On Programming

Hi all,

– it’s back to school and college time again now.  It doesn’t be long coming around 🙂

The weather of course regularly settles at this time of the year.

Everyone’s attention turns to education of some form or other whether it be back to school, college or night classes. Woolly jumpers, hearty stews, battles with colds and flues are all ahead of us now 🙂

Programming sometimes strikes fear into hearts of the most hardy of us.  I often wonder why this is?  I think it is that we have to learn to think differently, in that we have to “think like a programmer”.  This doesn’t come naturally to all of us but by taking a step by step approach it can be learned.

The key to solving any problem is to break it down into smaller more manageable pieces.  I’m reminded of the old adage “How do you eat an elephant?” – bit by bit. Think of any real world action that you take say for example making coffee.  This task can be broken down into a set of steps.  A true test of these steps is whether they can be followed by a complete stranger accurately.


When we program we give the computer a set of instructions to follow. Our logic has to be correct.  Usually when learning to program “pseudocode” is used.  This is English that is very compact, clear and very concise. It isn’t a coding language.

Pseudocode helps us to break down larger problems into smaller steps.  It can get us on the road to “thinking like a programmer”.

From pseudocode then we move to the basics of the language, say, Java.  The convention is for the first program written to be a “Hello World!” program. (This is a program that simply prints the message “Hello World!” to the screen.  It is usually used to test that the programming environment we are working in is functioning correctly.)

The programming environment is the application you are using to run your code e.g. BlueJ, Processing or Eclipse to name but a few. It is vitally important then that you program regularly and become competent with solving problems that may arise as you write your code.  The key to programming is to try things out, make mistakes and learn from them.  The mistakes we make can be looked upon as “discoveries”!!

Keep up with what is going on in the lectures and put the theory into practise then in the practical classes. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – if you are not sure of something neither are others.


So, whether you are embarking on learning a programming language yourself or learning it in school or college try to approach it with a sense of enthusiasm and willingness to learn.  You may even surprise yourself!!

Best of luck to you all.