Why Should I Study and Do Computer Programming?


“Computers are the up and coming thing, you should get into it”.
1970 — Professor Smith, my mathematics professor at San Diego State.

“Computers are still the up and coming thing, and have been each and every year since Dr. Smith’s statement in 1970”.
2013 — Don Johnson

I write this article for any high school or university students out there, and also for parents and grandparents of those students. It’s a tough world out there for young folks trying to get a start in life, and if I can cause a nudge or two from my own life experience, then it will have been time well spent.

My case is made in this article from the Wall Street Journal May 9, 2013

Sorry, College Grads, I Probably Won’t Hire You
If you’re at all interested in media, technology or related fields, please learn a little computer programming.

And here is the key take away from that article:

According to one recent report, in the next decade American colleges will mint 40,000 graduates with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, though the U.S. economy is slated to create 120,000 computing jobs that require such degrees. You don’t have to be a math major to do the math: That’s three times as many jobs as we have people qualified to fill them.

A computer and computer programing is a part of almost all we do in the modern world.

· Desk top computers.
· Tablets (e.g. iPad, Surface, Android)
· Smart phones
· Automobiles
· Airplanes
· Retail
· Factory control and automation
· Military applications galore.
· Games
· Banking
· … And much more …

Computer programming is a lot like art; if you have or are presented with an idea, then the keyboard, mouse and monitor are like a blank artists pallet and canvas … awaiting your creative solution to a problem or vision.

Computer programming is a lot like writing; if you have, or are presented with an idea, then the keyboard, mouse and monitor are like a blank notebook … awaiting your creative solution to a vision.

Computer programming is a lot like writing music; if you have or are presented with an inspiration, then the keyboard, mouse and monitor are like a blank musical score … awaiting your creative musical artistry. And, the computer can be your instrument(s), your band, your orchestra.

Programming can be high paying, and can provide a long term career.

How do I learn

I guess the proper and elegant way to learn is spending at least 4 years at a university and getting a CS degree . However, if your circumstances don’t permit that, then here are some alternatives:

I’ve found that the best way of learning is by doing. Books are great, but until you’ve put your fingers to the keyboard and mouse and have experienced the frustration of debugging a failing program, and have experienced the joy of final success, you haven’t arrived.

Classes are a great way to learn but can be quite expensive and lengthy.

On-line tutorials are great because they give you some real world examples.

A mentor is ideal because you get side by side, elbow to elbow teaching; and comradery as well.

Modifying and debugging an existing program is perhaps the most common method of learning in the real world.

Is programming easy?

My heavens … No! But then neither is artistry, writing or creating music easy. Hanging sheetrock is hard and pouring cement is physically hard, but not necessarily mentally challenging.

Modern software development tools make the job easier by doing much of the mundane underlying plumbing for you; for example opening and reading through a file, or handling a mouse click in days past used to be extremely difficult but is now a piece of cake.

Is programming fun?

It can be very fun … some of the time.

Getting a program to behave as expected is time consuming and difficult, and often times is frustrating. But the rewards are there when you can lean back in the chair with your arms folded and just smile at what you have done. Or, as I have in days past, marvel as you watch a well orchestrated automated warehouse full of conveyer belts and stacker cranes moving Caterpillar parts in and out.  And sitting in a large auditorium with several hundred combat aircrews debriefing a large scale training mission in the wilds of Alaska, and knowing you had a part in that training.


How do I start? How do I get the tools needed?

I personally have a state of the art software development package in the form of Microsoft Visual Studio Ultimate 2010 (VS 2010).

C# is perhaps the state of the art in computer programming languages, and VS 2010 has it as well as other popular languages.

I have developed commercial programs using VS 2010 and C#.

I’ve just done an e-bay search on Visual Studio, and have found a number of copies of Visual Studio out there at modest prices.

So I encourage you to take to heart what I have offered here.

Don Johnson – May 2013


3 responses to “Why Should I Study and Do Computer Programming?

  1. Thanks, Don, for sharing the WSJ article with your reflections and recommended course of actions! Having a high-school graduate this year in my own family, I really appreciate your advice. Besides, I have shared this article on my Facebook page.

  2. Thanks Scott. I placed a link to my article in the WSJ comments section, and between my e-mail list and the WSJ readers this generated 185 hits, one of my all time highs. I hope some future fruit will be harvested, and I hope your young graduate can benefit from my life experience.

  3. Reblogged this on A Yearning for Publius and commented:

    I’m reposting this because I continue to see articles like this one: “Professors Are About to Get an Online Education
    Georgia Tech’s new Internet master’s degree in computer science is the future.” at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324659404578504761168566272.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEADTop that talk of the shortage of American skills and training in computer programming and related technologies. Again, this article talks of “A shortfall of computer-science graduates is a constant refrain in Silicon Valley, and by 2020 some one million high-tech job openings will remain unfilled, according to the Commerce Department.”

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