I want to learn how to program. Where should I start?



  • Programming interests me. The problem I have is that generally speaking I have not been a very motivated individual. This lack of motivation is not limited to learning how to program, but not learning how to program is one little regret that tends to pop up and gnaw at me quite frequently. I'm going to try to turn over a new leaf and become a motivated individual who will achieve my goals and I was wondering if anybody around these parts had some advice about where to start when it comes to programming.

    Now I currently am feeling very motivated to do this, though I must admit that I am a bit discouraged by my past failures. I also tend to feel that I'm way behind the curve here. I'm 22 years old right now with what feels like no experience and I have the feeling that anybody wanting to be a (good) programmer usually starts in the womb. I basically hear of people that have been programming in assembly since the age of 10 and feel like I'll never catch up. I just realized that this is starting to sound like some sort of pitiful sob story. Though I've decided to leave all of the "pity me" crap in because this request is not only for advice but also for encouragement. I'm secretly hoping that somebody will say, "It's not too late to start, and if you want to do this then you should. (And here's how...)" (also, I suppose it's not much of a secret if I just put it there)

    There is a bit of emphasis here on teaching myself because the short
    stint that I had in college resulted in me failing a lot of classes and
    wasting a lot of my money. The major reason for my failures was a lack of motivation and outright laziness. As I said before, I am trying to get a fresh start, but I'm not so naive that I think I'll get it on my first try and just all of a sudden be this motivated person who's going to follow through. So I'd like to do as much of this learning on my own without spending a lot of money. (At least not the kind of money that tuition requires) Hopefully that way, if I fail the first time, I'll still have the resources at hand to pick it back up later.

    I do have a small amount of experience when it comes to programming. It is, however, a very small amount of experience.

    In high school I would spend most of my math classes writing programs
    on my TI-83+ calculator in its version of BASIC. (At least that seems
    to be the closest think that I can compare it to) These weren't very
    complicated programs, mostly dedicated to rolling dice or guessing a
    number or watching some character bounce around the screen. Straight
    out of high school I attended a community college where I took a few
    programming classes. I've forgotten most of what I learned in those
    classes but I think I could pick back up where I left off with a little
    bit of refresher. The languages I studied were Java and C++. I also
    have a very basic knowledge of HTML. It might be easier to just assume
    that I have no experience programming at all because at this point
    starting from scratch seems like it might be one of my best options. 

     So, long story short: What/where is a good place to start if I want to teach myself how to be a good programmer?



  • It depends what program you want to write.



  • It depends what program you want to write.

    Good one. Meaningless examples teach you about syntax, but learning to program means to learn to program something. Thing is that as a novice you may not have a decent a idea of the things you want to make that fit your skill level. So at first it's going to be a lot of futzing about and getting basic errors you cant fix.

    @MrKltpzyxm said:

    What/where is a good place to start if I want to teach myself how to be a good programmer?

    Step 0 is to try and be any sort of programmer. 

    The language with the lowest entry barrier and is actually useful would be Javascript. Hit up an empty HTML page template, pop a script tag in the body, and start typing. Use Firefox or Opera, because they have good error messages, as opposed to the crap messages IE gives you.

    Have a quick look at these (but don't rely on them for Good Javascript), and start reading this dude (my very first javascript came from him).

    And remember that's not all there is to it. A year from now you will still be a noob programmer, much like it is with any craft or skill. :)



  • If you're worried about keeping up the motivation, you need a medium-term goal. Something that can be realistically achieved by a novice programmer in the language environment of choice with a reasonable effort and which would be useful or or satisfying enough to motivate you. You'll be fighting against your incomplete understanding of the programming language and environment a lot at first, which can be frustrating. Teaching languages and problems are designed to minimize this, but solving them is probably not enough of an achievement to keep you motivated.  



  • Programming itself is surprisingly easy. You just throw a few statements together and something happens. Good programming, on the other hand, is not so easy. There are plenty of pitfalls and bear traps that will catch you, no matter how careful you are.

    The best advice I can personally offer is:

    If you're starting out, avoid Object Oriented Programming.
    There's a lot of wacko stuff that hurts the brains of even experienced people in OOP. You want to start small and simple. So pick a small and simple procedural language. You've already been burned by Java and C++, so go for something like classic C; it's a very compact language with little to distract you from just getting on with the job. If you can understand the for loop syntax, you've already mastered the most difficult part (aside from pointers - don't even think about touching pointers at this stage). Do a few simple console applications - avoid GUI work. Add and multiply some numbers, build from there. The best thing about this approach is that a lot of other languages share the C syntax, so it's good groundwork.

    Accept that you're going to make mistakes.
    It's a bit of a cliche that any non-trivial program contains bugs, but it's totally true. Once you graduate beyond "Hello World" you will make mistakes. Don't let them put you off, knuckle down, put the work into understanding why you made the mistake, understanding what you have to do to avoid it.

    Don't overreach
    You wouldn't expect to go straight from flying a kite to flying a Boeing 747, so don't expect to go straight from "Hello World" to - say - a Desktop Search app. You need to know what your limits are, and push them gently. Otherwise you might end up spending 9 years on something that doesn't even work.

    Read the documentation
    It's there to help you. Don't go into using any API or framework without the documentation to hand. Put the effort into understanding the examples. Read a lot of other people's code, see how they do things, understand what's happening.

    Pick your second language carefully
    You'll learn nothing if you only know languages that do the same thing in the same way but with different syntax. By the time you have a good enough grasp of your first language, you'll have hopefully seen and read enough to be able to make a decision on a second language that's sufficiently different enough to broaden your knowledge.

    If all of this sounds like an unsexy tedious grind, that's because it is - you need to do the basic ground work before you even attempt anything fancy. It's like playing guitar, where you need to put in the effort of practising chords and scales (don't let punk rock fool you, those people were far more technically accomplished than legend would have it).



  • While you're learning how to program, don't forget to read this site to learn how [b]not[/b] to program.



  • Assuming you have the math and logic skills, the effort involved in learning programming is equivalent to learning a foreign language.  You wouldn't expect to speak French next week except for a few phrases.  After 6 months or a year, you have some basic competence.  2 or 3 years and you have some confidence.  After 5 or 10 years you are an expert.

     


     



  • @mfah said:

    If you're starting out, avoid Object Oriented Programming.

    There's a lot of wacko stuff that hurts the brains of even experienced people in OOP. You want to start small and simple. So pick a small and simple procedural language. You've already been burned by Java and C++, so go for something like classic C; it's a very compact language with little to distract you from just getting on with the job. If you can understand the for loop syntax, you've already mastered the most difficult part (aside from pointers - don't even think about touching pointers at this stage).

     

    uh..... no.  C is not a simple language.  I might suggest scheme to start with.  It actually is a simple language, and far more powerful than C.  

     

    I would also try and stick with strongly typed languages.  This means avoid javascript, perl, ruby (although if you want to try one of these, try this one probably). 

    also you should avoid learning VB like the plague.  And for the love of god, use an IDE.  I hate people hat suggest new programmers use textpad or something similar.  Use an IDE, and use it consistently so that you learn how to use it.  I might suggest Eclipse for all the static, OO languages (and C),  Komodo for all the dynamic languages (Perl, Ruby, PHP (PS, never learn PHP either)).  If you are going to start with Scheme, Dr. Scheme is the standard and is good.



  • @tster said:

    And for the love of god, use an IDE.  I hate people hat suggest new programmers use textpad or something similar.  Use an IDE, and use it consistently so that you learn how to use it.

    And I hate people who suggest using an IDE to total beginners. An IDE can be very convenient and save you a lot of time, true. But if you never learn how to use a language "manually", you will be utterly and completely lost when there's a problem or challenge that the IDE's makers did not foresee. Or if they want to do something like automatize a complex build process (which can save you even more time than an IDE). 

    A novice programmer most definitely should work with basic tools (editor and compiler/interpreter) for a time (a few days at least) until he understands how they work.



  • @tster said:

    also you should avoid learning VB like the plague.

    @tster said:

    never learn PHP either

    And I hate people who make such statements. It's not even funny anymore.

    And C [i]is[/i] simple, why not?



  • There are people who started in assembly at 10? Drat, I'm a year behind!

    Anyway, if I were to be teaching someone, I'd start with a decent, popular OO language. Probably Java, C#, or VB.NET (to be honest, probably because they're what I use) and follow something like this general plan 

    1. Synax - get your basics right. No point going anywhere until you know your language's loop types, variable usage/types, etc. Use a language reference here.
    2. There are loads of mini-apps like calculators, Conway's game of life, etc. Apply what you learned in (1) to do some of these.
    3. Object, object, objects. From making the most of those giant frameworks you'll be working with tomaking your own, unless you're writing drivers and kernels in C/assembly this is the most important part of most of what you'll be doing in a decent-sized application in a high level language. Generally it underlines your architecture, defines code reuse, encapsulation, and turns a giant 10,000 procedural mess into (hopefully) a well structured maintainable thing of beauty.
    4. Go back to what you made in (2), laugh at it, post a few of the best bits here, and redo it properly with what you learnt in (2) in mind.
    5. Databases. Especially in business, most apps are just a way of handling data, be it in a text file or SQL server. Learn the basics of SQL, and how to use it from your language of choice.
    6. Pick something like a basic POS system for a shop. e.g. write a basic system to manage stock coming in and going out. Hey, you finally have something useful!
    7. Redesign the app from (6) to be multi-user, based on a client/server design. This will introduce you to the joys of networking, and concurrency issues inherent in any multi-user system.
    As in some of the above posts, some will tell you to use an IDE, others will tell you to use just a text editor and compiler. I'm in the "IDE" camp, especially when it comes to somebody with self-confessed motivation issues. Nothing's more likely to turn you off than 6 hours tracking down a stupid typo or finding the correct way to call a function, when a decent IDE will point out the obvious to you and get you going again.



  •  I would NOT worry about being behind the curve. The most important attribute of a career programmer is their ability and eagerness to learn new things at any time and employ their new skills.

     I'll post my email to a pre-college student who asked me the same question:

     

     

    1) How should I start programming?

    If you're eager to dive in before you actually start programming classes,
    I'd recommend the following things:

    a) Install linux. If you don't have multiple machines or you don't want to
    overwrite your Windows install, you can set it up to dual-boot, giving you a
    choice on boot of which OS to load. Linux has a number of line-oriented
    text-based editing tools that you can invoke from the command line that can
    make your programming life easier(e.g. grep, sed, cat). It will also put you
    closer to the machine in some fundamental ways while programming. If you're
    new to Linux, get Ubuntu. It's a nice distro that's pretty friendly to
    starters. If you need it, a book that teaches linux would be good.

    b) Start learning the basics of C++. C++ is a superset of C, meaning it does
    everything C does and more. It's fine to start with, because you'll be
    learning the exact same things whether you start with C or C++. With linux,
    you can compile from the command line with gcc (if this doesn't work try
    g++), the standard GNU C/C++ compiler. A good C++ book is "C++ Primer Plus"
    by Stephen Prata. It is both a great learning book and a great reference
    book. Use simple text editors to write your code. Avoid IDEs until you
    understand what they do for you.

    c) As you learn the basic concepts such as variables, loops, expressions,
    and functions, write programs that use them. For each thing you learn, you
    need to write code that uses it. You learn by doing. Write little programs
    that interest you. Most people like to make games. So you could start with
    very simple games like Bingo, Tic Tac Toe, pong, Towers of Hanoi, whatever.
    Then progress onto Checkers, Chess, Card games, and other things. Use
    poor-man graphics by just drawing things by writing them to the command line
    ("cout", in C++). If you like cars, write simple race car games. If you like
    physics, write simple physics games. If you like math, write a calculator.
    Programming is a creative endeavor, so use your imagination.

    2) What should I know beforehand?

    Basic computer knowledge is what you need. You should have general concepts
    of an operating system, files, devices, system memory, disk memory, etc.
    I've you've been using a computer for any length of time you probably
    already know about these things.

    3) What textbook?

    The C++ book I mentioned should be a good start. I regret I don't have a
    really good linux book to recommend. Modern Operating Systems by Andrew
    Tanenbaum is a fantastic book that will teach you everything you ever wanted
    to know about operating systems, and consequently how they are responsible
    for executing your programs and providing facilities for them to run with.
    It also teaches a number of essential programming concepts like deadlocks in
    a very straightforward manner.



    Google is your friend. You can find a lot of nice tutorials and communities
    in which you ask questions. Here's a simple one showing how to do simple
    compilation with gcc:
    http://users.actcom.co.il/~choo/lupg/tutorials/c-on-unix/c-on-unix.html

     



  • @Spectre said:

    And C is simple, why not?

    Having been C'ing for over 20 years now, I think it's another of those 'hours to learn, lifetime to master' things. I agree though, and would personally recommend working though a copy of K&R (Sorry OP - "The C Programming Language" by Brian Kernigan & Dennis Ritchie - them wot wrote the language), as by the time you've absorbed that, you've learnt not only the basics of lowish-level programming, but you've got the syntax/keywords sussed for all the languages out there that derive from C, you've got a rough idea of what's going on "under the hood", and you know what's in stdlib and the rest. (I've been able to fake my way through many quick fixes in languages that I know next-to-nothing about simply through knowing C, and thus reasoning that strfoo() or whatever must be implemented in there somewhere!) And of course, no matter what hardware / OS you're presented with, you can pretty much guarantee there'll be a C compiler for it.



  • @Nether said:

    C++ is a superset of C, meaning it does everything C does and more.

    Tee hee, actually it is not and does not.



  • @Spectre said:

    @tster said:
    also you should avoid learning VB like the plague.

    @tster said:

    never learn PHP either

    And I hate people who make such statements. It's not even funny anymore.

    And C is simple, why not?

     

    those statements weren't meant to be funny.  I was dead serious.  Avoid VB because the syntax is god awful, and if you are going to learn a Windows only language there are so many better choices (try C# instead).  I thin we've already covered why PHP sucks on this forum so I'm not going to go in to it here.

     

    As for using an IDE,

    Learning to program is not just learning to compile a little calculator app.  Learning to be an effective programmer means learning to use a programmers tools.  And a programmers most important tool is an IDE.  It's best to start on these early so that you don't resist some of the features, and to save yourself the very steap learning curve of some of the command line tools.  Sure you might have some problems down the road, but it should be easier to solve those problems because you will know more about the language.  Anyways, if there's a time to spend 3 hours messing with classpath or linking errors it's probably not right when you start programming.

     Also, an IDE will help you start developing GUIs, and I think programming GUIs is a lot more fun that simple console applications.



  • @tster said:

    Avoid VB because the syntax is god awful, and if you are going to learn a
    Windows only language there are so many better choices (try C# instead). 

    To be fair, neither [url=http://www.mono-project.com/VisualBasic.NET_support]VB[/url] nor [url=http://www.mono-project.com/CSharp_Compiler]C#[/url] are Windows-only. And 'awful' is subjective.

    Besides, the fact that you don't like a language doesn't mean that you'll never be using it. E.g., PHP is pretty common, and chances are that you'll have to dig into some PHP code. I guess it's beter to be prepared beforhand, isn't it?



  • @MrKltpzyxm said:

    Programming interests me. The problem I have is that generally speaking I have not been a very motivated individual.

    I hate to be the one channeling asuffield today, but "Then don't bother."

    Learning to program -- or, more to the point, learning to be a good programmer -- isn't easy.  If you're not motivated to do it, you won't.  

    Now that might make me come across as a prick, but either this stuff excites you and you can't get enough of it, or it doesn't.  If it doesn't, you should look for something that does. 

    If you start with a language like C, you will spend weeks wrestling with pointers vs. arrays vs. strings.  If you're not motivated to stick to it and figure it out, you won't.   Every language is going to have some weird little sticking point that absolutely will frustrate the hell out of you.  If you're not prepared to get past it -- and on to the next frustrating issue, and then past that, and so on -- then this is just going to be a painful experience with little reward.  

    And that's just getting the syntax down.  The road to being a good programmer will be a long one, and you only get better by doing things that challenge you. 

    Don't get me wrong, I hope you do decide that this is something you want to do.   Lots of people start around your age, a lot start older than you are now.  It certainly isn't too late.  But if you start the conversation with "I'm lazy but want to be a good programmer", then the answer is "You won't be".  

    -cw



  • @MrKltpzyxm said:

    I do have a small amount of experience when it comes to programming. It is, however, a very small amount of experience.

    In high school I would spend most of my math classes writing programs
    on my TI-83+ calculator in its version of BASIC. (At least that seems
    to be the closest think that I can compare it to)
     

     Someone else came out of the TI-83+ camp? Sweet.

    The first "official" language I picked up was Java, but that was the AP class in high school, and it really was a joke (the class, not the language). But there are a lot of resources available to help you get the basics, and there are quite a few good, simple IDEs to get you going. To this day, I still use JCreator (http://www.jcreator.com/) when I do small side-projects in Java. And for all the problems it has, you can still use VB.Net to learn. Just don't stick around for too long before moving on. You can get the express version of any .Net language IDE for free at Microsoft's site.

    The big thing to remember is to start small. As rudimentary as they seem, all the "Hello, world" programs are where 99.9% of decent programmers today started. The other 0.1% were setting the VCR clock at two weeks old. :)



  • go nuts

    BTW: Is that the cop from Freakazoid in the OP's avatar? 



  • Go to school.  Find a four year university and get a degree in Computer Science.  Why do you want to learn?  Do you have an idea for software you would like to develop or do you want to pursue a career as a developer?  If you want a career, then attempting to learn by yourself will get you no where.  If you have an idea, then learning by yourself will still leave so much material untouched that you would never know if you are developing something well or not.  A Computer Science program can't teach you everything but it will give you a realistic grasp on what you are doing and how much stuff (languages, design principles, libraries, etc.) is out there.

    I know some people have built successful careers without a degree, but they probably have been geeks since they were in middle/high school.  They probably had odd jobs when they were young to build their experience and resumes.  Starting out at 22 with no experience and no education would make it very difficult to be taken seriously.  Starting out at 26 with a little experience in college and a degree, you would be in good shape.



  • @RayS said:

    As in some of the above posts, some will tell you to use an IDE, others will tell you to use just a text editor and compiler. I'm in the "IDE" camp, especially when it comes to somebody with self-confessed motivation issues. Nothing's more likely to turn you off than 6 hours tracking down a stupid typo or finding the correct way to call a function, when a decent IDE will point out the obvious to you and get you going again.

     

    Just as long as you use an editor/IDE that can handle something more than notepad.  Things like syntax highlighting/smart-indenting are a necessity (I went for too long without it to know :P).  I haven't used an IDE with "intellisense" to know the full benefits (I'm sure they are good though...).

    For me, it's about consistency since I work on multiple platforms.  I want an editor that works the same everywhere.  My fingers have been hard-coded to Vim, so that's what I'm "stuck with".  And Vim does have some sort of Intellisense for C[++|#], but I haven't tried it.



  • @skippy said:

    For me, it's about consistency since I work on multiple platforms.  I want an editor that works the same everywhere.  My fingers have been hard-coded to Vim, so that's what I'm "stuck with".  And Vim does have some sort of Intellisense for C[++|#], but I haven't tried it.

     

    This is a good point.  Switching between them is a real pain.  Everytime I switch to a different environment I hit the damn shortcuts for the other one so often it's unbalievable.

     

    PS.  Welcome back code whisperer, I haven't seen you around in a while. 



  • @tster said:

    a programmers most important tool is an IDE.

    Really? Indefensible. But I don't think you really believe that.

    A programmer's most important tool is his/her brain. If your most important tool is an IDE, you get clunky software like SQL Server Management Studio Express, which was clicked & dragged together instead of coded. Hell, I doubt even its interface was designed in any meaningful way.

    Any tool in addition to the mind is nothing more than "handy" -- with varying degrees of handy. An IDE as a whole is the same class of things as autocomplete or syntax colouring; just a few steps further down the road. There's absolutely nothing fundamental or necessary about it. Start with the damn code, get to the handy timesavers later.

    @tster said:

    It's best to start on these early so that you don't resist some of the features

    Good point, though. But a good programmer won't resist them anyway, and that's what we're aiming for, isn't it?

    @tster said:

    Sure you might have some problems down the road, but it should be easier to solve those problems because you will know more about the language.

    IDEs prevent learning code or languages. Their explicit purpose is to abstract and hide the tedious stuff. If they did not, they would suck at being IDEs. It will be harder to solve those problems because you will know less about the language. Anything I've learnt so far about the C# language (not to be confuzzled with the .Net framework) has been my on own initiative, and certainly not due to any feature of VS -- with the notable exception of perhaps Intellisense, although even that one's largely Fire&Forget.

    I'm not bashing IDEs in general. I mean, Yay tools. I'm bashing the idea that IDEs are a fundamental part of a pogrammer's toolkit, and I'm definitely bashing the idea that it should be a good starting point for any novice programmer. 



  • @dhromed said:

    @tster said:

    a programmers most important tool is an IDE.

    Really? Indefensible. But I don't think you really believe that.


    A programmer's most important tool is his/her brain. If your most important tool is an IDE, you get clunky software like SQL Server Management Studio Express, which was clicked & dragged together instead of coded. Hell, I doubt even its interface was designed in any meaningful way.

    Any tool in addition to the mind is nothing more than "handy" -- with varying degrees of handy. An IDE as a whole is the same class of things as autocomplete or syntax colouring; just a few steps further down the road. There's absolutely nothing fundamental or necessary about it. Start with the damn code, get to the handy timesavers later.

    You've been listening to motivational speakers for
    too long.  A tool is something that you use that helps you accomplish
    work.  Your brain is a part of you and you cannot think of it as a
    tool.  In fact, from the point of view of your brain, your body is a
    tool.  Your brain is using your body to type the code that it is
    creating.  However, since we are not defined by our brain alone, but by
    our entire being, we must view everything from the point of view of our
    whole person.  In this view our brain is a part of us and not a tool.  

    Obviously
    I see what you mean, but I still must insist that when it comes to
    actual "tools", using an accurate definition of tool, and assuming that
    a computer is a given, an IDE is the most important tool.

    PS.  I think in languages like Java and C#, auto complete is basically a must.



  • @Spectre said:

    @Nether said:
    C++ is a superset of C, meaning it does everything C does and more.

    Tee hee, actually it is not and does not.

     

     I consider the very minor differences to be unworthy of mention to someone who has not yet started programming, and thus wouldn't understand the esoterica if it were explained. It is perfectly fine for a novice to think of C++ as "doing what C does, and more".

     

    God I HATE this editor. 



  • @Nether said:

    God I HATE this editor. 

     

    See, that's the problem with starting out commenting with editors (aka Integrated Commenting Enviroments, or ICEs for short). People who use an ICE never get to learn how these things really work, and expect the ICE to do the work for them. Anyone wanting to start a career in forum posting should start off with the bare metal - whistling into modems.



  • @tster said:

    PS.  I think in languages like Java and C#, auto complete is basically a must.

    They're quite verbose, yes. Especially those friggin' frameworks.

    MetaFrameworkObject.FunctionBodyContainer.FeatureSpecMethod.OptionThing.« GetFirstReadablePropertyByLanguageValueInstanceDooHicky()



  • If you can't do approximately this:

    PRINT "HELLO!"

    HELLO!

    Then it sucks for learning programming. The end.



  • I am for the most part self-taught so I hope my experiences would somewhat mirror that of yours.  I started off with Pascal which was a very good learning language for me, but not very useful in today's environment.

     You should start with a platform that interests you and pick a language from there.  If you are interested in the web, then it probably wouldn't make much sense to make C++ your first foray into the programming world.  If games are your thing, then C or C++ is definitely a good place to start.  In short pick something that falls in line with your interests.

    Once you have a suitable platform, identify a real world problem, something that bugs you or you think could be done better.  Write an application that will solve your problem.  I used to play a lot of Doom and Doom II and the gameplay became repetitive for me after a while.  I wanted new experiences so I started to get in writing mods for games.  That was my real world "problem" at the time.  When I first got in to programming, my mother was working on her PhD, and she was having problems organizing all of her research sources, and didn't want to keep doing it on paper.  I wrote her a small application that assisted her in organizing all of her sources, and she could also use it to scan her Word Perfect document for sources that were no longer being referenced.  It would then alert her to sources in her list that no longer had references in her paper.  It probably sucked, but I am her son, so she pretended to like it.

    From there I just kind of naturally progressed.  I found there were problems I couldn't solve in Pascal so I moved on to C\C++.  I was asked to write some data mining scripts and found Perl to be suitable so I picked up Perl.  I then discovered how Perl could be used to write CGIs and started getting in to web development, which then blossomed my interest to HTML, PHP, ASP, etc.  I started working for companies who were more focused on Win32 development so I got in to Visual C++, and then to the .NET Framework.  You'll find that you try other languages because you are always looking for ways to do things better.

    Theory, design, etc. will all come later.  Just jump in, get your feet wet, and start swimming.  You'll make a lot of mistakes, and maybe even end up on WTF, but that is how we learn.  I still make mistakes, and I still learn from them.  Good luck!



  • Finally a response from the OP! (a.k.a Me)

    I want to start by saying thank you to everybody that's responded. I appreciate the support and encouragement. I also appreciate the reality checks. I'm glad that a few people pointed out that this is going to be hard work. I'm still a little shaky on where I'm going to go from here though. I think I should give a little more info about where I stand right now.

    As I said before, I know a little bit about Java, and C++. I'm actually pretty comfortable with the syntax of both languages. They're pretty similar from what I remember, a few different keywords here and there. To write my Java code I've used two programs: RealJ and TextPad. (Three if you count Notepad, but I'd usually copy/paste from notepad into textpad/realJ to check and compile anyway.) I'm rather comfortable with TextPad right now as it was the most recent. For my C++ coding I used Microsoft Visual C++ Express Edition. (Which I  should probably update now) I did like the way that MVCE organized everything but I didn't like the fact that everything had to be part of a larger project. I think that I'd like to learn to write headers seperately from class files and combine them without an IDE. It looks like TextPad has syntax definitions for C++ but it doesn't have a compiler. Does anybody know off hand what C++ compiler would be compatible with TextPad (or a program similar to TextPad that has everything built in already) I also noticed that TextPad allows for DOS commands to be run from its menu with a little setup. So a command line compiler would work, though I was trying to avoid the learning curve that I associated with that. (unless I'm just imagining that it is difficult)

    I still have some textbooks left over from my clases. I have How to Program C++ and How to Program Java (both published by Deitel, both Fifth edition) and I have a book called OpenGL Game Programming published by PrimaTech. I've considered just going through these books chapter by chapter and just trying the exercises printed at the end of each chapter. I'm sure that this would give me a pretty good idea of how to use both languages but I was wondering if anybody would suggest against such a course of action. As a real world project (albeit one that doesn't serve much of a purpose) I was thinking of rewriting my old dice rolling program in Java, complete with some sort of GUI! Which brings me to another point.

    A few people were commenting that my lack of motivation may be a difficult barrier to pass if the reward of solving textbook exercises wasn't quite enough. I have to agree. But I also want to say that when I have my own "real world" problem and I solve it that is what gives me the exitement to continue. When I wrote the dice program on my calculator I had to overcome a big problem (in retrospect it was a rather trivial problem but I was just starting out) and when I got past it I was so exited I couldn't speak properly. A similar thing happened in my C++ class. It was one of the first exercises that the class did, only about 50 lines. It was basically just a short lesson on the difference between / and %. The reason I was exited is that the program I wrote to solve the problem was better (in my opinion) than that solution that the teacher displayed to the class. I don't think I need to go into detail and I realize that the teacher's solution got the point across, which was all it needed to do. But in my mind the solution that I came up with was much better and I got that same feeling of accomplishment.

    So solving problems is really what makes me want to program in the first place. And that little reward of solving it should probably be good enough to keep me going if I come up with problems that I really want to solve.

    Also, yes, my avatar is "that cop from Freakazoid" Sgt. Mike Cosgrove.  

     Thanks again everybody. 



  • Wow!

    Congratulations everybody on a near-perfect thread! A good initial post with a clearly put question, many intelligent reasoned answers, and very little squabbling. To cap it all, a nice thank-you from the OP (SpectateSwamp - are you listening?). My faith in webmanity just jumped a notch.



  • The only advice I have is to find somewhere (this site can help, but don't make it your only source) where people know a bit about programming. Make friends with a fellow programmer. When you get stuck (and you will) it pays to have a patient friend who will help you through and show you the ropes. I say you should start small, write some very simple code and look at it and understand how the pieces fit together. Once you start to see how everything works, it would bring your motivation up a bunch. I would use an IDE because as a beginner, you almost need an IDE to point out certain problems. You can always use an Express version of Microsoft Visual Studio. As for languages, I would lean you towards C#. Look for Professional C# by Wrox, its a good book that covers a vast variety of topics. It may say Professional on the cover, but it does start at the basics and work its way into OOP.  I probably would read a book on programming design and fundamentals also, some people say Code Complete is a good book.  Any other posters out there, please feel free to add in. I think once you learn one language good, it will be easier to learn other language by the syntax and functionality changes. They all share a good subset of the same fundamentals, with different syntax.



  • I also got a friend who started programming late, ( I would say close to 30.) Its never too late if you have the heart for it. Its a skill you can learn that could help you for a long time.



  • @Benn said:

    A good initial post with a clearly put question, many intelligent reasoned
    answers, and very little squabbling.

    I guess this has something to do with this thread being in the General Discussion forum. The trolls do not know how to get here yet.



  • @j0k3r said:

    I am for the most part self-taught so I hope my experiences would somewhat mirror that of yours.

    [stuff] 

    QFT 



  • I'd go with Objects First with Java.

    It is the most painless way to learn programming. And it doesn't focus to much on Languages, or IDE's for that matter.



    After that I recommend reading Code Complete 2: http://www.amazon.com/Code-Complete-Practical-Handbook-Construction/dp/0735619670/ref=pd_bbs_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1205026992&sr=8-1


    And then I think you are ready to pick up whatever language-specific or platform specific recource that will help you achieve your goal.

    Muddering about the bestests IDE or language or platform is a colosal waste of everyone's time and don't get sucked into it.


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