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Old 03-24-2006, 12:30 AM   #1 (permalink)
Location: Round Rock, Tx
Some questions

I really want to learn a programming language, but I don't know what I need to do. How did ya'll learn it? What language would be MOST useful to know? What do I need to do to learn it?
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Old 03-24-2006, 12:31 AM   #2 (permalink)
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most useful????

it depends on what your needs are.

If you are coding a web page, well there are a number of choices that aren't going to be the same as if you need a database...

Kind of like knowing if you need a car or a truck for transportation... it all depends on what you are going to do with it.
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Old 03-24-2006, 02:13 PM   #3 (permalink)
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As I first language to learn to program, I think that java would be a good choice. It is reasonably easy to learn, avoids a lot of the messy stuff that is present in say C++, but is still broad enough to allow you to use and learn most of the necessary concepts in programming and object oriented design.

The easiest way to get started is to pick up a book from the library/book shop - one with lots of worked examples, and work your way through the book from start to finish. After that, come up with some program to make - doesn't have to be original, or even useful, just something that you think might be fun to do. Then go do it!
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Old 03-27-2006, 12:37 AM   #4 (permalink)
Python's a pretty good language to start off with too. But as Cyn said, the usefulness depends on your needs.
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Old 03-27-2006, 06:20 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Yeah, this question is almost impossible to answer.

Is a screwdriver more useful than a hammer? Sort of depends on the task at hand, no?

In terms of pure LEARNING--in the abstract, for the purpose of learning programming concepts? I guess C is good for logic, though you have to deal with bitwise operations that are archaic. Perl would be a good compromise there. Java is a good place to start to learn Object Oriented programming, though that's a lot to bite off if you've never even seen a for-next loop.
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Old 03-27-2006, 07:12 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I'd say BASIC - it's where most programmers start out after all. It's straight-forward, fairly intelligable, and it does a good job of introducing prcedural concepts like loops, functions, arrays, variable data types etc. Plus there are probably plenty of BASIC interpreters already installed on your machine right now - so you'd probably be able to start off straight away.
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Old 03-27-2006, 11:57 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Location: Waterloo, Ontario
I think Pascal is a better statically typed procedural language to learn than even BASIC, especially with excellent text books like Oh Pascal! which, despite its name, teaches general programming and good practices.

Also, if you're willing to learn a scripting language like Python, I would recommend considering Ruby, instead. It is just as powerful and more consistent, which may help the learning curve. I'm a little reticent to recommend learning an object oriented language straight off the bat but it's far from impossible. Especially since such scripting languages (whether it be Ruby, Python, or PERL) are immediately useful, which can help motivate new programmers to practice and push themselves to learn more as their scripts/programs become more powerful and useful...
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Old 03-27-2006, 12:16 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Like others said, it totally depends on what you want to do. If you want to get into enterprise or serious object oriented programming, Java is a good starting point. Web programming, PHP is easy to learn (though also easy to learn sloppy habits for, so pay attention). I'd advise against something like C for a first language; Perl is also probably a bit too open for a first language.
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Old 03-27-2006, 08:06 PM   #9 (permalink)
Location: here and there
if you are interested in web programming and object oriented programming, don't forget about ruby.

and if you are intersted in web programming, you would probably want to learn some sql as well.
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Old 03-30-2006, 10:28 AM   #10 (permalink)
If you want the greatest chance of being a good programmer do not program java before c/c++. Doing so will give you a major handicap as you will want to do everything javastyle and you will probably have a very difficult time understanding pointers. People who learn java as a starting language don't seem to be as compentent on average as those who learn c/c++. Also your first language will probably be your best language so think about where you want to get a job and what languages they like. Just don't start with java!
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Old 03-31-2006, 09:35 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Is there a good reason why Delphi is so ignored these days?
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Old 04-04-2006, 03:57 PM   #12 (permalink)
Originally Posted by flat5
Is there a good reason why Delphi is so ignored these days?
I'd like to know the same thing...

(I'm a delphi programmer)
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Old 04-04-2006, 07:39 PM   #13 (permalink)
If you want to push around some text, do mathematical calculations, create spreadsheets on the fly from raw data, populate database (ie, access) fields, you can't go wrong with Perl. It's really easy to learn, and will help you understand programming logic. Also, it's free to download (as long as you don't make profits from your work, then there's a fee to use Perl.) And there's a TON of good tutorials and help files on the net, as well as thousands of usenet topics about specific problems you may encounter and how to solve them.

Really, any simple language is a good place to start. I cut my teeth on Atari BASIC, then picked up some Pascal, went on to QBASIC, and lastly I've been using Perl for the last few years. It's good enough for the things I need, although you'll never write a hit game with it.

The key thing is to grasp the concepts, the logic you need to talk to the computer. After you have that, any language is pretty much a matter of syntax.
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Old 04-04-2006, 07:47 PM   #14 (permalink)
Location: here and there
I love perl, I think it is a great language and the one i turn to most often for 'quick and dirty' projects (especially involving text manipulation). But I don't really think it is all that great a first language. Much like PHP, it is too easy to write really bad code with it.
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Old 04-07-2006, 06:39 PM   #15 (permalink)
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Yep. I conditionally second that.

Pascal is great for teaching style in my view - but is there much pascal around these days? Still, I think there's a few free pascal tools on the net.
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Old 04-08-2006, 04:27 AM   #16 (permalink)
Location: San Francisco
Originally Posted by Nimetic
Yep. I conditionally second that.

Pascal is great for teaching style in my view - but is there much pascal around these days? Still, I think there's a few free pascal tools on the net.
I think thats exactly the problem with Delphi. Pascal is pretty much dead, and neither it nor Delphi is very sexy. C or C++ took over as the standard anywhere Pascal or Delphi were or could have been, and .NET and C# are finishing off any advantage they still had. In summary, Delphi is ignored because it's not C++ or C#. Also, Microsoft probably wants it ignored and with any position of Microsoft you can rest assured there will be a huge contingent of "developers, developers, developers" who will follow, either by choice or by being told to do so by management.
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