Oct 25th 2018

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Computer Languages: A Guide For Students to Choose

Guest post written by Jennifer Sanders.

pexels-photo-1181298

 

We all know that in-demand talents in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, collectively known as STEM, are becoming more and more popular over time. Listings online, of vacant positions in software, have been growing almost exponentially.

With that information, it is understandable that anyone would like to learn to code in order to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity. The problem is that there are so many languages available out there, that the sheer number can be overwhelming. Like so many others you’ve probably faced the dilemma of where to start, and are wondering how to go about it. Hopefully, you’ll get some important pointers in this article to help you on your journey.

Programming Languages

To be sure, there are hundreds of programming languages out there. However, they mainly fall into two categories. Once you understand these categories, it will be much easier to pick what works for you.

Dynamic Programming Languages

These are the easiest languages to learn for beginners as they’re highly flexible and the learning process is lots of fun. You can build with less code and you can build things from scratch without having to go through too much hustle. There also aren’t too many rules about how to write this code. You have the flexibility to put it all together however you want as long as the end result works. Dynamic languages are typically higher level languages where more of your time is spent mastering basic programming concepts than focusing on the little details. Below are some examples of dynamic programming languages:

  • JavaScript – It’s fairly common for beginners to confuse JavaScript with Java. However, the two aren’t related. JavaScript is a scripting language used to build the front end of websites. It works with all browsers and, through libraries like jQuery and frameworks like React.js and Angular.js, is used to build interactive web apps. With recent developments, it has also become possible to use JavaScript to build things on the server-side through Node.js, a special runtime environment. While the Node.js community is still young, it is growing rapidly and is full of resources. New developments like Facebook’s React Native also allow you to build native apps for smartphones using JavaScript. The greatest disadvantage with JavaScript is the difficulty in debugging it due to its untyped nature. Due to this, typed versions of JavaScript have been developed, such as TypeScript and JSX.
  • Python – This is a very popular language and is highly recommended for beginners. In fact, it is the most popular introductory programming language that is learned at universities in the US. It has a wide variety of applications, including web apps, desktop apps, cryptocurrency mining, data analysis, bioinformatics, ethical hacking, and scientific computing, among others. Some popular apps and services have been built using python, including Google, Dropbox, Pinterest, Reddit, Instagram, Civilization IV, and YouTube, among others.
  • Ruby – The main aim of Ruby is for developers to be productive and have fun at the same time. The Ruby on Rails framework is by far the most popular implementation of the Ruby language. The language reads just like English and is highly recommended as a first programming language. It’s a popular language for backend development and has been used to build some popular sites like Slideshare, Hulu, Bloomberg, Shopify, and Airbnb.
  • PHP – PHP is a scripting language commonly used on the server-side. It is commonly considered friendly for beginners because it is so easy to conceptualize how the code gets executed and so it’s easy to build stuff with it. This language is heavily specialized for building websites and so a lot of popular websites have been built using PHP, including Facebook, WordPress, Yahoo!, Wikipedia and Tumblr.

Statically Typed Programming Languages

Statically typed programming languages are known for having the capability to build the most scalable applications. They also tend to be very robust and make the applications easy to maintain. These languages have very strict rules about the writing and are strict with errors, thus making it easier to catch them quickly and early on in the process. One of the downsides of statically typed programming languages is that, because of all their rules, it typically takes a lot more lines of code to build something. Consequently, they are not the best languages for prototyping. They are commonly used to build enterprise back-ends, robust mobile applications, and game engines. Below are some examples of these languages:

  • Java – Java is one of the most ubiquitous statically typed languages and is used as a general purpose language. It works with the Java Virtual Machine and is used to build just about anything, from games to desktop apps, to embedded apps for devices. Billions of devices around the world actually run on Java and 90% of Fortune 500 companies use Java for their enterprise level back-end development. It’s also used for big data storage and processing through the framework Hadoop, which is implemented by companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Yahoo!.
  • C – This programming language is one of the older ones and is primarily used today to develop operating systems and program system software. It has influenced the development of just about every modern programming language, especially C++ and Objective-C. If you master C and its principles, it will be much easier for you to learn any other programming language. It takes a lot of lines of code to do anything in C, and the code is typically more complex, even for the simplest of tasks. As a result, beginners may find it difficult to learn. However, learning it and mastering it will undoubtedly make you a first-rate programmer.
  • C++ – C++ is based on C and is a very powerful language. It was originally designed to add higher level programming capabilities to C while maintaining its lower level capabilities. It can be used for just about anything, including web apps, mobile apps, desktop apps, games and game engines, and also general programming system software. It is very powerful and very fast, and has been used to build many softwares, including Amazon, Chrome, PayPal, and a lot more.
  • C# – This language was developed for use with Microsoft’s .NET framework and mainly runs on the Windows operating system. It is used to develop websites, games, and applications in the Microsoft ecosystem.

 

SQL
SQL stands for Structured Query Language and is colloquially referred to as “Sequel”. This isn’t a traditional programming language but is instead used for communicating with databases. You can’t use it to build applications but you can use it to manage app data for apps that use relational database management systems.

HTML
HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. This isn’t a programming language but is instead a markup language used to build webpages. It basically helps you tell the browser where to place website elements like headers, paragraphs, and so on.

CSS
Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS, is the language used to change and enhance the appearance of a webpage. It is very powerful and can be used to do a lot of things, ranging from changing the colors in a website to creating animations.

Where to begin
There are plenty of resources online where you can begin to learn programming. Programming languages themselves are free and can be downloaded from the respective websites. As for online courses, they are a mix of free courses on sites like EssayGeeks.co.uk, and paid courses elsewhere. The best way to start is with a Google search of “programming beginner courses”. You will be overwhelmed by the number of resources available. Before you get there, however, make sure you have a genuine interest in learning programming, research the languages that you like and find out if they are good for what you want to do, and then look for online courses where you can learn them. Keep your head down, trust the learning process, and you’ll get out the other side a fully-fledged programmer.

About author: Jennifer Sanders is a writer and an editor from London. She loves sport,  listening to music, and to communicate with different people.
Find Jennifer on Twitter.

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