An Introduction to Programming

An overview of the concept of programming and common programming languages

What is computer programming?

Computer Programming is the process of designing and writing a program that runs on a computer in order to achieve some result. This could be a program for basic addition, or a program to look up a word in a document, or a program to direct a robot’s movement, or even, an interactive program link what we call video games.

What is a programming language?

A computer can only be used if we can effectively talk to it. Programming languages allow us to write commands to a computer which are understandable by us, and then these commands are converted to machine language that allows the computer to actually understand the commands and act off of them. There are dozens of programming languages used in the industry today. Each language is typically used for certain types of programs. Some languages are specifically built for certain tasks (like HTML, PHP, or JS) while others are more general-purpose (like Python).

Examples of programming languages include:

  • Python: An open-source programming language used by software engineers and back-end Web developers. It is also well-suited for scientific applications. This is the language we will be learning in this course! At the end, we will help you learn to use the language for cool potential projects.
  • Java: A programming language prevalent in Web-based development. Still, it can be used for other purposes, including robotics. To learn to use Java for FTC Robotics, take our FTC Programming Course .
  • Ruby: Ruby is most used for building web applications. For web development, Ruby has the Ruby on Rails framework, which makes web-development with Ruby much better supported. Ruby is a general-purpose language, so it is also used for data analysis and prototyping.
  • HTML: HTML is a mark-up language. It is used to build the structure of web pages and integrate it with design (CSS and JS). If your interested, feel free to take a look at our Web Design Course.
  • PHP: Developers use PHP as an open-source language to build websites. Widely used platforms like WordPress work using PHP.
  • Swift: Swift is a programming language built and used by Apple and iOS developers to create and maintain iOS apps.
  • LabVIEW: LabVIEW is a visual programming language (block-programming) that is useful for controlling and testing industrial machinery. In addition, LabVIEW is used by some FRC teams. We will release documentation for FRC LabVIEW soon!

Programmers tend to prefer to use certain general-purpose languages for certain tasks because of the libraries associated with them. Libraries consist of pre-written code that can be used by developers to make programming in a language easier for a certain purpose. We will go into more detail on these later. This is why people say certain tasks suit certain languages better. This is why Java is preferred for web development and C++ is preferred for game development. Also, some languages are preferred for certain tasks because they are purpose-built for those tasks. For example, PHP is purpose-built for Web Development, and LabVIEW is purpose-built for industrial applications.