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how to code

Google Spreadsheet: The Gateway Drug of Programming

You might not know it, but if you have used Google Spreadsheet (or its much more powerful equivalent, Microsoft Office Excel), you have already programmed. And if you like using these products a lot, then you know you are hooked! It’s a sure way to find out if you are a nerd in hiding – if a pivot table makes you excited, you know you will come jonesing back for more.

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Tools Inside Tools: The Russian Dolls of Programming

Once you use a sufficient number of software applications, you will notice something new – or at least if you don’t notice it yourself at first, it’s worth being aware of it – that many applications contain other mini-applications within them. The easiest way to understand this is to dig a bit deeper into the one of the most popular software applications out there – the browser.

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To Learn to Code Is To Learn Many Tools

In the previous “installment” in this series, we looked at how searching on the Internet is a form of “programming.” With Internet searches, it’s not easy to see the tools you are manipulating – they are all computers that are in “the cloud” (more about that later.) If you are going to learn how to think like a programmer, you will eventually need to have a computer at home. But most of us do already and we have plenty of tools on it that we make ourselves familiar with everyday.

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Searching on the Internet IS Programming

Another way of thinking about programming is to consider a task that we all do, multiple times a day – using a computer, of course, but more specifically, by using the Internet. That task is searching for some information on the Internet.

Most of our searches for information tend to be on Google. But perhaps you might not notice that you are also searching on other sites, partly because “searching on the Internet” has become synonymous with the word “Googling.”

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Thinking Like a Programmer

It feels self-evident to say this, perhaps, but learning to be a programmer will mean understanding what it feels like to think like one. Everyone comes to this realization on their own, but eventually they do – there is something different to approaching the world using a “programmer,” or more generically, “an engineer’s” mindset, compared to how you might usually do things.

When asked, many programmers will say one or more of these things:

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Learn Programming

Programming involves talking to a computer. That’s why we call them programming languages, because that’s what we use when communicating with each other – languages.

The act of programming is learning the building blocks of a computer’s language, and usually it involves learning the building blocks of the languages of multiple computers. You won’t necessarily learn all these languages to the same level, but you will learn them to some extent.

Some languages are more intuitive for us to understand than others, and some area easier because we have gotten so used to them in our daily lives. Even when you are just turning a computer on, you are speaking to it in a specific language.

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