Trying to Help Other Learn Programming

3 minute read

Having worked in the industry for a very long time, sometimes I forget how much I have learned (and forgotten) over the years. What seems trivial now, was once a complex idea that I had to wrap my head around, and after learning the fundamentals, there always seemed to be more to learn. This was at, in my mind, a golden age for learning computer systems and how to code. Installing Linux was not what it is today with flashing installers and disk configurators. Heck, X-windows did not start by default and you had to fiddle with configuration setting for ages to get a gui environment up to work in.

Now, I am not saying that we should return to the days of old, but it brings to mind that learning some of the core fundamentals is not something you get just by trying to get a system up. You have to go through different programs, and make the decision to move forward with learning the command line, and system fundamentals. And, with all the coding boot camps and quick starts, on occasion I am amazed anyone can find a good point to start.

That being said, I have been asked by some people that I know to help the gain a better understanding of the fundamentals of programming. There was the direct request to learn using python.

Python is a flexible language that you can do most anything in. And by anything, I mean almost anything. I started using it because it was a language that was available on Solaris that a co-worker did not want to use, and we at first did not want him on the project. My understanding, and knowledge of Python has changed a lot in the 8+ years since we decided to use Python for an internal company project.

That being said, it is a multi-disciplinary language. It is used for web development, system administration, machine learning, scientific studies…. In addition to this, other than the strange white spacing it uses to know what is going on, it provides a decent starting point to begin working with other languages. I have to admit, if you want to learn the true ins and outs of programming at a system level, Python will not get you there. For that you will need to dust off some books on C/C++. Although, I have heard that Rust is starting to replace some of that. Out of scope.

Back to Python and getting started.

I wanted to find a resource that would cover a broad range of topics when it came to Python, and also provided real world examples. When I was in college we spent a year going through a book on C++. That was difficult for the students, and many of them we lost along the way. And, after that year, I could not really write anything that would produce something that I could show to anybody. If it were not for the money I was forking out for college, I might have said what is the point.

After some quick searches, I chose a book to use. I decided to go with Python Crash Course, 2nd Edition: A Hands-On, Project-Based Introduction to Programming. (FYI) I don’t get any money if you use that link. The reason I chose this book because it has you actually do something that you can see results from.

Over the course of the book, you will work on 3 projects. I am sure they are not the most advanced projects, but they provide a foundation from which you can then launch your own projects from.

  • A video game utilizing Pygame
  • A Data analysis program with Visualization
  • A Web Application based off of Django

For a lot of developers, that is some great basics to cover. True, it does not cover writing a serverless application on AWS with Lambda and API Gateway, but, it goes about teaching a person how to think about an idea and implement it.

Note: This is all speculation. I am working through the book now with 2 people, but wanted to track my experience with it as I went through. But, I think one of the key factors is working through the entire book, and not skipping. The reason I say this is because I know a number of self taught developers that while excellent at writing code, do not know how to communicate their ideas with others.

Hopefully, by working through a book like this, it will teach enough of the fundamentals and language so that both of the people I am working with will be able to advance their careers.