Thursday, 9 August 2012

How to start programming for beginners

images I previously made a tutorial about how to make an iPad eBook, but, I received several comments saying that those tutorials are a little too difficult for someone who doesn't have any previous experience; so I decided to start from scratch and make a tutorial for really really beginners.

In other words, if you already programmed then this tutorial is not for you. On the other hand if you don't have any idea but you have a passion and you are willing to study and practice then this is for you.

I used to teach basic computer skills in the 90's and frequently found people who never ever touched a keyboard, so I designed ways to explain programming using some examples and analogies. At that time I used to ask this: What is a programmer? Do you have a washing machine at home? If so then you are a programmer already! Let me explain. A program is a series of steps that a computer has to follow. In this case a washing machine follows a series of steps such as, wash, rinse, etc. If you can see this then you are almost there.

Now you say that's really easy to see but how do I make a game such as Plants Vs Zombies? Whoa, hold on there! You need to start small and gradually get into more complex things. Think about this, what you see on your monitor is just a dot of light. Or should I say millions of them. That's all. You just interact with them via several different ways such as: keyboard, mouse, finger, etc. Those points of light on your screen are called pixels. Order them and you get an image. Presto. Then you can tell the computer to move that image. Or perhaps rotate it, or detect if it collided with another image. You see we start building the concepts little by little.

And this now looks more like an introduction to a book, and who knows maybe in the future it will be. For now let’s just get started.

So, we need to know how are we going to tell the computer what steps she needs to follow. But wait, is there a dial similar to a washing machine one? Nah. If there was one then computers would be very limited. So instead of a dial we have a keyboard. With it we can enter instructions. A set of instructions becomes a program. Easy right?. And a set of programs becomes an application, such as Word or Excell.

What we really need to do now is learn the language the computer uses;  what kind of structures we need, what kind of things or commands the computer is capable to perform. For instance, we would like to display a word or a sentence on the screen. How do we tell the computer to do that?  This kinds of things we will learn in these tutorials.

So for this first one I will tell you that we are going to learn a language called LUA. And for now that’s all you need to know about it.

To get ready for the next tutorial I want you to grab a notebook (a paper one), a pencil and eraser, that’s all. We need to write down some information before we proceed with the actual programming. Later you’ll have a summary of the commands that you can use.

See you next week!

AdrianEraldo

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