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How Computer Programming Works
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How Computer Programming Works.....$23.96 [Print]


Book Cover

Where do you live?

"Go down Hwy. 34 about three miles, take the Murphy's Law exit, turn right, then make a left just past the donut shop. It's the third house on the left."

When you give someone these directions, you have in essence created a "program" that they can use to get to your house. You are a programmer-even if you have never used a computer.

There are many myths about programming: that it is difficult and complex; that a programmer must be incredibly intelligent; that it takes years to learn. As with most myths, these do contain an element of truth. Some languages and systems are complex and demand substantial study to use effectively.

On the other hand, while one could spend a lifetime learning about cars, most people learn to drive in a few months. A professor of English literature can base an entire career on one literary movement or the works of a single author, yet any child can learn to read and write in a relatively short period of time. Likewise, programming does not require that you spend months and years learning particular programming languages or systems in order to grasp the fundamentals.

At a party with a friend a few years ago, I ran into an acquaintance who is also a programmer. We began to talk shop, and after a few moments my other friend drifted away. I later asked her why, and she explained that we had "stopped speaking English." Many of my friends have had similar experiences. Programmers often do speak a language seemingly all their own. You can even buy dictionaries of computer jargon; unfortunately, these books are usually not very effective. Like trying to learn a foreign language from a dictionary, just understanding the words is not enough to make one a programmer.

How Programming Works is not a dictionary of jargon. Nor does it try to teach you to program in a particular language. But by the time you have finished reading it, you will understand most of the concepts on which all computer programming and computer languages are based. When you actually start programming, whether in a high-level language or simply to program your microwave oven, you will know how to proceed-just as surely as you know that your microwave oven has a power level control somewhere, even if it takes a few minutes to find it and figure out how it works. After reading this book, when the conversation turns to computers and programming you will be able to follow it and participate-not because you have memorized lists of words, but because you will understand the ideas on which the conversation is based.

Perhaps you are already shaking your head in doubt at these promises. I can't blame you for being skeptical. All I ask is that you suspend your disbelief, at least for the first few chapters. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Programming skills are becoming more and more important. Even if you never write your own programs, today's computer applications are designed to be more programmable by you, the user. Most spreadsheets, word processors, and communications programs already contain built-in macro programming languages. Most modern video cassette recorders and high-end microwave ovens, as well as some games, are programmable.

If you are someone who finds computers (or even your VCR) frightening or intimidating, this book is for you. If you are a beginner and not sure where to begin, or you have been frustrated by other approaches, I think you will find some good direction here. Or perhaps you are a self-taught programmer who has never learned the fundamentals of the craft-here is your chance to find out what you've missed. And if you are a professional programmer, I hope you have as much fun reading this as I had writing it.

There's one more thing I'd like you to know before you start. It is perhaps the best-kept secret about computers and programming and is all too rarely mentioned: Programming is fun. Serious fun. I know many programmers who have privately admitted that they are lucky to have a programming job, because if they didn't, they would pay for the opportunity to do it instead of getting paid to program (but please don't tell their bosses!). One evening soon, you will start working on a project and suddenly realize that it is 3:00 a.m.-and you will know exactly what I mean.

Until then, remember one thing: You are already a programmer. This book is simply going to show you how to practice and apply skills that you already have.

If you have any comments about this book, I'd be delighted to hear from you. You can contact me via Desaware


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