is created.
There are two basic types of program: interpreted scripts and compiled
A script is a program that takes the form of a simple text file. The
programs' instructions are executed from the top of the script to the
bottom, in order. The most basic scripting language is called, most
appropriately, BASIC. A BASIC script looks like this:
10 PRINT "Hello"
20 GOTO 10
This simple program would just print "Hello" over and over again on your
screen. Of course, you can make scripts that are much more complex and
powerful than that.
Scripting has made a comeback with the advent of the Internet. Many web
sites use scripting languages to provide personalized HTML pages to
their visitors. For instance, you'll notice that all of Help2Go's web
pages end with the extension ".php". This is because we at Help2Go use a
scripting language called PHP to create our web pages.
You've probably heard of some of the other scripting languages in use on
(Java Server Pages, and Perl. Watch the URLs of your favorite web pages
nowadays: chances are that they'll have an extension of .cfm, .asp, .php,
.jsp, or .pl .
After writing a script, you will need a program called an interpreter
that will analyze the script and execute the proper commands. A script
is nothing without its interpreter, but luckily, you can find an
interpreter program to work on almost any computer. For instance, if you
write a Perl script, you can execute that script on Windows, UNIX,
Macintosh, or Linux machines, as long as you have a Perl interpreter
installed on that machine.
For web-based scripts, the interpreter program is built into the web
server program. Every PHP script I write for this web site is
automatically interpreted by the web server that hosts Help2Go. Because
scripts are so portable from system to system, you can find myriad web
sites that offer scripts and examples to budding programmers for free
(check the See Also section at the end of this article).
This is the more traditional method of programming, the kind that
produces powerful Windows programs like Netscape Communicator or
Microsoft Word. You can choose to program in several different
languages, like C++, Pascal, Visual Basic, or Java. Here's how it works:
You create files called "source code", which are text files containing
the commands to execute. Source code is written using the programming
language you want to use. It is recommended that you write the source
code using a program called an IDE, or Integrated Development
Environment. An IDE can be a commercial program, such as Microsoft
Visual C++ or Borland Delphi, or it can be a free program such as
Eclipse or NetBeans. The IDE you use is often a result of the
programming language that you choose to learn.
Once you have finished the source code, you will need a program called a
compiler that will turn your code into a working program. The final
result is called an executable file, or compiled binary. The compiler,
and resulting executable file, is specific to a particular operating
system. If you are using Netscape in Windows right now, the executable
file you are running is called "netscape.exe" and will only work on a
For instance, if I write a program using C++, I will need to use a C++
compiler to turn it into a program. If I use a Windows-based compiler,
such as Borland's Turbo C++, my result will be a program that will only
work on Windows-based machines. If I use a Macintosh-based compiler,
then my program will only run on Macintoshes. This is a very important
point to remember -- and the reason that there is a separate Windows
version and a Macintosh version for most programs.
For learning's sake, you are best off learning how to code web pages
with HTML, and then moving on to web scripting languages such as PHP.
There are many free web sites devoted to teach HTML, so getting started
is easy. One of my favorites is HTML Goodies. Books on these subjects
are plentiful and invaluable.
If you are looking to invent a program to sell to the consumer
community, then your best bet is to start learning Visual Basic or
Visual C++. These Microsoft products will enable you to create binaries
that work only with Windows PCs, which is what the majority of consumers
use. While these programs are very expensive, it may be worth the cost
if you have a great idea that you want to develop into a program.
However, if you are just starting out with programming and are looking
to get a good paying job, then your best bet is to program using Java or
C++ in Linux. Linux offers a free compilers called gcc (for C++) and
many free IDEs. While your programs won't be used by the general public,
the Linux programming community will be very helpful to get you started
and on your way. Most Linux programs are open-source, which means that
you can actually look at the source code of commercial products and
modify it if you wish. This is the best way to learn. Unfortunately,
most Windows products are NOT open-source, so you'll be on your own if
you choose the Windows way.
What about Esperanto?
What's the best language? Not an easy question -- ask 100 people and you
may get 100 answers. I prefer web-based scripting, which is why most of
my programs are written in Cold Fusion or PHP. If you want to make quick
and easy Windows programs, Visual Basic is the way to go. For complex
Windows programs, choose Visual C++.
Most hard-core programmers use C++ or Java. Java has created a large
following in the past two years, and it is a very valuable language to
know. If I were starting out as a programmer, learning a few scripting
languages (such as PHP) would be my first step, followed by Java and
The best books on programming are the ones published by O'Reilly. Search
for O'Reilly at your favorite bookstore and you can't go wrong (they're
the books with the strange animals on the cover).
Millions of jobs are waiting, unfilled, for skilled programmers. With
time and effort, anybody can learn these skills. Try to learn the latest
and greatest technology -- it's a great way to "catch-up" to those who
may have more experience than you. As those old Cisco commercials would
say, "Are you ready?"