Hour 1. Becoming a Programmer

Computer coding is insanely difficult. It requires a four-year degree in computer science, thousands of dollars in computer hardware and software, a keen analytical intellect, the patience of Job, and a strong liking for caffeinated drinks. If you're a coding novice, this is probably what you've heard about computer programming. Aside from the part about caffeine, all of the rumors are greatly exaggerated. Programming is easier than most people think, although there are several reasons why you might believe otherwise:

  • Computer programmers have been telling people for years that coding is hard. This belief makes it easier for us to find high-paying jobs and gives us more leeway to goof off during business hours.
  • Computer coding manuals are often written in a language that only a Scrabble player could appreciate. Strange acronyms like OOP, RAD, COM, and MUMPS are used frequently along with newly invented jargon like instantiation, bytecode, and makefile.
  • Many computer coding languages have been available only with software packages costing $200 or more, which is a lot of cabbage.

Because of the growth of the Internet and other factors, this is a great time to learn programming. Useful coding tools are being made available at low cost (or no cost), often as downloads from World Wide Web sites. Thousands of programmers are distributing their work under "open source" licenses so people can examine how the programs were written, correct errors, and add their own improvements. The goal of this tutorial is to teach coding to the person who has never tried to program before, or the person who tried coding but hated it with an intense passion. The English language will be used as much as possible instead of jargon and obscure acronyms, and all new coding terms will be thoroughly explained as they are introduced. If I've succeeded, you will finish Sams Teach Yourself Programming with Java in 24 Hours with enough coding skill to be a danger to yourself and others. You'll be able to write programs, dive into other coding tutorials with more confidence, and learn coding languages more easily. You also will have developed skills with Java, the most innovative coding language to be introduced in years. The first hour of this tutorial provides some introductory material about coding and gives you instructions on how to set up your computer so you can write Java programs. The following topics will be covered:

  • Choosing which coding language to learn first
  • Learning what Java is
  • Using programs to boss your computer around
  • Discovering how programs work
  • Fixing program errors (called bugs)
  • Acquiring a Java development tool
  • Getting ready to write programs