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10 Common Misconceptions About Programming- Part II

This article is Part Two of a two part series! Click here for Part One!

Once upon a time I used to believe some of these things…

It is important to bash these misconceptions fast and get started on learning how to code. Don’t let a few misleading ideas keep you from learning a new skill which is fast becoming the most important skill of the century. Don’t put off working on your minimum viable product for that world-changing idea that’s been in your head for months or even years. The idea came to you for a reason. Embrace this and keep reading.

6. “All programming languages are created equal.”

Programming languages are wonderful. I love how there are so many! It’s like a kid in a candy store for me- lover of languages and syntax…but seriously, there are so many, and how do you choose? And are they just all different ways of doing the same thing?

Well, yes, and no at the same time. Some people think that you can just choose the language that suits you best because you can do the same thing with different languages. This is true in some cases, but in other cases- your problem can prescribe the exact language for you as well.

And they are not all equal- meaning- there are limited languages that do only one thing, and there are languages with multipurpose capabilities.

There is also that fundamental difference between high level and low level languages.

Computers don’t understand any of these languages we are writing in, whether it is C or JavaScript, or Ruby. Computers understand machine code, which is a form language originating from binary and consisting of all numbers. The languages we are writing in are just mediators that allow humans to communicate with the computer by translating back and forth between the human code and the machine code.

The languages that are closer to machine code are the “low-level languages” and they are typically more difficult to learn than the “high-level languages” which are easier to read and learn.

An example of a low-level language is C and an example of a high level language is Ruby or Python. There is so much more to learn about languages and the nuances- and Two Non Techies will be outlining very specific details about all the popular languages in our Non-Techies Guide to programming languages. I can’t cover everything here in this post, but just know, there are many different levels of programming languages.

7. “HTML is a programming language.”

Yeah I wish…. but no. A lot of web designers say they are programmers because they can “code” in HTML and know a bit of design using CSS. However, HTML is not a programming language. During our course of study, this was made very clear to us by programmers- over and over again. It is a markup language. It sets up a structure for the web using tags that allow you to mark-up your content.

Programming is more about solving problems than just creating a structural framework, or styling a webpage.

If you really want the respect of coders out there, don’t consider HTML as a programming skill. It’s just not. Get knowledgeable in other languages like JavaScript, PHP, MySQL, and other coding skills needed for web-design, blogging, and WordPress.

8. “Java is short for JavaScript…?”

It’s not. I can admit it. I am one of the dummies who thought this! Hence the name of this blog: Two Non-Techies. Java and JavaScript are two completely different languages that are not related to each other and do very different things. (Although some would argue that all languages are still somehow related.. but that’s not how deep I want to take this. I am just trying to debunk a common non-techie confusion).

Let’s just say I’ve been asked this question several times- and have- at different points in my life confused the two as well. One is a low-level language that is based off of C and used for multitude of applications- Java. The other- JavaScript- is a language that works for the web in conjunction with the HTML structure- for websites.

9. “Software Engineers = Hackers = Programmers.”

Just like there are many different species of flowers out there, there are many species of programmers. There are hackers.

There are good and bad hackers who actually hack secure environments to reveal holes, there are hackers who hack in order to do “bad” things…. there are white hat hackers and there are black hat hackers.

There are also “hackers” as the start-up world calls them- just start-up guys (or gals) who code and build start-up companies- these are also not the same as the hackers I mentioned previously- they don’t hack into places– they hack things together… two very different actions.…
and then……

There are the software engineers. They usually work for some large company and develop software.

Yeah, like I said. Different species.

10. “You have to learn how to code in C first before starting any new language.”

Not exactly. C is a good foundation, but it isn’t the easiest of languages to learn and it isn’t the most results oriented either.

You might need to learn some basic concepts like variables, strings, functions and more- that are embedded in the C language and its offspring- in order to code in any language, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to learn how to code well in C first.

You can start with something more approachable like Ruby or Python, or JavaScript and PHP.

I highly recommend learning several languages at the same time too, if you have the stamina. That’s how I am doing it, and I see a lot of parallels and my stimulated brain keeps up better with the lessons.

You don’t have to learn the basics and foundations of computer science before approaching a high level language like Python or Ruby.

I know a bunch of start-up people who taught themselves how to code in Python/Django or Ruby on Rails right away in order to “hack together” an idea they had in mind. It is possible- using the resources out there on the internet in the form of online textbooks and classes- to jump right into these high level languages.

Remember, “high level” language is just a fancy term the describes languages that are farther away from or higher up in the chain from machine code- and is “easier” to read and to learn.

If you want to hack something together ASAP, you can learn Ruby in 30 days if you want, and build something. Of course, if you want to become a better programmer, you should definitely hit those fundamentals one day, but I am just saying, it’s not like you need those right away just to put something together.

Enjoyed this? Click here for Part One!

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Jesicka Labud

Jesicka is a writer, Co-Founder of Tipabl, world-traveler, and loving wife. Her two cats follow her wherever she goes in the world! She's put on hold her past life as a project manager and architect in order to pursue of dream of living life on her own terms while learning how to program.

10 thoughts on “10 Common Misconceptions About Programming- Part II

  1. Rocio Ng

    Great Article Jess! I just started learning how to program several months ago, and I love it and have already found it extremely useful. Many of your points are spot on and I agree that programming is something everyone should be able to do to some extent.

    Reply
    1. Jesicka Labud Post author

      Hey Rocio! It’s really great to hear that you’ve started to learn to program as well. I agree that it’s so useful~ thanks for the validation to my points, and the hello! Keep on learning, and let me know when you invent a new technology with your new skills.

      Reply
  2. Michael Knouse

    This is such a useful and understandable ‘guide’ for me. I am definitely a non-techie (I love your term!) but you have demystified so many aspects of programming here. While I doubt that I will jump into programming anytime soon, it’s great to understand it at a deeper level that makes sense to me. I actually feel like I would know where to jump in if I wanted to. Thanks for taking an intimidating subject and making it very accessible. You are definitely on to something here.

    Reply
    1. Jesicka Labud Post author

      Michael, wonderful to see you around here! It’s good to get some validation that I’m “on to something” here, and that this was a useful guide for you. Wow, you’ve made my day. Remember, if you do plan to jump in on learning how to code, it’s good to have an applicable project in mind because it makes it easier to learn as opposed to just watching lectures or reading a book about it.

      Reply
  3. erica

    Hey there, it’s impressive to see how evolved your skill set is.
    You certainly know how to talk-the-talk and it’s a true inspiration for me, a most definite non-techie (that occasionally attempts to dabble in HTML and CSS and delights when successful).
    Keep up the great work; as someone who doesn’t really understand this alternate universe, I really appreciate the straight-forward, clear explanations that you provide. It truly is an art form, and as you say, a necessity as we continue to progress in this technological era.

    Reply
    1. Jesicka Labud Post author

      Hey Erica! Thanks for stopping by! Your words are too kind. I really do hope to “talk the talk” better as time goes by. I totally understand your sentiments on getting excited when html and css “works.” It’s hard in the beginning to even make those work. I am trying to graduate beyond that and get into languages like Python and Ruby. Still easy compared to most other languages! I am glad to have provided you with clear straight-forward explanations, and looking forward to seeing you here again!

      Reply
  4. Justin Harmon

    Hey Jes,

    I gotta say, this is the first ever article on programming I could actually understand. I got scared away from programming in the past by a couple classes I took in school. Everything they taught just confused the hell out of me. I definitely think it’s a great skill to learn how to code and love your approach. Some very useful content being created here by you and Martin.

    Thanks

    Reply
  5. Paula

    Still all sounds gobbldygook to me! I am so not technical minded, but the way you tell the story and tell me that it’s not that difficult – well you’ve got me sold ! I would still employ someone else though, or would i? Hmm now you’ve got me thinking! 🙂

    Reply
  6. Brooklyn

    Jesicka,

    Wow this post is a real eye opener for me. Your passion for learning these programming skills drew me in and I read every word. I had no idea that there were so many nuances and misconceptions. I realize that I had the same misconceptions like thinking that html and ccs was programming, when it’ not.

    All I really knew before reading this post was that out of my 6 programming friends in college, 4 of them changed their major after watching “Office Space” a comedy about programming coworkers that hate their jobs.

    I love your role as a mediator between the technical and the non-Techie. Us Non-Techies have a lot to learn from you.

    Reply
  7. Susan Burns

    Jesicka, thank you so much for explaining that Java and JavaScript are completely different things, and the difference between low-level and high-level programming languages. You definitely have a gift for making this understandable! Years ago, I tried to take a programming class. I attended exactly one class session, was lost from the get-go, and never went to another class. I’m really clueless about programming, though I do know that HTML stands for hypertext markup language, and CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheet. But I’m not sure how to use even those, except for simple edits to sizes of logos.

    I do think you have a great future in explaining this difficult subject to ordinary, non-techie people!

    Reply

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