What is Programming?

By | May 28, 2020
What is Programming

Programming is the sophisticated practice of creating software by means of one or many programming languages and other technologies and tools.

It is an intricate, demanding process that involves a number of sub-processes to reach its end goal, which is, to create a performant and useful piece of software.

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Today, learning programming is not a difficult task. Thanks to the advent of programming languages like Python, anyone can get started with programming easily.

Despite being central to computer science, it isn’t just confined to information technology and its sister branches. It is a multifaceted discipline that has spawned out to numerous industries, ranging from manufacturing and logistics to space research and aviation.

Programming Paradigms

A programming paradigm is an underlying model that imparts a programming language its characteristics. Consider it as a blueprint for building a programming language. Different programming languages follow different programming paradigms.

While some programming languages follow some particular programming paradigm, others benefit from a combination of various programming paradigms. Following are some of the several paradigms:

  • Agent-oriented
  • Concurrent
  • Data-driven
  • Declarative
  • Event-driven
  • Functional (Major)
  • Generic
  • Imperative (Major)
  • Logical (Major)
  • Modular
  • Object-oriented (Major)
  • Prototype-based
  • Stack-oriented
  • Structured

Programming paradigms listed as (Major) are the most widely-used ones.

Popular Programming Languages

New programming languages pop up every now and then. While some succeed in attracting attention, others fall into oblivion. In no way, the following list is a complete list of all the popular programming languages, but will give you some good idea:

  • Go (a.k.a. Golang) – The brainchild of Google. Similar to C in terms of performance but adds CSP-style concurrency, garbage collection, memory safety, and structural typing.
  • Java – The one responsible for giving the JVM (Java Virtual Machine) to the world and popularizing the notion of platform-independence.
  • JavaScript – The popular programming language of the web.
  • Julia – A high-level, performant, dynamic programming language. Although a general-purpose programming language, it has gained traction for high-performance computational science and numerical analysis.
  • Perl (and Raku) – The general-purpose programming language that was originally developed for text manipulation but is now used for a range of tasks, varying from GUI development and system administration to network programming and web development.
  • PHP – The programming language backing a vast majority of the websites.
  • Python – The immensely popular programming language for data science, machine learning, AI, and deep learning.
  • R – The programming language that the world is going gaga over for computational programming and data science.
  • Scala – Based on the functional programming paradigm, it is a JVM-based programming language that specializes in offering tools required for conveniently scaling programs.
  • The C family; C, C++, C# – Needs no introduction. Probably the starting point for a vast majority of programmers. Easily among the most popular and most widely-used programming languages in the world.

The Anatomy of a Programming Language

Any programming language has 5 core components. These are:

  • Syntax

The syntax of a programming language defines the meaning of the various symbols pertaining to it. It is the set of rules that govern the what and how of any programming language. The syntax determines the way in which a programming language makes sense out of some code.

Learning the syntax of a programming language is far easier as compared to understanding the internal working of the same. Wrapping one’s head around a programming language’s syntax might take only a few days while learning how the language works take much more time.

  • Variables

Programming languages store values at specific memory locations. The medium that fills the gap between the values to be stored and the actual memory locations is variables. A variable is a data item that is used in almost all computer programs.

The value of variables is subjected to change multiple times during the execution of a computer program. Variables are of several types, known as data types, such as character, integer, and boolean.

  • Data Structures

Data structures determine the particular manner in which data is stored and organized efficiently in a programming language. Arrays, graphs, linked lists, and trees are instances of data structures.

  • Looping and Control Structures

A computer program is a set of instructions. To control the flow of a computer program i.e. in what sequence do the instructions carry out is determined by using looping and control structures.

A control or loop structure starts its operation by analyzing the variables that are fed to it. The course of action is determined by the nature and/or value of the variables.

  • Tools

Although not an inherent part of programming languages, tools are essential for productively using programming languages in modern times.

A programming tool can be anything that improves, appends, quickens, or anything else to improve the computer program or its development.

Any programming language has a wide range of tool base that is only meant to grow, provided the programming language stays relevant. To understand these tools better, we can categorize them into several types. Notable types of programming tools are:

  • IDEs (Integrated Development Environment) – These are software applications that offer a comprehensive range of features for facilitating software development. Examples of IDEs are BlueJ, Eclipse, Komodo IDE, and Visual Studio.
  • Software Frameworks – Also known simply as frameworks, these programming tools serve as convenient platforms for software development. Unlike IDEs, these are a set of libraries and best practices. For instance, Flask is a micro web framework written in Python. Ruby on Rails is a server-side web application framework written in Ruby.
  • Code Editors – These help in quickly editing code. Notepad++, Sublime Text, and Visual Studio Code are examples of popular code editors.
  • Libraries, Packages, and Toolkits – A set of predefined functions/methods for particular use cases. Scikit-learn and DOJO toolkit are two relevant instances. While the former is an ML library for Python, the latter is an open-source toolkit for rapidly developing cross-platform, Ajax-based JS websites.

Programming vs. Coding

Usually, programming and coding are interchangeable terms. This, however, is not factually correct. While coding is the specific practice of writing code, programming has a much wider definition. It isn’t limited just to writing code.

Programming is an umbrella term for everything ranging from brainstorming ideas for implementing and writing code to testing and maintenance of a computer program. As such, coding is a subset of programming.

Conclusion

Programming is one of the most lucrative career options in the modern world. It, however, demands dedication, passion, perseverance, and much more.

A programmer needs to stay abreast of all, or most, of the latest happenings and developments of the programming world, learn continually, and practice a lot.

It’s true that no one can become a super programmer in a single day, or, in fact, in a year or so. To develop an architect-level mastery over programming, years and years of unbending will is required. If you have what it takes to be a programmer, better get started today!

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